Second Guessing the Knicks

Kevin Clark and Jared Diamond – of the Wall Street Journal – wrote the following story for the Friday edition: Not to Second Guess, But…  One Measure Says the Knicks Would Be Better With Their Original Draft Picks

The “one measure” in this story is Wins Produced.  And I thought I would provide a bit more information on this story.

First the back-story: Jared called me earlier in the week with the following question:  If the Knicks kept everyone they drafted recently, how good would that team be?

To answer this question, we looked at each player’s Wins Produced.  For the most part we looked at performance in 2010-11.  But for David Lee I took his numbers from 2009-10 (he was hurt by Wilson Chandler of the Knicks this year while playing for Golden State).  And I also took the 2009-10 numbers for Mardy Collins (last time he played) and the 2008-09 numbers from Renaldo Balkman (last time he played more than 100 minutes in a season).

After collecting the production numbers for each player, I then had to allocate each player on the roster by position.  And then allocate minutes played.  In sum – as the following table indicates — there was some guess-work involved in this project (some is an understatement).

The above table indicates that this team would win 54.2 games.  But as I explained to Kevin and Jared, this exercise reminded me of what we see when we look at each team’s projected playoff performance.  In the playoffs, teams only play about 10 players, and consequently, we tend to see forecasts that are five to ten wins better than what we see in the regular season.  Since I only had ten players on this hypothetical Knick team, I reasoned that this team’s expected performance would probably be between 45 and 50 wins.

Such a mark is actually better than what the Knicks achieved this year; both with and without Carmelo Anthony.  And that suggests that had the Knicks simply stayed with their draft choices, the Knicks wouldn’t be worse off.  And I suspect, this team would be quite a bit cheaper.

But that is not what they have done.  Many of these draft choices have departed in New York’s persistent desire to add expensive scorers.  For example…

  • Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinaro departed in the trade that brought the Knicks Carmelo Anthony
  • David Lee departed after the team acquired Amare Stoudemire (as I recall, Stoudemire was considered a replacement for Lee)
  • Jordan Hill departed in the trade for Tracy McGrady
  • Channing Frye left as part of the trade that brought the Knicks Zach Randolph
  • Trevor Ariza departed in the trade for Steve Francis

Notice the pattern?  The Knicks – both under Isiah Thomas and Donnie Walsh – seemed to send players New York has drafted to other teams in exchange for established scorers.  And these established scorers generally failed to win much.

As I noted in my conversation with Jared and Kevin, the Knicks have had success in the past.  But these brief periods of success coincided with teams built around defense.  When they have focused their attention on scorers, the team has generally struggled.

Unfortunately for fans of the Knicks, this lesson has yet to be learned in New York.  The Knicks in 2011-12 will be built around Stoudemire and Anthony.  That combination was not very successful in 2010-11.  And given the past performance of both scorers, it seems unlikely the Knicks will be very successful with this duo in the future (it is possible the team will be successful, it just doesn’t seem likely that this team will be as successful as fans of this team hopes).

Someday, though, maybe someone with the Knicks will simply take the time to learn the history of this franchise.  And when that happens, maybe this team will start focusing less on accumulating scorers and more on acquiring the productive players necessary to compete for titles.

- DJ

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