Some analysis on Walker and Sweetney
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tomverve
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7/20/2005  1:45 PM
The following are some posts I made recently in the NYT forum about Antoine Walker and Sweetney. I put a fair bit of work into them, and the Walker topic is also popular (controversial) here, so perhaps some of you folks would be interested to take a look. (Some of the stuff is in reply to other posts so it's a bit out of context, but that shouldn't be a big problem.)

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quantifying Sweets and Walker in the paint
Stats only tell part of the story.

True, but some stats tell much more of the story than others. For instance, it's been correctly pointed out that Antoine's penchant for 3 point chucking makes overall FG% too coarse of a statistic to compare Walker's production down low in comparison to Sweetney's.

Luckily, 82games.com was made for just such occassions. 82games gives us shooting stats divided up by where on the court the player took the shots. So let's compare Sweetney and Walker this way.

Jump shooting is no comparison. Sweetney attempted 31% of his FGs on jumpers, and only converted at an eFG% of .302. By comparison, Walker with the Hawks attempted 57% of his FGs on jumpers and converted at an eFG% clip of .393. With the Celtics, he dropped his jump shot attempts to 43% of his overall attempts and converted at a steadier .417 clip.

However, inside shot attempts-- shots taken in or near the paint, dunks, and tip-ins-- show Sweetney to have a decided advantage of his own. A healthy 69% of Sweet's FGAs were taken in the paint, and he converted them at a .635 clip. Walker with the Hawks attempted 43% of his FGs inside and only converted at a .539 clip. With the Celts, he raised his inside shot attempts to 57% of his total FGAs and converted .519 of them. So it's not much of a comparison in terms of efficiency-- Sweetney is much better at converting his shot attempts in the paint, and furthermore places a much heavier emphasis on this part of his game than Walker does. Net effect is that Sweetney is much more efficient offensively. Even if we're just looking at inside FGAs, Sweetney converted a healthy 10% higher than Walker last season. And it's not just Sweetney. Compare Walker's numbers to Maurice Taylor (.627 inside eFG%) and Tim Thomas (.607 inside eFG%). It's not clear Walker would really add anything of value to the team in terms of taking and converting shots in the paint.

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Walker part 2: what about the jumper?

It's true that Walker's game is more versatile than Sweetney's because he has some semblance of a jumper out to 3 point range. But how much is gained? His inside offense is considerably inferior to Sweetney's, and his outside offense is not exactly cause for jubilation either. Compare Walker's eFG% on jumpers with some other Knicks from the past season, plus QRich (whose numbers are probably slightly inflated from playing on the run and gun Suns):

eFG% on jump shots (04/05 season)

Walker with Hawks: .393
Walker with Celts: .417
Penny Hardaway: .428
Tim Thomas: .456
Jamal Crawford: .472
Stephon Marbury: .472
Quentin Richardson: .487

OK, so what does Walker add exactly? His inside offense is clearly inferior to Sweetney's. OK, but he's got a jump shot. How good is his jump shot? Penny Hardaway shot a (somewhat) better percentage last year than Walker did. How much do we like Penny's jumper? Tim Thomas, in a season wrecked by injuries and unfortunate outside circumstances, still managed to shoot a fair bit better from the outside than Walker. JC and Richardson, who are notoriously streaky and unreliable from outside, shot a significantly better eFG% on jumpers than Walker. And Marbury, who doesn't have much of a game from the 3 point line and has some less pronounced consistency problems of his own, was also markedly better.

Plain and simple, Walker is a lousy percentage player. His per game statistics are largely illusory-- he puts up fairly gaudy numbers only because he dominates the ball and takes so many shots. In the process, he wastes lots of possessions with missed shots-- inside shots that would be better taken by Sweetney or Taylor or Tim Thomas, and outside shots that would be better taken by just about any other Knick who plays on the perimeter. All those wasted possessions add up and wind up costing teams points, and ultimately wins. And this is why there is justifiably such a large anti-Walker sentiment. We don't need this guy at all, and we certainly shouldn't give up any of our better players to get him.

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stats per game and per minute

PPG and RPG are not the best indicators for a player's production. Per game statistics are sensitive to minutes played and team pace, both of which skew a player's per-game numbers. There is something to be said for being wary of per-minute statistics, but in general they do seem to be a very good basis for getting a read on a player's abilities. In fact, on average, players actually tend to produce better per-minute statistics when they play more minutes (although there are some questions about causality here, and of course variations for individual cases). See

http://www.knickerblogger.net/?p=195
for a short review and

http://sonicscentral.com/apbrmetrics/viewtopic.php?t=85
for a more in-depth discussion.

For a young and healthy player like Sweetney, who averaged a relatively hefty 19.6 mpg over 77 games last season, we can pretty safely project his production linearly in terms of minutes played, within a reasonable amount of minutes. Foul trouble does not seem to have been a major factor in Sweetney's mpg last season-- he averaged 3 fouls in 20 mpg, which projects to 4.5 fouls in 30 mpg. There is some precedent for players playing 30+ mpg and fouling at roughly the same rate, e.g. Ilgauskas (33.5mpg, 4.0fpg) and Jason Collins (31.8mpg, 4.0fpg) last season.

Per 30mpg, Sweetney goes for roughly 12.6ppg and 8.1rpg. Those numbers don't knock your socks off, but the scoring is done much more efficiently than Walker and the rebounding is actually better. And Sweetney could certainly post better per-minute stats with an increased role in the offense, as he tended to be underutilized last season.

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more Walker

So the complaint is that Walker shoots a lower percentage because he has to create shots. Walker's last two seasons are instructive here, because he played on a loaded Dallas team where there was little pressure on him to carry an offense, a barren Hawks team where he was asked to be the man, and a Celtics team that falls somewhere inbetween those two extremes. His percentages were:

Dallas

eFG% jumpers: .370
eFG% inside: .574

Celtics

eFG% jumpers: .417
eFG% inside: .519

Hawks

eFG% jumpers: .393
eFG% inside: .539

So his efficiency numbers have been fairly constant (consistently poor) in all sorts of offensive contexts. The notable exception is his pretty good inside eFG% on Dallas, where he was the 4th option on offense behind Dirk, Finley, and Jamison.

Some questions:

1) How do Walker's inside eFG%s compare to other go-to guys on the post?

Amare Stoudemire .706
Antawn Jamison .695
Shaq .685
Eddy Curry .650
Garnett .649
Carlos Boozer .648
Yao Ming .647
Elton Brand .644
Tim Duncan .615
Emeka Okafor .611
Pau Gasol .609
Dwight Howard .593
Rasheed Wallace .592
Lamar Odom .580
Chris Bosh .580
Jermaine O'Neal .574
Carmelo Anthony .560
Zach Randolph .545
Z Ilgauskas .541
Walker (Hawks) .539
Walker (Celtics) .519

Walker is clearly in the basement district for players who create shots in the post and shoulder a heavy offensive load. He did better as a 4th option on the Mavs, but on a team where he's asked to be 1st or 2nd he's very inefficient for a high volume post guy.

It's worth noting that Sweetney compares favorably to this list, with an inside eFG% last season of .635. Even if we assume that his efficiency would take a dip to around .600 with more minutes and a heavier role in the offense, his percentages in the paint would still be in Pau Gasol / Emeka Okafor territory. Sweetney will always have a tougher time getting his shot off than those guys, but it seems it's quite within his capabilities to be a damaging low post option who can score about 15ppg with high efficiency and draw double teams.

2) Even given Walker's negative aspects, one could make a case that he's valuable to certain types of teams. In particular, his ability to handle, pass, and get shots off might be valuable to a team like the Hawks, who had a dearth of go-to options and playmakers last season. (Remarkably, Atlanta still played much better without Walker last season, as Walker's poor -5.7 +/- stat with the Hawks attests.) So would he be of value in this way to the Knicks?

My answer is a pretty clear "no." We already have guys who can create shots on the perimeter (Marbury, JC, Nate) and some go-to options on the post (Sweetney, Thomas, Taylor perhaps Frye). We also have plenty of playmakers with Marbs, JC, and Nate. It's always nice to have another player who can handle and pass, but not if you already have several guys who can do just that and the player you're thinking of adding tends to dominate the ball and post truly lousy shooting percentages across the board.
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roblackman
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7/20/2005  1:46 PM
I don't care enough to read this long ass post...

Yes, I know that's rude but I know many people on message boards just skip over long posts...

[Edited by - roblackman on 07/20/2005 13:48:57]
And the reply is...a post that makes sense (still waiting)
tomverve
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7/20/2005  1:51 PM
For a brief summary: the really huge objection to Antoine's game is that he takes lots of shots while being a very poor shooter in all aspects of the game. Depending on Walker to give you big per game stats is like working long hours on minimum wage-- sure, you might make a decent amount of cash overall, but you have to spend so much time doing it that it's not worth it, assuming you have better options. And the Knicks already have a plethora of better options on offense than Walker.

As far as his shooting percentages go, he literally, without exaggeration, shoots free throws like Shaq and jumpers like Penny Hardaway. Disgusting! As far as his inside scoring goes, his efficiency is markedly inferior to just about every other go-to post up player in the NBA who is asked to carry a sizeable burden of the offense. So you have a really inefficient player who likes to take a lot of shots, which is a sure formula for hurting your team.
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roblackman
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7/20/2005  1:51 PM
Thanks for the precis.
And the reply is...a post that makes sense (still waiting)
djsunyc
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7/20/2005  1:57 PM
thanks tom for your post and research.

it confirms the fears for many that don't want walker here, especially at the cost of sweetney.
Knicksfan
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7/20/2005  2:02 PM
I think its a given that knicks fans don't want Walker in any way possible...
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roblackman
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7/20/2005  2:03 PM
Posted by Knicksfan:

I think its a given that knicks fans don't want Walker in any way possible...

Speak for yourself--I'll take him at the right price.
And the reply is...a post that makes sense (still waiting)
simrud
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7/20/2005  2:10 PM
Awesome post man, I enjoyed readin the entire thing.

I don't think there can be an argument made in defense of Walker either.

The idea that he used to be better in the beginning of his career is largely a myth, more of an emotional judgment people passed on him back then, as I fealt, that hey, this young guy is super talented, and with time will learn to be more under control.

However he is now a grizzled veteran, and nothing has changed sine his rookie year. Combine that with the fact that he is a very soft defender and generally not a gough guy all around, and somewhat of a showboat, I also say NO to Walker.
A glimmer of hope maybe?!?
Masterplan
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7/20/2005  2:12 PM
i actually read the whole long post. good stuff. again, stats are tricky, but those mostly confirm common wisdom on walker. don't want him.

i think we need to come to terms with us being a perimeter team. was it IT who said NYC was a guard town? in any case, as our team is currently constructed we will get the bulk of our offense from outside, either marbury, crawford, Q shooting, or steph, jamal, nate driving and dishing. one of the things i like about frye is he's a good pick and roll replacement for KT, and along with sweetney ariza and lee has good hands to get our guards some assists. having post scoring from sweets and frye will be useful, but ewing's gone and our team revolves around our guards now. adding a frontcourt player we expect to be a stud will only complicate things and detract from the closest thing we have to team identity.
EnySpree
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7/20/2005  2:24 PM
Posted by roblackman:
Posted by Knicksfan:

I think its a given that knicks fans don't want Walker in any way possible...

Speak for yourself--I'll take him at the right price.

Me too! I could care less about the stats. Walker is a good player. Tell me how many people can do the things that Walker can do with the basketball at his position? He would be an awesome addition.

I don't want to give him what his agent has been suggesting, but Walker does alot more than score. Walker is a vocal guy. You can see Walker on the bench planting seeds in guys heads like "He can't guard you!" but really animated like......He bring intangibles. Walker has proven he can fit in with all types of players and systems.

Free throws aside.....the dude is a clutch player. How many times did he do it to the Knicks over the years? He draggs big men outside to guard him. To opposing teams, like when we had KT, this is a nigthmare. Walker would have tons of talent to work with in NY so it would make for some good basketball.
I think it shouldn't matter how a player gets here as long as the maximize their potential and help the team win. I get the impression a lot of you are just superstar groupies and really don't give a damn about being a knicks fan
DarkKnicks
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7/20/2005  2:29 PM
I really trust Sweetney. Walker sucks!
tomverve
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7/20/2005  2:29 PM
Posted by EnySpree:

I could care less about the stats.


Then quite simply, you are lost, and I don't know if your opinion carries much weight. Stats are not the end-all in all basketball discussions, but they obviously can tell us a great deal. Especially when we're not using coarse, 'noisy' stats like PPG and RPG but focus on more refined stats like PER, eFG%, rebound rate, etc. Within any statistical discussion there is probably always going to be some wiggle room for more qualitative considerations, but in this case the statistical case against Walker is so overwhelming that it drowns out any other considerations. The only way to make a case for Walker is to do what you've chosen to do, which is to just stick your head in the sand and ignore what the numbers are telling us. And obviously that's not going to lead to any sort of compelling argument.
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EnySpree
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7/20/2005  2:38 PM
Posted by tomverve:
Posted by EnySpree:

I could care less about the stats.


Then quite simply, you are lost, and I don't know if your opinion carries much weight. Stats are not the end-all in all basketball discussions, but they obviously can tell us a great deal. Especially when we're not using coarse, 'noisy' stats like PPG and RPG but focus on more refined stats like PER, eFG%, rebound rate, etc. Within any statistical discussion there is probably always going to be some wiggle room for more qualitative considerations, but in this case the statistical case against Walker is so overwhelming that it drowns out any other considerations. The only way to make a case for Walker is to do what you've chosen to do, which is to just stick your head in the sand and ignore what the numbers are telling us. And obviously that's not going to lead to any sort of compelling argument.









[Edited by - enyspree on 07/20/2005 14:39:02]

[Edited by - enyspree on 07/20/2005 14:39:49]
I think it shouldn't matter how a player gets here as long as the maximize their potential and help the team win. I get the impression a lot of you are just superstar groupies and really don't give a damn about being a knicks fan
newyorknewyork
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7/20/2005  3:00 PM
I wish more Columnist would come with articles like this. Its long but I don't mind reading long post when its filled with facts. And isn't a bunch of crap about one mans opinion.
VDesai
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7/20/2005  3:01 PM
Excellent post tom. Well researched. Pretty much confirms my own opinion on the subject...
BRIGGS
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7/20/2005  3:11 PM
we don't need to compare walker to anyone

walker is an undiscplined, low effeciency player in almost every aspect of the game.

we need to be patient with the guys we have, and or look for MUCH better opportunities in the market down the line.


just the thought of taking blount and walker to 35-36 years old, giving up picks sweetney is enough to make your skin crawl. everything that we have done positive will take an immediate down turn.

we have had a lot of rioster turnover--we need to be patient and stop orgasming at every name on the market that may be available. God forbid a guy like Brand becomes available for Sweetney+ Lee EC +draft pick.


Lets let Mike Sweetney play here, the guy is 22.
roblackman
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7/20/2005  3:51 PM
One thing your study never considered is the players guarding Toine and Sweets--how many double teams did Toine command and did the other team put their best defender on him? That's just one example of how stats don't tell the whole story.
And the reply is...a post that makes sense (still waiting)
djsunyc
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7/20/2005  3:55 PM
Posted by roblackman:

One thing your study never considered is the players guarding Toine and Sweets--how many double teams did Toine command and did the other team put their best defender on him? That's just one example of how stats don't tell the whole story.

i would assume ZERO b/c they were on pierce.
i can't remember toine double teamed, especially in the playoffs.
roblackman
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7/20/2005  3:56 PM
Posted by djsunyc:
Posted by roblackman:

One thing your study never considered is the players guarding Toine and Sweets--how many double teams did Toine command and did the other team put their best defender on him? That's just one example of how stats don't tell the whole story.

i would assume ZERO b/c they were on pierce.
i can't remember toine double teamed, especially in the playoffs.

Well, your memory doesn't count as official stats.
And the reply is...a post that makes sense (still waiting)
roblackman
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7/20/2005  3:58 PM
Another stat you need is how each player played during critical moments of games--did the points come in garbage time or did they come at crucial moments?
And the reply is...a post that makes sense (still waiting)
Some analysis on Walker and Sweetney

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