Are the Nets better than the Knicks?

 

Both struggled last year. But who’s team is better?

Two teams that have been at the forefront of the sports world lately are the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks. Both teams are vying for the hearts of New York City fans and are trying to contend for a title at the same time. Joe Johnson of the Nets recently said that his team was definitely better than the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler both disputed this as false. As a Nets fan that holds enmity for the other New York team, I wondered which one of these players was right. To do this, I decided to weigh who would win in a playoff series between the two (I’m praying that this actually happens).

In a playoff series, only the starters and the first man off the bench statistically matter. So to grasp who would win, I projected the starters for both teams this season.

Point Guard:

Deron Williams vs. Jason Kidd (advanced stats)

I’m going to assume that the Knicks will make the smart decision to start Jason Kidd and will avoid playing Raymond Felton more than 15 minutes a game. That may be a premature prediction, especially because NBA franchises rarely make good decisions but we’ll still go with it. Last year, Deron Williams had a WP48 of .060 which was significantly worse than Kidd’s .207. When purely comparing the numbers, Kidd produced 3 more wins than Williams last season and was the overall better player. However, Kidd missed a lot of time due to injuries, as Williams played over 600 minutes more than him over the course of the regular season.

Side note about Williams: It was extremely baffling as a fan of basketball to see what happened to him last season. The Wins Produced metric almost always stays consistent over the prime of a superstar players’ career but Deron’s shift to the Nets’ system really hurt his shooting efficiency and his turnover rate. Although it goes against the Wins Produced formula, I think that Williams’ downfall was just the result of terrible teammates. Dre and I talked about this on the last podcast and we pointed out that none of the Nets last season that played more than 40 games shot well. For a guy who needs to pass to be successful; such a team is like his kryptonite. Personally, I believe that with the addition of Joe Johnson, a full season of Gerald Wallace, and a full season of Brook Lopez, D-Will won’t take the terrible shots that he had taken all of last season or turn the ball over as much. The Nets certainly will need it. Because let’s face it, when your “Number One Option” is shooting 40.7% from the field and turning the ball over 5.3 times per 48 minutes, your team is not winning many games.

With that, I’ll say that this one is a tossup. After his past year and a half in Jersey, one can easily write off Deron Williams as a failed superstar and I would not blame the person making such an assertion for doing so. Still, Williams was a superstar in Utah when he was armed with other offensive weapons (his numbers were comparable to Kidd’s prime years) and Kidd is 39 and prone to injury (imagine Ray Felton playing Williams!).

Advantage: No one. (I know it’s a cop-out and Knicks fans have valid reasons to hate it.)

Shooting Guard:

Joe Johnson vs. J.R. Smith (advanced stats)

When I was thinking about writing this post, I was definitely not looking forward to comparing Landry Fields, a poster child for efficiency, vs the 120 million dollar man, Joe Johnson. Luckily, the Knicks let Fields go and instead I have the much easier task of telling you why J.R. Smith will not best Johnson.

Johnson, your typical volume scorer, is by no means a top 5 shooting guard, despite what the Nets’ management will tell you. Joe Johnson can shoot and can score relatively efficiently, but as Dre said on our podcast, he can’t do anything else. Really, what Brooklyn will end up with is a significant upgrade over last years’ train wreck of an SG situation, but an overall above average player. That being said, J.R. Smith is not going to beat him. At his best, Smith is an average shooting guard. Last year, while playing in his second best season, Smith recorded a WP48 of .108. Compared to Johnson’s .122, Smith loses out. Factor in that Smith is a starter this season (last time he started he had a WP48 of .015) and there’s really no comparison, Johnson is better. I also believe that Johnson will benefit from the same thing as Deron Williams, with more offensive weapons on the Nets as well as a premier passing guard, he will become a better shooter.

Advantage: Nets. Had the Knicks retained Fields, they would’ve won this one. Still, if Smith can maintain an average level of play, the Nets don’t have a huge advantage here.

Small Forward:

Gerald Wallace vs. Carmelo Anthony (advanced stats)

Gerald Wallace scores less points than Carmelo and generates less buzz than him as well. That is all that Wallace is worse than Anthony at. Wallace is a defensive anchor that rebounds extremely well for a small forward, shoots well, and is a star player with WP48 of .172.

Melo, on the other hand, is a complete enigma. Coming out of Syracuse, Anthony had the numbers and the skills to become a star and a dominate force in the NBA. As one of the most exciting players in the league, Anthony sells tickets and is a wonder to see play. Still, upon closer examination, Melo is just an average small forward. He shoots average. His rebounding and assist numbers are above average, but his turnover numbers are bad. His defense is no good. Even as a Nets fan, I want to see Melo do well. A guy with all of the talent and scoring ability that he has should never be considered anything less than a star, and yet he had a .104 WP48 last season. However, his numbers as a power forward have been well above average. Maybe his lack of efficiency is the fault of someone else that we are going to talk about….

Advantage: Nets.

Power Forward:

Amar’e Stoudemire vs. Kris Humphries (advanced stats)

No one likes Kris Humphries. Heck, even Nets fans don’t really like this guy. But Humphries was by far the best player on the team over the last 2 seasons and is one of the best power forwards in the game. Humphries is a rebounding machine and breaks even at just about everything else, something that Amar’e Stoudemire struggles with.

New York’s decision to use the amnesty on Chauncey Billups when they knew that they had Stoudemire on a 5 year 95 million dollar deal will always confuse me. Stoudemire does nothing well other than score inefficiently. He can’t rebound. He can’t defend. He turns the ball over a lot. Despite all of that, he is the Knicks’ starter for the next 3 seasons. Despite posting a WP48 of .036 last season and having an average WP48 of .059 while with the Knicks, he is their secondary offensive option. Additionally, his very presence hampers Melo’s ability to be great. In fact, the Knicks started to gell when he was not playing. I think it’s clear who wins here.

Advantage: Nets.

Center:

Tyson Chandler vs. Brook Lopez (advanced stats)

This is not even a discussion. Chandler is one of the best players in the game. Lopez is one of the worst centers in the league and is one of our poster children for a 7’0″ small forward (see Bargnani, Andrea). Chandler was one of the best signings of 2011 and is by far the best player in this series. I’m just hoping that Lopez returns to his 09-10 season in which he was at least average. Once again, it’s very obvious who wins this matchup.

Advantage: Knicks……by a lot.

6th Man

MarShon Brooks vs. Raymond Felton (advanced stats)

Until the season starts, it’s incredibly hard to predict who will be the 6th Man on these two teams. It could be new acquisition Mirza Teletovic for the Nets, but we have no data on him. It could be Iman Shumpert for the Knicks, but we don’t know how his health situation is. One could also argue for Steve Novak for the Knicks, but I think that Felton will end up playing more, especially once in the playoffs. Finally, Knicks fans should hope that this man is Marcus Camby, in which they would have a huge advantage, but at 38, I’m hesitant to put him here, especially after he played only 22.9 minutes per game last season.

That said, both of these players were bad last season. Brooks was a rookie that could shoot kind of average but proceeded to take 18.6 shots per 48 minutes, while also failing to excel at much else. Felton was a point guard that lacked the ability to do more than be somewhat competent at passing. Felton was better than Brooks even after last season, posting a WP48 of .045 compared to Brooks’ .029. Still, I’ll consider that because Brooks is a rookie, he can achieve Ray Felton’s level of play by next season, especially because of Felton’s own demise.

Advantage: No one

Conclusion: I’ll give the edge to the Nets in a close series, but it can go either way. The Nets win a lot of the matchups, but most of the Nets’ wins were close ones, like Johnson over Smith. Kidd could easily take the matchup with Williams. Additionally, Chandler’s dominance over Lopez cannot be understated, it is extremely gigantic. However, if I had to predict, I would put the Nets over the top in 7 games; they are more well rounded, are younger, and have more potential to improve with Williams’ hopeful return to dominance.
It’s not just the homer in me, I promise…..

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