The first preview of the Knicks in the wake of the organization's 2010 maneuverings provides plenty of love and fuel for the perpetual optimist in every fanatic. In an article published on the Blog, Opposing Views, a statistician projected that this upcoming season's Knicks could approach 48 wins albeit as a best cast scenario barring injuries. Upon concluding a series of calculations (illustrated in some snazzy charts) the author points to the following as the key factors in what could result in a pretty impressive turnaround for the Knicks:
- elimination of negative producers
- the addition of Amare Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Kelenna Azubuike, and Anthony Randolph (players who more than make up for the loss of David Lee)
- Eddy Curry always wearing a really nice suit on the bench.
Moreover, the author points to the added infusion of youth and athleticism and speculates that one young up and coming player on the Knicks' roster (Gallo, Randholph or Walker) may show a leap in their production on the court. As a fan of the Knicks I certainly hope the Knicks can approach a win total in the upper 40s. Also, unlike prior brews of Knicks' koolaid, this recent article does not clearly register either a covetous or gullible strain.
Rather the author relies on what is deemed one of the many universal languages, Math in the form of statistics (we all know the saying about statistics). But despite the dazzling display of higher math skills some aspects of the analysis conflict with this Knicks' fan's observations during the 2009-10 season. Other aspects the statistical analysis appear counterintuitive especially when comparing projected player development amongst the team's stable of home grown talent.
So what struck me as odd about the productivity and projected productivity assessments? How about, Bill Walker projected to more than triple his productivity impact on the team from 2.0 wins to a projected total for the 2010-11 season of 6.9 wins (a productivity increase exceeding other young guns such as Gallinari, Randolph, Chandler and Azubuike). What about a projected decrease in Wilson Chandler's productivity by more than double (2.3 wins for the 2009-10 season to 0.8 wins projected for the 2010-11 season). Just as eye catching would be the productivity contrast between David Lee's 09-10 Season (17.3 wins) and Amar'e Stoudemire's projected productivity for the 2010-11 Season (10.2). That's nearly a forty percent disparity in productivity. Yet, the aspect of the article that resonates as the most counterintuitive would be the portion that juxtaposed the productivity of Knicks Chris Duhon (+ 3 wins) and Jared Jefferies (- 3 Wins).
If Jeffries is such an unproductive albatross, thus undesirable, why would the Knicks reportedly be interested in reacquiring his services for the upcoming season? Why would the Knicks trade away their most productive player (Lee) and pay more over a shorter duration on a non-guaranteed contract for a power forward projected to be less productive (Stoudemire)? Couldn't the Knicks have paired Lee's and Stoudemire's productivity to play along with or interchangeably with Raymond Felton and the improved play of Gallinari, Walker and Douglas? Perhaps the answers are not exclusively derived from crunching numbers (a concession the author acknowledges as he points to the injury X factor). In addition to injuries, team and or organizational priorities or a player's intangibles may influence player acquisition and usage and value.
For example during the 2007-2008 season, the Knicks signed Chris Duhon (a career backup) who 'overtook' Stephon Marbury for the starting point guard role as part of the organization's efforts to inoculate themselves from Marbury. As a result of the organization's maneuverings, Duhon's playing time and statistical productivity benefitted (reaching career highs in various categories). The absence of a capable starting point guard during the succeeding 2009-10 season (Toney Douglas' rookie season) insured that an increasingly less effective Duhon would continue logging heavy minutes- perhaps inflating Duhon's effectiveness with a Knicks team desperate for anything resembling point guard play. Duhon, however, disappeared during the course of the 2009-10 season. Nevertheless Duhon's usage somehow translated on paper as a net positive, despite what my eyes saw when I observed Duhon play.
In contrast, the main 'negative producer' on the 2009-10 Knicks' team, Jared Jeffries, became an important player in Coach Mike D'Antoni's rotation during key stretches of the 2009-10 season. Notably, Jefferies presence in the starting lineup was recognized as an important component of the Knicks' December surge (a span in which the team went 9 and 6 to tally their only winning month for the season). Coach Mike D'Antoni identified and utilized Jeffries versatility on the defensive end of the floor, a trait which had been established going into the 09-10 season. That the Knicks' organization was considering dangling several players perceived as assets, in addition to Curry's expiring contract, to reacquire Jared Jeffries belies his statistically assessed undesirableness.
In the preceding seasons, team politics and player intangibles were clearly at play as the inoculation of a malcontent provided an opening for a career backup who burned out, while a gawky defensive role player's on court presence often went understated in statistical productive assessments. So what does that mean for Wilson Chandler, whose productivity is projected to take a precipitous dip. Wouldn't the contrary be as plausible, since Chandler is considered an up and coming key asset whose value might be bolstered by an organization looking to showcase and inflate his value for trade purposes?A similar situation transpired last season, when David Lee's minutes and production increased for an end result trade that netted the Knicks young prospects while eliminating possible redundancy had Lee been retained alongside Stoudemire.
Readers should recall that Chandler will be a restricted free agent (RFA) next offseason who may be coveted by other franchise's looking to fill a need at small forward. In contrast, Bill Walker will not be an RFA and his value for the organization may be in his more manageable contract situation. Thus, Chandler may provide the Knicks a redux of the trade opportunity Lee provided the organization this offseason. Chandler's singular contract status when coupled with the opportunities his contract presents to the organization may result in a window to showcase Chandler for purposes of facilitating one of a variety of trade possibilities in the near future. In a vacuum player productivity projections do not readily consider such varying factors. In a vacuum they do not consider the value of an ungainly player's intangibles to a teams defensive flexibility and to a coach likely on the hot seat to register a successful campaign during the upcoming season.