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John Schuhmann

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Tyson Chandler should certainly improve a lackluster New York Knicks defense this upcoming season.
Larry W. Smith-Pool/Getty Images

StatsCube: Assessing the impact of early free agent moves


Posted Dec 11 2011 8:20PM

It has been a wild last few days in the NBA. And while most of the craziness has centered around the possibility of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard being traded, there has been plenty of free agency news to digest.

A ton of free agents are still on the market, but a few impact guys have found a new team. So it's time to fire up StatsCube and look at what kind of impact they might make.

Knicks get defensive?

The New York Knicks were one of the most improved teams in the league last season, but were still a bottom-10 defensive team, allowing 106.9 points per 100 possessions. And when Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire were on the floor together, the Knicks were pretty awful defensively, allowing 110.9.

So while many Knicks fans were dreaming of Chris Paul joining their All-Star duo, a defensive anchor was a more pressing need. And when they reached out for free agent Tyson Chandler, the Knicks found their anchor.

stat_cube_logo_275.jpg

Chandler turned the Dallas Mavericks into a top-10 defensive team last season. He'll obviously improve the Knicks' defense too, but they'll never be top 10 with both Anthony and Stoudemire. So is it possible Chandler will compromise Mike D'Antoni's offense? And how much will the loss of Chauncey Billups, who had to be waived in order for the Knicks to sign Chandler, hurt the Knicks offensively?

The Knicks were the fifth-best offensive team in the league last season, scoring 108.3 points per 100 possessions. D'Antoni's system is designed to spread the floor, and is seemingly at its best with Stoudemire playing center, surrounded by four shooters.

But when the Knicks paired Ronny Turiaf, a non-scoring big, with Stoudemire in the frontcourt last season, they weren't that bad offensively, scoring 106.3 points per 100 possessions in 673 minutes. Further, when they paired Jared Jeffries with Stoudemire, they scored an amazing 119.9 points per 100 possessions in 287 minutes. And it's more than fair to say that Chandler is better offensively than either Turiaf or Jeffries.

Another encouraging number is how well the Knicks played when Toney Douglas and Landry Fields teamed up in the backcourt. They're the likely starters right now, and when they were paired together last season, the Knicks outscored their opponents by 7.6 points per 100 possessions.

2010-11 Knicks backcourt combinations
Combination MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Felton & Fields 1,428 99.0 110.9 108.6 +2.3 +33
Douglas & Fields 835 97.1 112.8 105.2 +7.6 +131
Felton & Douglas 672 99.5 101.2 104.6 -3.4 -49
Billups & Fields 417 99.4 105.6 109.8 -4.2 -34
Billups & Douglas 225 98.1 113.1 115.2 -2.1 +4
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Billups played just 21 regular-season games with the Knicks and he was banged up the whole time, but the numbers say that he was a liability last season, especially defensively.

Speaking of defensive liabilities, free agent Mike Bibby is reportedly on his way to New York to possibly sign a deal with the Knicks (though nothing was certain as of Saturday morning). Bibby had pretty good on-court numbers with the Atlanta Hawks last season, but after being waived by Washington and signing with Miami, he hurt the Heat defensively.

The Heat were the fifth-best defensive team last season, allowing just 100.7 points per 100 possessions for the season. But when Bibby was on the floor, they allowed 108.0.

Cornering the market on corner 3s

So even though Bibby shot 45 percent from 3-point range in his 22 regular-season games in Miami, the Heat probably aren't sweating his departure much. It helps that they've already added more 3-point shooting by signing free agent Shane Battier.

The Heat ranked seventh in 3-point percentage last season and ranked third in 3-point percentage from the corners, connecting on 43.4 percent of their corner 3s. Battier shot 42.9 percent from the corners, and his 60 corner 3s ranked eighth in the league last season.

The Heat are also bringing back James Jones, who ranked third (behind only Richard Jefferson and Ray Allen) with 72 corner 3s. Those 72 were exactly one third of the 216 corner 3s that the Heat made last season. Jones shot 49.0 percent from the corners, which ranked him fifth among all players who attempted at least 50 corner 3s.

Butler the ball-stopper?

The Clippers signed Caron Butler to a three-year deal reportedly worth $24 million. Butler hasn't played since having knee surgery in January, and also has a reputation for being a ball-stopper, which could obviously be detrimental to the development of Blake Griffin.

The numbers show that Butler was indeed a ball-stopper last season with the Mavs, assisting on only nine percent of the possessions he used. That was the ninth-lowest assist ratio among non-bigs who played at least 750 minutes, and he had a higher usage rate than any of the eight guys below him.

Butler's assist rate has gone down in each of the last three seasons, but that doesn't mean he's a one-on-one player. He was assisted on more than 70 percent of his field goals last season.

Caron Butler, last four seasons
Season Team GP MIN Usage Rate ASTRatio FGM (%AST)
2007-08 WAS 58 2,314 23.1% 19.0 43.7%
2008-09 WAS 67 2,585 24.4% 16.5 41.1%
2009-10 WAS/DAL 74 2,784 20.1% 10.4 50.4%
2010-11 DAL 29 867 22.5% 9.0 70.6%
Usage Rate = Percentage of teams possessions used when on the floor
ASTRatio = Assists per 100 possessions used
FGM (%AST) = Percentage of field goals that were assisted

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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