All Star Game MVP Odds

EAST
G *Allen Iverson
G *LeBron James
F *Grant Hill
F *Vince Carter
C *Shaquille O’Neal
F Antawn Jamison
F Ben Wallace
G Dwyane Wade
G Gilbert Arenas
F Jermaine O’Neal
F Paul Pierce
C Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Shaq – None of the West’s centers other than Yao matchup physically against the Big Diesel. Working against Shaq is his jovial nature. Usually the Big Diesel works better with a little motivation, but everything is coming up roses for Shaq. His team is thriving after the Laker’s divorce, and he just won his second ASG MVP last year.
MVP Probability: Low

Allen Iverson – The recognition he earned as the 2001 All Star MVP game helped him win the MVP on the season. Iverson’s “street cred” and Mighty Mouse style gives him loads of respect among the players. Remember Shaq saying he was one of the 5 best players of all time? As the starting PG, AI will have the ball in his hands and can control the game.
MVP Probability: High

LeBron James – Twenty years ago Ralph Sampson won the All Star MVP in his second season, so it wouldn’t be surprising if James pulled it off in his sophomore year. LeBron’s affable personality will keep him from a Jordan-esque lock out. However at 19 years, the other players may figure that he’s got plenty of time to get his accolade, and not share the ball with the boy king.
MVP Probability: Medium

Grant Hill – Wouldn’t that be a nice story?
MVP Probability: Low

Dwayne Wade – Similar to LeBron, but James doesn’t have to live under Wade’s shadow. Dwayne has one edge that LeBron doesn’t. If Shaq is in a charitable mood, he might be willing to play the two man game with Wade to aid his teammate win the MVP.
MVP Probability: Medium

Jermaine O’Neal – After a disastrous season, it would be a nice gesture from the rest of the players to feed J.O. the ball. He should get plenty of minutes. The West has 6 power forwards, and other than Ben Wallace, the East doesn’t have another PF to match up against a bigger team. I know the All Star Game is a veritable points orgy, but how long can the East stay with Hill & Carter guarding Duncan and Garnett?
MVP Probability: Low

WEST
G *Kobe Bryant
G *Tracy McGrady
F *Kevin Garnett
F *Tim Duncan
C *Yao Ming
F Amar? Stoudemire
F Dirk Nowitzki
F Manu Ginobili
F Rashard Lewis
G Ray Allen
F Shawn Marion
G Steve Nash

Kobe Bryant – After driving Phil & Shaq away and turning the Lakers from championship contenders to a .500 team, no one has more to prove. Other than Nash, there isn’t another PG on the team. Bryant will have the ball enough to be as greedy as he wants.
MVP Probability: Medium

Yao Ming – Even among NBA All Stars, the 7-5 Yao sticks out.
MVP Probability: Medium

Steve Nash & Dirk Nowitzki – Both are MVP candidates, whose teams are performing better than expected. The difference between the two is there are about 5 forward/centers on the West, while Nash is the only true point guard.
Nash: MVP Probability: High
Dirk: MVP Probability: Low

Tracy McGrady & K.G – The anti-Nash & Dirk. Both aren’t MVP candidates, whose teams are worse than expected. However both are too talented to be ignored.
MVP Probability: Low


The MVP is tied to whichever team wins. If the East wins, I think Iverson is most likely to take the award. With little defense being played, AI should have an easier time getting to the hoop. If the West wins, Nash only needs double digit assists to take the award. The way I see it, it’s a point guard’s year.

International Relations Part 2

Scott Carefoot runs RaptorBlog.com, the self-proclaimed “best Raptors fan site – now and forever”. In a tradition that began last season, we wrote guest blogs on each other’s sites before a Knicks-Raptors game. Here, Scott offers a preview of the new-look Raptors before Wednesday’s match in Toronto. KnickerBlogger returns the favor on his site.

“Addition by subtraction.” It’s one of those sports cliches that sound neat at first but nonsensical if you really think about it. The theory is that a team can improve after a negative influence is removed. Bill Simmons calls it “The Ewing Theory” in reference to his friend’s notion that the Knicks in the Patrick Ewing era always seemed to play better when he wasn’t in the lineup.

For years, Simmons has claimed that this theory applies to Vince Carter. Considering that the Raptors went 0-9 last season when Carter wasn’t in the lineup, I figured we could put that theory to bed as far as Vince and the Raptors were concerned. But a funny thing has happened to this team since Vince was traded to New Jersey for Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and Alonzo Mourning’s dialysis machine…they’re playing more like a “true team” and winning more games.

In all fairness to Vince, the Raptors had one of the toughest schedules in the league leading up to his departure. Toronto had a 7-14 record after the loss to the Pistons on Dec. 8 when he suffered his final injury in a Raptors uniform. If I remember correctly, he was diagnosed with “sand in his vagina”. Anyway, Toronto lost three of the next four games leading up to the trade, so Vince left as Toronto had an 8-17 record.

The Post-Vince era got off to a rocky start as the Raptors dropped four of their next six games before they returned to Toronto for a four-day rest. Lo and behold, the Raptors opened 2005 by winning six of their next eight games and we now stand two games behind the three-way clusterhump of the Knicks, Celtics and Sixers for the Atlantic division lead.

This resurgence can be partially attributed to an easier schedule, as they played 19 of their first 31 games on the road followed by six of their next eight at home. Considering that they are 3-18 on the road after beating the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Monday, there’s no doubt this is a mitigating factor. But it shouldn’t take Knicks fans long to see how different this team is from the Raptors that lost 108-102 in New York on Nov. 27.

The only two starters that remain from that game’s lineup are Rafer Alston and Chris Bosh. Morris Peterson has replaced Vince Carter at shooting guard, Eric Williams has replaced Jalen Rose at small forward, and Rafael Araujo has replaced Loren Woods at center. This lineup is bigger, plays better defense and defers to Chris Bosh as the first scoring option. The 20-year-old sophomomre power forward has taken a quantum leap in 2005 with double-doubles in all eight games while averaging 20.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, two blocks and shooting 54 percent from the field.

Meanwhile, the Raptors have some pretty decent players coming off the bench. Jalen Rose has played his best basketball in years since he was relegated to an “instant offense” role after the trade. Donyell Marshall still provides rebounding and long bombs from the corners (he made three of them in a row late in the fourth quarter to slay Minnesota on Monday). Matt “The Red Rocket” Bonner has quietly been a rookie revelation, as the 2003 second-round pick has returned from a season in Italy to provide the Raptors with the league’s deadliest shooting touch off the bench. He’s third in the NBA with a .556 field goal percentage and most of those shots have been taken a few feet inside the three-point line.

In summary, I am as thrilled with this 16-23 team as it is humanly possible to be without narcotics. Now that Vince is gone, players like Bosh and Peterson have capitalized on their opportunities to take on leadership roles and there is no doubt that the team chemistry has improved as a result. It’s easy to root for this team, which is more than I can say for the Knicks. That’s not a cheap shot, it’s just that I could never root for a team managed by Isiah Thomas and coached by Lenny Wilkens. I expect this will be the last Lenny appearance in the Air Canada Centre before Isiah puts him in a home.

Wade Joins Elite Group; Jefferson Wears Out Wrist

[This article is dedicated to the Daily Show, the Onion, theBrushback.com, sPerts, and all the sarcastic bastards out there. A special thanks goes to the New York Knicks who by unexplicably losing to the three four win Hornets, forced me to create my own reality.]

Dwayne Wade Inducted Into Sidekick Hall Of Fame

The Miami Heat’s Dwayne Wade was formally inducted into the Sidekick Hall of Fame last night. The committee elected him based on his play alongside Shaquille O’Neal. “He’s just exemplified what a sidekick is” said Burt Ward, the actor who played Robin in the Batman tv series. “With the arrival of Shaq, someone on Miami was bound to get enshrined.” Current members flocked to the home city of the SHOF, Oakland, to attend the ceremony. It was a who’s who of who’s that, as Al Gore, Chris Tucker, Art Garfunkel, Jonathan Frakes, Scottie Pippen, and Kobe Bryant all were there to welcome their new brethren.

The ceremony was not without its own controversy. Upon arrival, Kobe Bryant almost bolted when told he had to share the stage with anyone else. The event organizers had to build a separate stage for Bryant to sit upon. Scottie Pippen was upset when he found he would not be the closing speaker. “I always take the last shot,” said Pippen afterwards. When it was his turn to speak, he broodingly declined and glumly slouched in his seat.

Dwayne Wade humbly accepted the award by acknowledging the great sidekicks throughout history, namely Stan Laurel, Lou Costello, Dr. Watson, Tonto, and Chewbacca. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when he reflected on the life of Herve Villechaize, the Fantasy Island star who sadly took his own life in 1993.

Jefferson’s Uses Wrist Too Much

Richard Jefferson?s season ending wrist injury came as no surprise to his teammates. The loss of Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles to free agency, combined with the injury to Jason Kidd left the Nets with Richard Jefferson to take all of their shots. Jefferson performed admirably taking shot after shot for the personnel-challenged Nets. “R-Jeff gave us his all” said Nets’ flagrant fouler Jason Collins. “I remember the second game of the season” reminisced bricklayer Rodney Buford “he put up 69 shots in 57 minutes and had to put his arm in a bucket of ice after the game.”

New Jersey eventually got Kidd back & even traded for Vince Carter to relieve Jefferson of his load, but the damage was already done. “Every wrist only has so many shots” said chucker Allen Iverson. “I’ve been able to take so many shots year after year because I don’t wear it out during practice.” Jefferson declined to comment on whether he exasperated the injury filming a commercial, where Charles Barkley coerces Jefferson to shoot more. When asked by the media who would pick up the slack, Nets President Rod Thorn calmly shot back “this is why we acquired Vince Carter. His wrist has been plenty rested during his sulking in Toronto.”

Half-Man Half-Net

According to ESPN, the Nets have acquired Vince Carter for Alonzo Mourning cousin’s liver, two guys named Williams, and 2 first rounders. Yesterday in the New York Sun, John Hollinger wrote the Nets’ pitiful offense is directly related to not having any production out of the SG spot. Coincidence? KnickerBlogger is investigating.

More seriously, I’m going to have to check out Scott’s page for a purple spin on the deal. This offers them little to no immediate cap relief. Zo’s contract and one of the Williams’ are 3 years each, and the other Williams has a 2 year deal. The key has to be the draft picks, acquired from other teams and are protected. If those picks are high enough, maybe this isn’t such a bad deal for them.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Blog Vacation

Folks, I just don’t have the time now to write, which is good since nothing big is going on. Dampier isn’t coming to NY. Vin Baker resigned, but for the life of me I can’t find how much the Knicks are paying him. The Vince Carter rumors are just that: rumors. Isiah may be cooking up another deal, but even if he does pull off a trade the first preseason game isn’t until October 14.

Until then I’m taking a blog vacation, which is good because I have a lot going on with my life. Things will be back to normal in October, so stay tuned. When I get a chance, I’ll throw up an article here and there.

Step 1. Conclusion – Step 2: Look At The Facts

Bad writing is when an author writes an article with a biased conclusion before looking at any of the facts. The worst misuse of statistics is cherry picking ones that support your point, while ignoring any facts that reject your hypothesis.

Enter ESPN.com columnist Frank Hughes, and his article “These moves aren’t so smooth.” Now I’m not such a Knick fan that I would let my fandom get in the way of an objective and intelligent argument. However luckily for me, Hughes’ article was neither of these. Hughes sets the tone with the first line:

“With all due respect to my esteemed colleague and compadre Chad Ford: What the heck is Isiah thinking?”

The first time I read this I said to myself “Great!” I like to hear opposing opinions. Sometimes it’s good to have a devil’s advocate, because it keeps you in check. If you can’t defend your ideas and theories, then maybe they aren’t as valid as you think. Even better, sometimes you’ll learn something that’s contrary to your current beliefs, and change the way you think. Unfortunately the article had little chance of swaying any rational person. Read on:

“If, in fact, Isiah signs Erick Dampier to go with a sign-and-trade deal for Jamal Crawford that essentially eliminates any future flexibility he may have had, well, in my mind that is figuratively putting the cement shoes — why has Nike not made a pair of those yet? — on the Knicks and throwing them in the East River on a frigid January day.”

Organized crime references to describe a New York sports team? Nothing says bad writing like a tired, drawn out metaphor. Memo to Mr. Hughes: the Knicks have been in salary cap hell for years now. Even without Crawford & Dampier’s contracts, they will be over the cap until at least the summer of 2007. This is his only valid point in the entire article. Being over the cap gives you less flexibility than being under the cap. However being over the cap & being willing to take on more contracts doesn’t make you inflexible. Consider this: if the Knicks are so inflexible, then how come they only have 3 players remaining from the pre-Isiah era? And Zeke hasn’t been with the team for a whole year yet! That sounds pretty darn flexible to me.

Looking at the Knicks roster, they still have some valuable trading chips. Sweetney is valuable for his contract as much as his promising ability. I’d imagine a few teams are interested in Kurt Thomas and Nazr Mohammed. If the Knicks don’t trade them this year, next summer they have a ton of expiring contracts to deal in Penny Hardaway ($15.8M), Tim Thomas ($14M), Nazr Mohammed ($5.5M), and Moochie Norris ($4.2M with a team option – an option that no sane team would be dumb enough to activate). That’s almost an entire salary cap in expiring contracts, enough to make any money strapped GM start drooling. The year after, they have about $35M in expiring contracts in Allan Houston, Shandon Anderson, & Jerome Williams (team option).

So what is Hughes “proof” of Isiah’s poorly thought out plan:

“Yes, I agree, some of the Knicks’ pieces certainly look good, to go with Stephon Marbury and Allan Houston. But now more than ever I am a big believer in chemistry, and when you really get right down to it, the collection of players Isiah has assembled has really accomplished very little in their respective careers, and they have had plenty of time to do it.”

Did you catch that? Chemistry = career accomplishments. What type of chemistry I’m not exactly sure about. Is it locker room chemistry? On the court chemistry? Molecular chemistry? He just doesn’t specify the type. Of course what does he use to measure career accomplishments?

Number of playoff games played.

That’s right it’s the old ring argument (Player A is better than Player B, because he’s won more championships). This kind of thinking is just not well thought out, because winning a playoff game or championship is a team effort, not an individual one. Last year, the following players didn’t play in the playoffs: Vince Carter, Tracey McGrady, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Gilbert Arenas, LeBron James, Carlos Boozer, and Allen Iverson. I didn’t even bother to include any players from the West. Players that did have playoff experience were such superstars as: Dana Barros, Vin Baker, DerMarr Johnson, Shammond Williams, Daniel Santiago, and Wang ZhiZhi. I don’t know about you, but if I were making a team, I’d overlook playoff experience, and go with the first group.

Let’s see he continues with this line of thought, and if you think I’m paraphrasing to make my point, read the article & be the judge for yourself. (Bolding is not in the original article, but added by me.)

  1. “[Marbury]’s been in the league now for eight seasons. Ten. [Editor’s note: I don’t know why this sentence “Ten.” is there or what it means, but I left it in so you get the exact feel of the article.] You know how many playoff games he has been in in that span? Eighteen. And he’s never been out of the first round…
  2. Tim Thomas has been in the league nine years, playing a grand total of 33 playoff games
  3. Kurt Thomas, signed at sizable dollars through 2008-09, has 48 career playoff games in nine years with career postseason averages of 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds
  4. “Since he left Orlando in 1999, Penny Hardaway has played in a grand total of 18 playoffs games. By comparison, his sophomore season in Orlando, he played in 21 postseason games…
  5. Nazr Mohammed … has played seven playoff games and has never advanced past the first round. He has career averages of 6.7 points and 5.3 rebounds…
  6. Allan Houston is the biggest conundrum because he clearly is talented. He also clearly is frustrating, going into long spells of quietude during a season and seemingly disappearing at important junctures…

What’s interesting is how he changes the facts he uses from one person to the next when the stats don’t support his point of view. To bash Tim Thomas & Marbury, he shows how few playoff games they’ve played. However, unfortunately for Frank, counting playoff appearances doesn’t necessarily work with his third choice: Kurt Thomas. Kurt’s seen enough playoff action with the Knicks, including going to the Finals in ’99. So he drags up Kurt’s poor playoff statistics. Of course he doesn’t mention that those numbers are heavily weighted when Kurt was a backup (only 22 minutes per game, not the 31+ we’ve been accustom to over the last 3 years.) In his playoff experiences as a starter, Kurt’s averaged 13.6PPG & 11.4REB, which is conveniently ignored. Also ignored are Marbury’s playoff numbers: 19.4PPG, 6.7AST, and 1.6STL.

For Penny Hardaway, not only does he eliminate his early playoff success with the Magic, but uses it against him. In essence splitting Penny’s career in two. What gives him the right to do that? Did Penny’s “chemistry” change after he left Orlando? BTW since Hughes doesn’t mention it, Penny’s career playoff numbers since he left Orlando – 19 games (not the 18 he falsely reported), 17.1PPG, 5.4AST, and 1.7 STL.

For each of the first five guys, he’s mentioned the number of playoff games they’ve played in over their career and when it suits him, their playoff statistics. But eventually he has to mention Allan Houston. H20 has played in 63 playoff games, averaging 40 minutes, 19.3 PPG, and a 48.7% eFG%. If Hughes wants to be an impartial and forthcoming writer he can mention these numbers, and say that Houston is the only player on the Knicks with playoff experience. Surely admitting that the Knicks have one playoff tested starter won’t blow his whole argument out of the water. So does Frank take the high road?

“Allan Houston is the biggest conundrum because he clearly is talented. He also clearly is frustrating, going into long spells of quietude during a season and seemingly disappearing at important junctures.”

I have to give Frank some credit, if you’re going to write bullshit, you might as well use big words like conundrum, quietude, and junctures.

I won’t even bother to go over the rest of the article. It’s more of the same – choose a player & pick only the numbers that make your claim look good. The flaws are obvious in this piece, beginning to end. If Hughes want to criticize Isiah’s moves, then there are many logical arguments that would make sense. This is a lesson to all aspiring writers out there. If you are having trouble writing an article because the facts don’t support your point, then maybe your initial hypothesis was wrong in the first place.

The Knicks Needs, Summer 2004 Part 1

The rumors have been rampant on who will be traded to the Knicks this offseason. Erick Dampier. Jamal Crawford. Antoine Walker. Even Vince Carter – yeah right! Message boards are lighting up with differing opinions on which would be the best fit for New York. Since each one plays a different position, each one potentially offers a different set of skills to the Knicks. So the question should become, what areas do the Knicks need improvement in the most?

First it helps to know which factors are most important for a successful team. Dean Oliver says there are four factors for a team’s success: shooting percentage (eFG%), turnovers (TO/poss), offensive rebounding (OReb%), and scoring from the line (FTM/FGA). Each stat has an offensive and defensive component. Your shooting percentage may be great, but if you also let other teams get a good look at the basket then you’re not getting an advantage in this category. Additionally some of these are weighted more than others. For example, shooting percentage is most relevant to winning. Turnovers are slightly more important than offensive rebounding. The least important is scoring from the free throw line.

By looking at these factors, we can see what areas the Knicks need to improve. Let’s take a look at each one & see how the Knicks fared last season.

Shooting Efficiency (eFG%)
Offense 13th, +0.6%
Defense 8th, +2.1%

I’m going to introduce a set of numbers that I’ll use in each section. The first number is the Knicks rank among all 29 teams in this category, the second is how much better than the league average they were. In this case, on offense the Knicks ranked 13th in eFG%, and were 0.6% better than league average. On defense they ranked 8th, and were +2.1% above the rest of the NBA.

This might come as a slight shock to Knick fans, either to find out their defense was better than their offense, or that they were pretty good in limiting their opponents shot selection. This is because 4 of their 5 starters (Marbury, Houston, Tim Thomas and Nazr Mohammed) aren’t better known for their offensive game than their defensive prowess. In retrospect, Houston and Mohammed didn’t play a full season, and shared time with offensively-challenged yet better defenders in Anderson and Mutombo (at least in help defense).

It’s impossible to assign blame or credit for every shot attempt. There are a myriad of things that can happen on any NBA trip down the court, from fast breaks to double teams to switching defenders. In addition, traditional NBA stats give an incomplete picture of individual defense. However thanks to 82games.com, we can see what each of the 5 positions shot against the Knicks & try to narrow the field down from there.

The Knicks were very good on the perimeter, keeping point guards and shooting guards at bay with a 44.0% and 44.8% respectively. The other three positions were the Knicks’ Achilles heal, with an eFG% just above 47%. Tim Thomas’ defense was plain awful, letting opponents shoot at a high 51.1%, and Nazr Mohammed wasn’t far behind at 49.1%. Surprisingly Sweetney and Mutombo held their opponents to good percentages. Actually Sweetney was great at PF (43.7%) and horrible when out of position at center (52.7%).

If Allan Houston is healthy all of next year, their offensive efficiency should improve. H20 is a career 50.0% eFG% shooter, at a moderately high usage rate (16.3 FGA/G over the last 5 years). The players that hurt the Knicks offensively in this area were Anfernee Hardaway (40.9% eFG 9.7FGA/G), Frank Williams (42.8% eFG 3.7FGA/G), and DerMarr Johnson (43.8% eFG 4.6FGA/G). Frank Williams gets a pass because of his ridiculously good opponents? eFG% (40.5% eFG), the low number of shots that he takes, and his youth. If anyone needs to shoot less it’s the Knicks’ 6th man Hardaway. He’s had a decline since his first year in Phoenix (49.4%) and is nowhere as near as good as he was his first 6 years in Orlando (50.7%).

At 24 years old, DerMarr is the Knicks’ “special project”. So far in his NBA career, which was derailled by a car accident, DerMarr has shown to be a poor shooter, and his defense which was touted in the first Basketball Prospectus, may have declined as well. Johnson will attempt to improve his shooting (and his game) this summer.

Turnovers (TO/POSS)
Offense 23rd, -7.0%
Defense 23rd, -7.2%

If the Knicks want to make a big improvement next year, turnovers is the first place Isiah should look. New York was atrocious on both sides of the ball. Looking at turnovers per 48 minutes, there isn’t a single qualifying Knick in the top 50. On the other side of the ball, Marbury is the only Knick ranked at #46 in steals per 48 minutes. Meaning they just don’t have anyone that is good in either of these categories who plays a lot of minutes. Othella Harrington (3.6 TO/48 & 0.66 STL/48) and Vin Baker (3.8/1.07) are the worst, while Penny is the best (2.6/1.65).

Of course all defensive turnovers aren’t registered with a steal. A defender can take an offensive charge or a player can dribble the ball of his foot due to defensive pressure. The NBA doesn’t keep track of these stats, but our good friends at 82games.com do. For every team, they keep track on both ends of the court of offensive fouls, bad passes, ball handling errors, and miscellaneous turnovers. Here’s a chart with some of the best & worst teams & how they commit or force turnovers:

Offense
Rnk Team Foul Pass Drib Misc

1 DAL 106 577 299 13
2 MIN 152 454 398 29
23 NYK 188 570 491 34
28 HOU 170 595 547 50
29 WAS 168 645 586 33

Defense
Rnk Team Foul Pass Drib Misc

1 DEN 216 546 515 23
2 MEM 156 638 569 20
23 NYK 149 450 507 23
28 ORL 151 487 431 37
29 CLE 97 529 418 25

With the 5 teams I picked, it seems that dribbling is one area that could indicate a team’s turnover tendencies. (Of course more research would have to be made before there is a definite correlation found.) On the other hand a team like Memphis creates a lot of turnovers by forcing bad passes, while Denver is superb at taking charges. The chart puts into perspective the Knicks numbers. On offense they are causing too many fouls, and they don’t have great ball handlers. Defensively, they are woeful in challenging the passing lanes.


Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will check out the Knicks performance at the offensive glass and free throw line. Also I’ll take a quick look at the three that are rumored to come to New York & what areas they might help or hurt.