Eddy Curry is a Star?

In a story widely reported in the New York media, Eddy Curry announced this week that if Isiah Thomas if fired by the New York Knicks, then Curry will want out of the Big Apple. Here is how the story was covered by Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

Isiah Thomas has staked his career, and the Knicks’ future, on Eddy Curry. And now Curry is returning the favor.

Curry revealed that if Thomas does not return next season, he will ask the Knicks to trade him. Speaking candidly following Tuesday’s convincing 102-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, Curry sounded like Patrick Ewing supporting Jeff Van Gundy when the center made it clear that he and Thomas are a package deal.

Asked if he’d be surprised if Garden chairman James Dolan fires Thomas, Curry said, “Yeah, I’ll be shocked. I’ll be pissed. I’ll be trying to get out of here.”

When asked specifically if he would no longer want to play in New York if Thomas is not either coaching the team or running the front office, Curry responded by saying, “Definitely. I’d be on my way out.”

This story was also covered in the Newark Star-Ledger and the New York Post. The general theme of the coverage was that Curry is now a “star” player on the Knicks and clearly part of the reason why the Knicks have ascended from the ranks of the truly awful to the not-really-that-bad. Howard Beck of the New York Times captured this sentiment last Saturday in an article examining the failure of fans or coaches to name Curry to the All-Star team.

Is Curry an All-Star? Should he be dictating to the Knicks who coaches this team?

Readers of The Wages of Wins might guess how I am going to answer these questions. Let me begin with the numbers. The following table details Eddy Curry’s per 48 minute production in each of the elements that comprise Win Score.

Table One: Eddy Curry’s Career Performance

If we focus on the positives, Curry is clearly a scorer. Per 48 minutes he scores 27.3 points, well above the average scoring production of an NBA center. And Curry scores efficiently. His field goal percentage of 58.1% is currently ranked 5th in the NBA. So scoring is something he can do.

Unfortunately, Curry can’t do anything else – and I mean anything else – well. In every non-scoring statistic, Curry is below average. The average center will capture 12.4 rebounds per 48 minutes. Entering this season Curry had a per 48 minute average of 10.4. This year he is only grabbing 9.7 boards per 48 minutes.

Curry also turns the ball over far more than the average center. And he generates a below average number of steals.

If we put the three possession factors together – rebounds, turnovers, and steals – we see that Curry’s net possessions this season stand at 5.6 per 48 minutes played. The average center has 10.8 net possessions per 48 minutes. In other words, playing Curry costs a team more than five possessions per contest.

In addition to a general failure to secure the ball, Curry also has a problem passing the ball, blocking shots, and staying out of foul trouble.

When we put the positives – which is scoring – together with the negatives – which is everything else – a clear picture emerges. Curry is not a “star.” In fact, he is well below an average center in overall productivity.

We can see this when we look at Curry’s Win Score. His per-minute mark of 0.171 is well below that of an average center (not surprisingly, his Wins Produced – a statistic that has a 0.994 correlation with Win Score per-minute adjusted for position played — is also well below that of an average center).

One does not need Win Score to see that Curry’s contribution begins and ends with scoring. But it does appear that without considering how each statistic is linked to wins, it’s hard for some New York fans to grasp how much Curry’s many deficiencies impact his team’s chances to be successful. NBA teams typically get 30% of all rebounds from their centers (and another 27% from power forwards). Having Curry at this position reduces the ability of the Knicks to get rebounds. Curry also hurts his team by committing turnovers, failing to generate steals, blocked shots, etc…

Can Curry make up for these deficiencies by scoring? Well, if Curry raised his field goal percentage to 65.6%, and did nothing else to improve his game this season, he could become an average center. Not a “good” center, but clearly “average”. Unfortunately, this seems unlikely. In the history of the NBA, only Wilt Chamberlain and Artis Gilmore ever hit shots at this rate.

No, for Curry to become an average center, he’s going to have to work on other aspects of his game. Until that happens, Curry’s play is going to continue to suggest that he is not a “star” and he probably should not try and dictate which coach gets to ask him to try and focus a bit more often on something besides his scoring totals.

– DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

Wins Produced and Win Score are Discussed in the Following Posts

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

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