Musings on the Knick game + more point guard blather

First, a few of my thoughts on last night's game.

Despite the unfortunate outcome, I found it tremendously entertaining viewing. And, much as I loathe Isiah, his unquestioned gift for unearthing below-the-radar talent has given the Knicks some exciting young players. Lee, Robinson, Balkman, Chandler all show tremendous promise and hint at a bright future ahead. In his game recap Dave asks Knick fans if we "would prefer to field this lineup for the short term rather than the bloated, overpaid, selfish, directionless mess they started the season with." My answer is a resounding, shout-it-from-the-rooftops "YES." Problem, of course, is that we first need to find someplace to dump Zach, Eddy, Stephon, and Jamal whose absurd mega-contracts all but command that they play mega-minutes. And the only real dumping ground for those contracts in today's NBA is directly upstairs from the Madison Square Garden hardwood in the executive suites of Two Penn Plaza.

Ah, but no need for me to belabor Isiah's shortcomings as GM. Especially not when last night's loss - still fresh in my mind - offers an opportunity to harp upon his shortcomings as a coach. Not that they're really disconnected, mind you. When you're responsible for assembling a roster made up almost exclusively of selfish, one-on-one, no-defense chuckers it pretty much obviates the need for any kind of real coaching. And, boy oh boy, was that utter lack of a disciplined approach ever evident against the Blazers on Saturday night: a stingy 15 assists on 43 made buckets (only two players - Nate and Q-Rich- even had more than one); ghostlike - hell, Caspar the Friendly Ghostlike - defense (why the Blazers did not try and exploit this more is a conundrum); bizarre personnel decisions (why did rookie center Randolph Morris get a DNP? Certainly he could not have been that much of a drop-off in talent from the likes of Re-lik Rose and may have given NY some much needed bulk in the paint)

For all intents and purpose, the Knick strategy pretty much boiled down to "Let Nate Robinson do his thaang." And it nearly worked until late in OT when Nate finally ran out of gas. When that happened, Isiah pretty much had to concede the ballgame. Bereft of any notion on how to deploy the rest of his talent, he simply chose to throw in the towel and let the clock run down with about a minute left in the extra frame. Pathetic.

But the upside of New York's complete and utter lack of a coherent game plan was that it afforded fans the chance to witness a truly dazzling display of individual basketball by Nate Robinson. And although Isiah's over-reliance on him ultimately proved suicidal, Nate's performance was downright electrifying. So much so that I fully expected to log on to Blazers Edge this morning and find his name added to the wish list of point guards that y'all would like to see Pritchard go after.  

Yet, with the exception of a few stray comments here and there, I found nothing of the sort (not that I would want to see him leave the Knicks) But watching him yuk it up with Roy, Webster & McMillan after the game suggests that there is a genuine chemistry among the members of the "Seattle Mafia" - one that would translate well to the banks of the Willamette.  Nate is still on his rookie contract. And, he has a similar skill set to another spendier PG who's been much salivated over on this site, Devin Harris.

Right now Harris strikes me as Tony Parker-lite: a lightning quick, shoot first PG who scores most of his points in the paint but whose passing skills and shooting range are still average at best. Maybe one day he'll justify the 5-year, $42 million contract that Mark Cuban gave him but at this point in his career it seems a tad overpriced. It's certainly not as reasonable as the contract awarded to another similarly styled player, Leandro Barbosa, who in 2006 signed for five years, $33 million.  But if that's the kind of PG you'd like the Blazers to pursue, I'd think that Nate Robinson - who pretty much has the same skills and an established rapport with Brandon Roy and a rookie contract to boot - would represent the most attractive option.

But is that really the kind of PG that you want for the Blazers? While much of the PG discussion on this site has been focused on who Portland should target, I think the more relevant question is what kind of point guard do you think would work best for this team? Is it the Parker/Harris/Robinson type? Or is the classic, pass-first Stockton/Nash/Paul variety what your team really needs?

Ordinarily, this is a no-brainer for me. Under normal circumstances, I'd go with the pass-first playmaker every time. But adding Brandon Roy to the equation certainly muddies the question. Roy has often been touted as the Blazers' true PG - someone who needs to initiate the offense to be at his most effective. Many here have wondered what the impact on Brandon's game would be were Portland to introduce an honest-to-goodness, old school PG into the mix. Some have cited Roy's All-Star game as proof that he can happily co-exist with the likes of a Chris Paul. But - as Dave has sagely pointed out - performances in the All Star Game are indicative of precisely nothing.

Although I'm not really a stat geek, perhaps numbers might be instructive in this instance. John Hollinger has developed a nifty little algorithm that he terms pure point rating (PPR). Basically, it's a more refined version of the assist/turnover ratio which can be used to quickly identify those players whose game fits within the classic, pass-first PG mode. A glance at the current league leaders in PPR show some familiar names topping the list:

Player             PPR
Chris Paul          12.8
José Calderón    12.8
Steve Nash        10.7
Jason Kidd         9.0
Deron Williams   8.9                      
T.J. Ford            8.8
Chauncey Billups 8.5

Working your way down the list, you can see that Brandon Roy has a PPR of 5.2 - which is behind Steve Blake's 6.4. However, Roy's PPR is also well ahead of Devin Harris' 3.6, whose rating resides in the neighborhood of such PGs as Allen Iverson (4.0), Tony Parker (3.9),  Mike Bibby (3.6), and Stephon Marbury (3.4). (For the record, Jarrett Jack's current PPR is 0.8; Sergio's is 3.4)

So if you accept these numbers as kind of a rough measure of true PG ability, you can argue that (1) the Blazers should move heaven, earth, and Paul Allen's bankroll to bring Calderón on board because (2) Roy has a ways to go before he can realistically be expected to run the point as well as a Calderón or any of the NBA's other top playmaking PGs. However, if you consider these numbers suspect or otherwise feel that the Blazers don't really need a PG in the classical mold, you might contend that what Brandon brings is plenty good enough and that a scoring PG of the Harris/Robinson ilk would make the perfect complement to him in Portland's backcourt.

What of it, Blazerfan? I've e-prattled on long enough. I'm curious to hear what type of PG you think would best serve the Blazers in their pursuit of an NBA title once Oden and possibly Rudy have been added to the mix.

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