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The Knicks: The Wrong Idea

The Numbers

  • ξ•Έ Average Seed
    10
  • πŸ“‰ Pessimist
    27.0 wins
  • ξ•Ά Realist
    34.6 wins
  • πŸ“ˆ Optimist
    42.2 wins
 First Seed
 
0.0%
⋆ Division
 
6.7%
 Top 4
 
2.9%
πŸ‘ Over (49.5)
 
1.4%
πŸ‘Ž Under (49.5)
πŸŽ€ Playoffs
 
26.8%

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”

-Leo Tolstoi

The Brief

The Knicks, after a brief respite of rational actions, have, like a drunken sailor, returned to their habit of blowing their financial advantage on bad hooch and lame horses.

Last year, I brought glad tidings to my friends in Madison Square Garden. I had the Knicks challenging the Heat for the one seed in the East and actually winning playoff games, and for one golden season it came true.

Then we went past the expiration date on Jason Kidd's jumpshot and it all went to hell. This year? I'm sorry, Spike, but I've got some really bad news for you.

The Story

Economics teaches us that, given the ability to move, assets will generally move to where they have the greatest value. In the NBA that means that the teams with the deep pockets will always have the ability to get their man. The Lakers have proven this time and time again through their acquisitions of players like Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, and Pau. This has been the foundation for their championship tradition.

At this point, you should be wondering why this hasn't applied to the other historically large-market, deep-pocket franchise in the NBA. Have we discovered a basic flaw in economic theory? No, we have not. Both the Lakers and Knicks organizations have for the most part historically gotten the players that they coveted, simply because they have more money to pay for them. The difference lies in the kind of players they have historically coveted. The Lakers have wisely chosen to pursue premium big men, whereas the Knicks have gone after high-scoring wing players. The banners hanging in Staples center should offer enough evidence as to which strategy is superior.

The Knicks wrongly believe that scoring is the ultimate answer to winning. They are the ultimate Yay Points team, and down that path lies futility and frustration. As a fan, I'm going to miss the Knicks as a contender.

Last Year

  •  Actual Wins: 54
  •  Expected Wins: 51.0
  • βš… Lucky Wins: 1.7

 

Player Minutes Age WP48 Wins
J.R. Smith 2678 28 .086 4.8
Carmelo Anthony 2482 29 .033 1.7
Raymond Felton 2313 29 .094 4.5
Tyson Chandler 2164 31 .296 13.3
Jason Kidd  2043 40 .231 9.8
Steve Novak  1641 30 .101 3.5
Pablo Prigioni 1263 36 .207 5.5
Iman Shumpert 996 23 .110 2.3
Chris Copeland  862 29 -.016 -.3
Ronnie Brewer  711 28 .100 1.8
Amare Stoudemire 682 31 .103 1.5
James White 435 30 .025 .2
Kenyon Martin 431 36 .134 1.2
Kurt Thomas 392 40 .112 .9
Rasheed Wallace 296 38 .003 0
Marcus Camby  250 39 .091 .5
Earl Barron 37 31 .175 .1
Quentin Richardson 29 33 -.141 -.1
Solomon Jones  26 29 -.271 -.1

 

 Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.

  • 51.0 total Wins Produced
  •  6 players leaving
    (5533 minutes, 15.1 wins)

Over the first half of last season, the New York Knicks played some truly beautiful basketball. The passing was crisp. The shots were unselfish and well chosen. It was a thing of beauty.

It was a furious start that was powered by some insane 3-point shooting. Even though they cooled down quite a bit as the season went along, they still managed to finish 5th in the NBA in this category. Carmelo, of course, scored a lot of points, but the real fuel that powered this engine was three-point shooting. Not only did they shoot well from beyond the arc, they also shot frequently. Only Houston shot a comparable amount, and the other teams were far behind.

The shocking thing to me was seeing a team with JR Smith and Carmelo Anthony playing unselfish basketball. I needed to know what in the world was going on. When I went to the Sloan conference, I asked every beat writer and insider I could find.

The answers were all about Jason Kidd. It was his magical powers that were making the malcontents on this squad run actual, coherent offensive sets. Jason Kidd had a remarkable year, given his age. At times he was a spot up shooter next to Raymond Felton, and surprisingly, he did very well in that role. At other times, when Felton was injured, he was the starting point guard. In that role, his success was much less surprising.

The Knicks also got key contributions from unlikely sources, such as Pablo Prigioni, and enjoyed yet another superstar season from Tyson Chandler.

The real beauty of last years Knicks team was that, with Tyson and Kidd, it was the spiritual successor of the Mavs title team of 2011, and it looked very much like a collision with Miami in the Eastern Finals was on the cards. It was a magical thing to watch.

But once you took Jason Kidd out of the equation, the magic died. Kidd's retirement took a full 20% of last years win total off the books. In total, they lost a third of their wins and their minutes in the offseason -- but it's who they brought back that's the real problem.

This Year

  • ξ•΅ Projected Wins: 34.6
  •  Conference Rank: 12
  • % Playoffs: 26.8

 

Player Position Minutes Age WP48 Wins
Carmelo Anthony 3.7 2694 29 .050 2.8
Raymond Felton 1.3 2680 29 .089 5.0
Tyson Chandler 4.9 2507 31 .275 14.4
Iman Shumpert 1.4 2075 23 .107 4.6
Andrea Bargnani  4.6 1910 28 -.098 -3.9
Pablo Prigioni 1.0 1535 36 .174 5.6
Amare Stoudemire 4.8 1345 31 .039 1.1
Metta World Peace  3.2 1173 34 .044 1.1
J.R. Smith 2.6 959 28 .103 2.1
Tim Hardaway Jr.  2.0 778 21 .009 .2
Kenyon Martin 4.2 657 36 .046 .6
Chris Douglas-Roberts  2.3 512 27 .064 .7
Jeremy Tyler  5.0 386 22 -.113 -.9
Beno Udrih  1.2 273 31 .116 .7
Josh Powell  4.8 188 31 -.136 -.5

 Indicates that the player is new to the team.

  • πŸ“… 37.4 WP last year
    by these players
  • πŸ”€ -20.4 WP (roster changes)
  • ⏲ 1.4 WP (age/experience)

Bargnani is the projected starter. Hold on, Andrea Bargnani is projected to start? The Knicks not only traded for him but are considering using him as a starter? 

Some facts about Andrea for the uninitiated:

Fact #1: he is 7 feet tall, but he is not good at any of the skills required of power forwards or centers. He's a terrible rebounder and his career TS% of 53.5 is below an average big man's. He isn't a good shot blocker and doesn't get many steals either.

Fact #2: As of right now, Andrea Barganani is the career leader in all time losses produced and the undisputed worst player in the NBA over the last five years. A convincing argument could be made that he's the worst NBA starter and number 1 pick of all time.

Fact #3: This video was made by Raptors Fans.

Starting Bargnani is very bad idea.

The fact that Masai Ujiri, considered one of the best general managers in the league, has used this franchise as a lifeline is a real problem for the Knicks. They should have hung up on the Bargnani phone call right away. I suspect that after the Melo trade and Bargnani trades, Masai has the Knicks contact on his cellphone, under ♥ James Dolan ♥.

Put simply, when people ask us why our win projection is so low for the Knicks, our answer is "Bargnani really is that bad." The Knicks lost two valuable role players in Kidd and Novak (one of whom was actually better at the job that Bargnani will be paid for, shooting threes), and replaced them with the worst player in the NBA.

The Knicks also added an aging World Peace, Tim Hardaway JR, Jeremy Tyler, Beno Udrih and Josh Powell. The fun bit is that New York did not actually add wins with all these moves -- they lost wins.

Let throw some more gas at this flaming car wreck. Prigioni is demonstrably their best guard but will struggle to be higher than third in their guard rotation. JR Smith is suspended for drug policy violations. Amare is still more fragile than a fabrege basketball. The Knicks just put together a roster with JR, Melo, Kenyon and Metta on the same team. How's that for a volatile, high risk combination? A Felton, JR, Melo, Bargs and Stat lineup will happen and have to play defense against an actual NBA opponnent.

Now for the killing blow: Did I forget to mention Carmelo Anthony can opt out and become a free agent? In the largest media market in the country, I'm sure that will not be a distraction at all.

Projected playoff lineup: Felton, JR, Melo, Bargs, Tyson, Pablo, Metta, Amare and a smart team watching the tape of their two playoff series last year blocking out the three point line and the post and daring them to take 10-15 footers. Never mind the fact that that's a layup factory for the opposing team. Frankly, they probably won't even make it that far.

The Wrap

Let's start with the over/under number for the Knicks at 50 wins. Is Vegas attempting to give back to the gambling community? The under on the Knicks is the single most profitable bet we could identify in this preseason.

Then, let's come to how Masai really fleeced this franchise. Toronto has been trying to dump Bargnani for a while, and Masai got New York to throw in draft picks? James Dolan is apparently not giving up his worst owner crown without a fight.

Throw all these ingredients together, and this has all the makings of a complete meltdown of a season. There's a real chance Denver gets a lottery pick from the Knicks and this is all before the Knicks front office does something dumb like trade Tyson and Shumpert to the Clippers for DeAndre and Reddick.

When Melo went to the Knicks I assumed the argument over his superstardom was done. He took a mediocre team and turned it into....a mediocre team. Jason Kidd arrives, the team becomes a contender, but falters in the playoffs when Kidd declines. It takes a lot of blindness to still consider Melo a star. And when Melo is HAPPY you acquired a player? Run for the hills! 

Do I have any counterarguments with Arturo? Nope. I've been thrilled with our initial posts here at Boxscore Geeks. We'll be around for a while, but I'm putting it out there - this is my favorite piece we've written so far! The one note I can give is that the NBA is entertainment as well as competition. I couldn't ask for a more entertaining team than the Knicks have constructed. Would it be greedy to ask for Melo to end up next to Kobe in his next contract?

Great preview ;) I can not agree only with :

β€œWrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” -Leo Tolsoy

His surname is Tolstoy.
I'd be wary of automated minutes projections. What leads you to believe JR Smith is going to play 1/3 of the minutes he did last season?
DOWN WITH THE KNICKS
And tbh your Chandler projection may end up kind. Going into his 13th season his production is a risk to decline.

The Bargs trade was brutal not because of just giving up picks and financial assets for a bad player, but because Novak was good and an important part of their team. Novak was the best 3 point shooter on the team and had their lowest turnover rate. The Knicks team success was founded nearly entirely on making 3s and not turning the ball over. Obviously Novak was a huge part of that.

Furthermore even the closest thing to an argument in favor of Bargs - that there's value in a higher volume player because someone has to take shots and he takes pressure off teammates, is rendered meaningless on a roster with Felton, Smith and Melo, all of whom's value is varying degrees of 'high volume'. Felton and Smith especially do exactly what Bargnani was brought into to, take a ton of shots at an average level. Maybe on the Bobcats Bargnani's offense could be justified, but there may not be a team who needs him less than the Knicks
Indeed, this is a great piece. Small note - looks like you forgot to remove Kidd in the 'players leaving' bit. They lost a lot more than 5 wins in the offseason.
Buttonik: Thank you. Doing 3-4 pieces a day is beginning to wear on us. My girlfriend is sending me corrections daily, and they are embarrassingly long. I went with the Euro-spelling, though :)

Pete: This is mostly because of his surgery. Frankly, if he plays more, that's going to be bad for the Knicks, not good.

vanderwyden: Thanks! He's in the math in the model, but not marked in the table. I will fix that.
Man, that under is looking even sweeter now than it did before the season started. Frankly, I'm glad that Melo's even more of a disaster than he was prior to last year (when he played significantly above his career averages). SSST, but man, 26% on 3s, sub-40 from the field, and 24 attempts a game. Whoo!

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