Chris Paul’s Knicks Toast isn’t Burnt Out…Yet

 

could this image become a reality next year? according to the CBA, it's not out of the question.

could this image become a reality next year? according to the CBA, it’s not out of the question.

 As a result of the new CBA and Tyson Chandler signing with the Knicks in December of 2011, proverbial wisdom suggested Chris Paul’s infamous toast at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding was just another Knick pipedream. In an effort to curb super-teams, the new CBA forbids sign & trade transactions for teams whose total team salaries are higher than $74,000,000. This number, known as the luxury tax apron is crucial in determining a franchise’s flexibility and its ability to change its roster.

According to ShamSports.com, this year’s New York Knicks have salary commitments of $79,289,785 which obviously puts them well over the apron. However, the same cannot be said about next year’s team when looking at certain salary cap commitments. According to cap Guru Larry Coon’s CBAFAQ.com, team salary is calculated differently for determining a team’s ability to use its exceptions and make sign & trade transactions. In these calculations, cap holds for draft picks and free agents are excluded. Based upon my interpretation of the FAQ, so are cap holds for open roster spots. As a result, the toast lives on.

Using Sham Sports’ numbers once again, the Knicks next year have $73,831,215 million committed to the following eight players: Anthony, Camby, Chandler, Felton, Kidd, Novak, Shumpert and Stoudemire. Copeland and Prigioni are both fully unguaranteed and James White has a team option that needs to be determined before June 30th. If it’s not picked up, he is a free agent. Additionally, JR Smith has a player option for 2.9 million for next season. Now if Smith picks up that option, this dream is dead unless the Knicks find a way to trade one of their players for no money coming back so that they remain below $74 million.

Smith however is unlikely to pick up his player option for a variety of reasons. While it’s debatable if his play has improved, what isn’t debatable is how little he made last year and this year compared to what he was making in Denver.  Additionally, this projects to be a players’ free agent market with more teams having cap space than desirable big money free agents.  Much like Ben Gordon got overpaid by Joe Dumars in 2009; Smith could catch the same fortuitous break this summer.

Given what we know now, the Knicks being at $73.8 million puts them below the apron, making a sign & trade acquisition of Chris Paul not impossible. Again, don’t misinterpret what is being said here. A sign and trade for Chris Paul would be highly improbable. The Clippers would have to take back salary commitments equaling I believe to be 80% of Paul’s new outgoing max contract, which would mean for example Tyson Chandler and either Iman Shumpert or Ray Felton. Or perhaps the Clippers would want all five of Camby, Felton, Kidd, Novak and Shumpert. If you ran the Clippers, why you would help facilitate the exit of the best player to ever put on your uniform is unlikely. Of course, it’s also unlikely the Clippers would accept Chandler in a trade when they already pay DeAndre Jordan an eight figure annual salary.

Furthermore, there is no definitive mainstream media sourced evidence out there that this is even the Knicks line of thinking. In an effort not to deal in rumors and hearsay, the point here is to just show that the Knicks are still legally able to facilitate a trade for Chris Paul and fulfill the destiny of the toast. It should be noted that given current salary commitments, the same possibility cannot be said for the Brooklyn Nets and their lengthy ill fated pursuit of Dwight Howard. The Nets currently have $85.55 million committed to 2013-2014, including a $1.1 million dollar player option for CJ Watson. For the Nets to move under the luxury tax apron, they would have to shed $11.55 million dollars in salary at the draft or during free agency without taking back a single dollar.

To speak to the impossibility of that compared to the Knicks situation, this means Billy King would need to find a taker for Gerald Wallace and one or two filler pieces (depending on who the player is), or trade Kris Humphries 12 million dollar expiring contract. Either package would have to go to a team willing to absorb them into cap space or a trade exception while not expecting the Nets to take any salary back on in return. In my opinion, there’s a better chance I’m playing in the final group on Sunday with Tiger at Augusta as a 5 handicap than the Nets finding a taker for either one of those packages.

Nevertheless, the NBA rumor mill is about to start churning at full throttle once again. As it occurs, no matter what you read and what sources you doubt or believe, keep in mind that Chris Paul to the Knicks via a sign and trade is currently only improbable, but not impossible.

Woodson’s Division of Playing Time Could Cost Team the Division

                The Knicks managed to win last night in Cleveland, but issues remain within the organization. Despite a sterling regular season record, Mike Woodson’s rotation decisions lead me to believe he will cost us a valuable game or two in the postseason. Woodson has excelled at coaching his players up, creating plays out of timeouts and getting guys to buy into his way of doing things. However, he’s failed to properly monitor the minutes of his players and has made some very perplexing lineup decisions, addressed below.

The chart assumes that Carmelo Anthony will be back sooner than later.  Additionally, while rotations tend to shorten in the playoffs, it’s my opinion that would not be optimal for this Knicks team.  Notes regarding each chart can be found below them.

 Image

The first thing you notice here is that this rotation features 10 players and also incorporates some key lineup adjustments: No James White, less Carmelo Anthony and more minutes for both Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert. Additionally, my suggestions here give Shumpert more time at the nominal shooting guard position than as a small forward, where he’s succeeded more often this year and where he excelled as a rookie as well. This minute breakout also reduces the minutes of Felton and Chandler, since they’ve been logging heavy minutes for a while now.

This breakdown also puts JR Smith at the small forward position more often. Keep in mind that the small forward for the Knicks can sometimes be deemed the third guard, and that is fine. However, considering that the lineup of Felton/Kidd/Smith/Anthony/Chandler is the team’s best lineup this year (and the league’s best for units that play more than 3 minutes per game together http://www.nba.com/hoop/the_nbas_fab_5s_2013_03_04.html) and in it Smith is either the 3rd guard or a forward with Melo as one too, it’s great that he’s logging more minutes at the “3” than at the “2.”

Additionally, my minute breakdown reduces the minutes that Anthony and Stoudemire will have to play together both as the two “bigs” and overall. Reducing Stoudemire’s center minutes down to 5MPG and Anthony’s minutes at small forward down to 6MPG allows them both do what they do best; play power forward.

Lastly, it would be beneficial for Jason Kidd to play about 25MPG compared to the 30 he’s been averaging all season. Additionally, this breakdown keeps him off the ball for nearly all of those minutes where he’s excelled this year in comparison to as the point guard. As evidenced by the 7-7 record in Raymond Felton’s absence, Jason Kidd struggled this year when logging heavy minutes at the point guard position. Despite this obvious conclusion, Woodson felt the need to put Kidd back on the ball beginning with the Wizards game, and the results have been mixed.  Against Cleveland, once the Knicks fell behind 52-30, Felton reentered the game to play alongside Kidd. Naturally, the Knicks cut that lead to 12 by halftime with Kidd in the backcourt off of the ball.

Should Anthony miss extended time, the minutes breakdown below would be my recommendation.

 Image

In my opinion, a few things need to be adjusted to account for Anthony’s absence as a power forward: Copeland getting 15MPG at PF, Novak getting 5MPG there and Stoudemire playing the entirety of his minutes at the position. In order to adjust make up the projected six minutes for Melo at small forward, I simply upped Shumpert’s minutes from 8 to 12 there and Smith’s from 22 to 24. Clearly, Copeland could log more time at that position if need be.

Additionally, Kenyon Martin could step in as a power forward for some minutes, taking the PF minutes of Novak. Lastly, you’ll see a 3 minute bump in Chandler’s center minutes coupled with a 2 minute bump for the backup center.

Instead of scaling back the minutes of his stars to balance to prepare for a playoff push, the chart below shows Woodson’s playing time from the Warriors game on 2/27.

 Image

 

                It’s pretty evident that if the minute breakdown looks more like the Warriors game than my suggestions, the Knicks’ collective tank will be on empty by the time they reach the postseason.

 

Coach Woodson drops the ball as Stephen Curry goes nuts, but it’s not what you’re thinking

Image

 

 

In one of the best NBA’s games of the year, the lead story is Stephen Curry. He scored 54 points on 28 shots with 11 three pointers, yet the Warriors still came up short. The Knicks held on 109-105 after getting herculean efforts from the CAA-2 (Melo and JR) who scored 61 combined points on 45 shots with 9 combined assists and 5 rebounds and Tyson Chandler setting a career high with 28 rebounds and 16 points of his own. Lucky to escape with a win, the key story was the Knicks’ inability to stop Curry, and contrary to popular belief, it didn’t matter which Knick tried to stop him.

After scouring through the play-by-play, Stephen scored at high rates no matter who he played against. At time of publication, I’m not able to determine how many points Curry scored when guarded by Iman Shumpert compared to Raymond Felton, so this is an attempt to try to the next best thing.

Felton and Shumpert sat out together for roughly 8 minutes and 30 seconds tonight. In that time, Curry scored 14 points (1.65 Points per Minute, good for 59 points per 36 minutes or an absurd 79 points over an entire 48 minute game).

However, in the 17:30 where Felton played without Shumpert, Curry also scored 14 points (.82 PPM, 29 pts per 36 min, 44 pts per 48 min).

Shockingly, with both Shumpert and Felton on the court, Curry was even better than just against Felton. He had 26 points in 22 minutes when both Felton and Shumpert were out there (1.18 PPM, 42 pts per 36, 64 pts per 48).

Coming into the game, Curry averaged 20.4 pts per 36 minutes, good for 30.6 points per 48 minutes and only 0.64 points per minute. So no matter who was on the court, Curry was playing well above his averages.

In-game twitter outrage suggested that Coach Mike Woodson’s biggest flaw was using Felton on Curry when Shumpert was also in the game. In my opinion, based off of the data above, this anger’s slightly misguide.

Really, Woodson should be chastised for poorly staggering the minutes of Shumpert with Felton. Shumpert did not play one minute tonight when Felton sat.

 Given what occurred, Curry was most damaging in the beginning of the 2nd and 4th quarters when Pablo Prigioni was the point guard. In the 2nd quarter, the other guards in the game were Jason Kidd and JR smith and in the 4th quarter the other guard was just Smith.

Most likely, another outlet before Friday will analyze how Curry did when actually guarded by Shumpert compared to when guarded by Felton in order to determine if Woodson was at fault. Until then, just know that Stephen Curry did the most damage when both were on the bench.

 

Watching the Nets through Orange Colored Glasses

Through Orange Colored Glasses

Tuesday evening, I found myself tuning into the fourth quarter of the Nets and Bucks game. While this on its own is purely anecdotal, the emotion concocted by the Nets remains constant for this diehard Knicks fan: one of utter disdain.

When I watch the Nets, I want them to lose by 30 points on a nightly basis. I want them to be the laughingstock of the league, for their newfound Kings County fans to stop showing up, and for utter chaos to ensue. In thinking about why this is the case and how it compares to the other intercity sports rivalries here, the main difference just hit me. The Nets in recent years have posed much more a threat to the Knicks than either football or baseball team posed to its respective counterpart.

Back in the halcyon days of Stephon Marbury, Jaime Feick and Lucious Harris, the Nets were merely a little brother to the Knicks. A 30 win also-ran, Nets/Knicks games at the Meadowlands were a mere Garden Party for a Knicks team that was good for about 50 wins per year. Of course, everything changed in 2002 when the Nets acquired Jason Kidd and the Knicks missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.  The rest is modern New York sports history. The Nets were a formidable eastern conference title contender from 2002 through 2007 while the Knicks spent the same period as the laughingstock of the NBA.

The teams they gutted their rosters together in chase of Lebron, and then Melo. As a result of these team plans coupled with the emergence of twitter, a much purer rivalry was generated between the two fan bases. With regards to the Mets and Yankees and the Jets and Giants, you find ambivalence toward the other team among some fans. Sure, some Mets fans loathe the Yankees and there are Jets fans who’d never root for the Giants, but this blossoming Knicks/Nets rivalry feels different.

Simply put, I don’t think you’d find a single Knick who wishes success upon the Nets. Furthermore, save for the Nets fans who are former Knicks fans and can’t let go of their first true basketball love, I doubt many real diehard Nets fans want the Knicks to do anything but lose 60 games a year.

Of course, the aforementioned converted Nets fan only adds fuel to this rivalry’s fire. Yes, the Knicks have been mismanaged for years by a highly questionable owner. However, leaving a team for another one, especially one in the same city feels tawdry and wrong to me. The beauty of sports is for all the miserable lows, the highs are even THAT much better. To leave a team and never experience those highs is treacherous, in my opinion. While the Knicks may have to deal with Lebron for the rest of the decade, one time in the next 40 years they will finally win that elusive title. The owner can’t screw it up nor can he live forever.

Should that occur, it will be on par with celebrating a Cubs World Series in the Windy City. The parade will be epic and millions city wide will rejoice. The converted Nets fans will feel filthy. The only thing that could top it off in my opinion? If Brooklyn goes 8-74 in the same season setting the all time mark for futility.

 

Random Knicks Musings

 

This afternoon I found myself on a mini MSG binge watching some Knicks games of past years. Starting with Game 7 of 1994 Eastern Conference Finals and then briefly watching the countdown of 2011-12’s best dunks, I came up with a series of random musing about the Knicks and NBA in general, found below:

 

  • It is astounding to me how different the game was in 1994 and really up until the 2005 rule changes.  The days of illegal defense and perimeter hand-checking (although I believe that rule was changed prior to 2005), it was like watching a different sport. Aesthetically, it was brutal. Yes, there is beauty and appreciation in the post up games of Ewing and Smits, but the more open style of essentially the last decade is in my opinion preferable.
  • With that in mind, I wonder how some of today’s players would have fared during the hand checking illegal defense era. Perhaps some wouldn’t be in the league, or some even all stars, it’s really fascinating to think about.
  • Another thing I noticed was the schematic differences in plays. One set I noticed featured a Ewing post up on the left block, and BOTH Oakley and Charles Smith were hanging around on the right block, providing limited space for The Big Fella to operate vs. Smits in the post.  I wondered why this was.  Perhaps because of the limited range of Oakley or perhaps because Riles valued his two forwards crashing the offensive boards instead of spacing.  However, think about how much that contradicts to today’s game. When a team features a player in a post up, most of the time we see players on the opposite side of the court stretched all the way out to the 3 point line (think Knicks with Melo posting or how Stan Van Gundy operated with Howard & the Magic). Is this because of the changes in basketball analytics and how much more valuable the 3 point shot is considered nearly 20 years later? Or is it because of the new rules regarding illegal defense? The answer is probably some amalgam of all of these things.
  • Unless I’m too young (only 26) to remember this, but did Pat Riley ever an endorsement deal with a hair gel company? Riles and Vitalis were made for one another as he sported that semi-greasy flow.
  • As for the 2011-2012 Knicks, I was amazed how many members of last year’s team are now out of the NBA. Not including the injured Baron Davis, six members of last year’s team are currently out of the league: Renaldo Balkman, Mike Bibby, Dan Gadzuric, Josh Harrelson, Jerome Jordan and Bill Walker. Obviously, last year’s Knicks weren’t the only team where this happened (last year’s Nets had quite a few guys who are not currently employed by NBA teams).  However, given the lofty expectations that fans and the media had for last year’s team after the Chandler signing, it’s actually remarkable that they were so high. In fact, given the number of non-NBA players that were even on the roster, perhaps going 36-30 overall last season shouldn’t be deemed the disappointment that it was considered by most, including myself.

The Rangers Powerless Play

At 7-5-1, the 2013 New York Rangers are a slight disappointment 25% into this lockout shortened NHL season. Coming off an impressive overachieving season where the Rangers finished first in the east and reached the conference finals, expectations were raised over the summer when the Rick Nash trade was consummated. Nash, plus a full year of Chris Kreider, led the blueshirt faithful to believe that this would be the year where Guitar Jimmy Dolan would be able to celebrate like the previous owners did in 1994.

However, early indications would suggest those beliefs were more based in optimism than reality. If the playoffs began this weekend, the Rangers would be the 8th seed. While the Kings took last year’s cup as an 8th seed, one of their strength’s is the Rangers glaring weakness, the power play.

So far this year, the Rangers power play is ranked 28th in the league, at 10.4% (they’ve scored 5 power-play goals on 48 opportunities). The league average to date this season is nearly 19%, meaning the Rangers have taken 4 goals off of the board by having a substandard power-play that is 45% worse than the league average.

Looking back at the past five teams to hoist the cup, the average power play rate was 17.75% when the league average the past five years was 18.05%, so the past five champions had a power-play that was on average only 2% worse than league average.

Additionally, the 2012 Rangers produced a power-play percentage of 15.71% when the league average was 17.31%. While still 9% worse than league average, it’s a rate significantly better than what the Rangers are serving up so far in 2013.

Being a very limited and fringe hockey fan, I can’t make any reasonable suggestions for fixing this glaring weakness. However, from when I’ve watched the blueshirts, it appears they don’t shoot enough when on the power-play. Unfortunately, and to my complete shock, no website tracks team shot attempts while on the power-play (but all track shots attempted overall). 

Regardless, whether it’s better puck movement, scheming or more opportunities, for the Rangers to move up in the standings and once again be a legitimate cup contender, the power-play cannot continue to be powerless.

 

Opinion – Knicks Should Go After Louis Admundson

James White has impressed for the Knicks in spot minutes this year, but not enough to hold down a spot in the rotation. A legendary dunker, White should win this year’s contest, elevating his status and that of the Knicks to even greater heights. Unfortunately for White, that’s where his Knick career should end.

Simply put, this team has too many swingmen on it.  With Kidd no longer really a point guard, the Knicks have a plethora of healthy bodies who can play the “2” or the “3.”

Currently, they are totally devoid of a healthy body who can function as a center, which is why they should cut James White and offer Louis Admundson the prorated veterans minimum.

At 6’9, Amdundson has played both PF & C in the NBA, most notably for the Suns, Warriors and Pacers.

Admundson would be insurance should neither Wallace nor Camby get healthy. He has per 36 career averages of 10&10 and his career rebounding rate of 16.4% is very much in line with what Charles Oakley’s was over his last four seasons as a Knick.

Admundson has some playoff experience too. He’s appeared in 29 postseason contests, averaging 10 minutes per game.

Simply put, he’s more useful to the Knicks moving forward than James White is, and therefore should be pursued by the front office.