Guard, or SF/C?

Yesterday I wondered aloud why the Knicks were getting another combo guard (and to do so possibly trading away Frank Williams – someone who might already be a good combo guard), when they had other bigger fish to fry, (namely SF & C). Let’s take a look at the Knicks’ starters & top reserves for these two positions.

PLAYER 		OFF	DEF	+/- Net Pts
Tim Thomas 16.2 16.4 +2.0
A. Hardaway 11.1 13.0 +2.3
Mutombo 15.0 15.8 +0.2
Nazr Mohammed 18.8 17.7 -1.6

The first two columns are their offensive PER, and their opponents PER. Now opponents PER doesn’t tell the entire story of defense, but I think it gives a good starting point. Of the Knicks four main SFs & Cs, only 1 of the above has a PER greater than his opponents’ (although Nazr’s 17.7 dPER is nothing to be proud off – it’s his offensive PER that carries him). By this measure, the Knicks are operating at near even or at a loss at these two spots.

Comparing PER isn’t the only way to measure a player’s net contribution. The last column is the players’ net points. Net points is how many more points does the team score with the player on the court, as opposed to off. By this measure the centers are giving a negative contribution, while the SFs seems to be a small gain.

Combining the two give us a better idea of what is happening. Simply that the Knicks are treading water at these positions, or even losing out. So why is Isiah first splash this offseason at the guard position? Let’s take a look at the Knicks guards last year:

PLAYER (PER)	OFF	DEF	Net+/- (pts/100p)
Marbury 21.3 14.5 +1.6
F. Williams 11.7 10.1 +7.1
Houston 14.9 13.9 +1.6
Shanderson 10.6 16.3 -6.9

All the guards are making a positive contribution, except for Shandon Anderson, who was awful. If the Knicks trade Frank Williams and Shanderson to get Crawford, are they really getting better? Maybe not, especially if Moochie Norris (11.4/13.6/+1.4) has to gobble up more minutes. I’ll be happy if the Knicks can get away with trading for Crawford without losing Williams, who was by far their best perimeter defender.

OTOH, it’s possible that Allan Houston injury is still a concern, and if he misses a considerable amount of time, the Knicks would desperately need a SG that can start for extended periods. In this case, getting Crawford would be a good deal, although I would still like the Knicks to try to hold onto Williams.

The NBA offseason is just upon us, and if Isiah continues to shake up the team like he did last year, there are probably going to be a host of moves in the future. I just hope that we don’t go into the season with the same SF/C as we ended with last year.

Edited 9:16am:
The Daily News has reported that Cleveland might be interested in moving Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The theory is that the Cavs need a PF now that Boozer has bolted for greener bank accounts pastures. The deal would include Kurt Thomas, and someone else to work under the cap. The article sites Nazr as one possible trade mate. I’d be thrilled to have the Big Z (20.9/14.3/-3.2) roaming the paint for New York. Maybe I spoke too soon about Isiah?

King Of The Wild Frontier

I love getting email!

—–Original Message—–
From: David Crockett
Sent: Saturday, May 29, 2004 11:35 AM
Subject: frank williams and other knicks thoughts


i just came across your blog for the first time this past week. i wanted to comment on something you wrote at the end of the nets series regarding frank. i’ve been a big fan since his college days.

you mentioned the likelihood that he’d be moved this off-season. here’s two reasons that would be laydenesque*:

1. basketball reasons – i think we have every reason to suspect that williams will develop into a solid-to-very-good third guard, an aaron mckie type player. right now frank is by far the team’s best perimeter defender (sadly, followed by penny hardaway). if the team moves frank it *must* get a big, defensive guard in return.

2. financial reasons – who is new york going to get that brings frank’s particular skill set at his salary? the knicks probably wouldn’t need to break the bank to re-sign him either. i hope isiah doesn’t continue the recent history of taking on big contracts (e.g., eisley, anderson, witherspoon, norris, et al) to fill roles that should be filled by younger less expensive players.

[*note: to my readers that aren’t Knick fans or are from Utah, Laydenesque is not a compliment.]

I agree with you that Williams is the Knicks best perimeter defender, and should turn into a solid player. The problem is the Knicks have a PG that was 7th in minutes per game. Marbury is Isaiah’s prime acquisition as the Knicks GM, so I doubt that he’d move him so quickly (unless McGrady or Kobe were involved). According to, Williams spent more time at shooting guard, than at the point. Next year, if Allan Houston is healthy, those minutes are pretty much gone.

So the Knicks have two options. They can keep Williams as their backup PG & third SG (or fourth if the entity known as Shanderson is still around), and he’d get somewhere in the vicinty of 10-15 minutes per game. He makes a small salary, but the Knicks are nowhere near being under the cap. In this scenario, Williams has little value to New York.

On the other hand, he might be exactly what another team desires, especially one that is actually trying to stay under the cap. Williams can be a good starting PG. He doesn’t shoot well, but he’s got great vision and a nice passing touch. On the other side of the ball he is a tough defender (remember the playoffs against NJ?). All that has to be appealing to some GM out there, especially for only about $6M over the next 3 years. If his value to another team is greater than his value to the Knicks, then a trade is in order. If the Knicks can use him as a “throw-in” to upgrade at another position I’m all for the move. We can do a 2-1 and package Frank with Nazr, Kurt or Tim to improve in that area. Another idea would be to trade him for a good defensive big man (less than 59 years of age). A good defensive big man would get more playing time for the Knicks than Williams.

I don’t want to see Williams traded. In fact he’s one of my favorite players to watch, despite his low eFG% (my pet stat). It might have been questionable to trade for Marbury when Williams was starting to develop as the Knicks starting PG. However that deal is already done, and unless the Knicks lose Marbury, Houston, or Hardaway, I don’t see much that Frank can do in blue & orange. Nothing would make me happier to see him develop into a solid pro, but with the current roster he just won’t get many minutes in New York, which makes him prime trade bait.