Right, welcome to our first full recap update of my new series ‘The GM Diaries’ with the New York Knicks. It is currently the end of November, ahead of a December 1st game against the Milwaukee Bucks, so I’ve ‘played’ a month and a bit so far. One thing I think I should have likely mentioned in the first, second or third updates is that I’m not actually playing these games. I’m simming every game, taking player skill out of it, and much like Football Manager, I find most of the enjoyment out of squad building and team development anyway. The team has played 25 games, so we’re about a third of the way through the season, so this seems like a perfect time to look at how things are going so far. If you’re just joining the series now, the first three updates covered my plans for the team moving forward, and my analysis of the players.
Firstly, we currently stand at 9-14, ‘good‘ enough for 10th in the Eastern Conference. This is actually a little better than I expected to be honest, but considering we started off at 5-4, it’s clear we’ve started to tail off as the season has progressed. The key now however is to discuss how we’re playing, and where any potential issues may be. I said that I would be tracking my players as well, and you’ll get a glimpse of that here as well. One thing to mention is that currently we’re the 18th best team in the league on points allowed, and 25th best on points scored, so whilst we may be average on defence (and would improve with better players), we’re poor on offense and that’s something I need to look at moving forward. Purely on team FG% (field goal percentage), we’re pretty much middle of the pack at 18th. I do however, have a much better idea of things moving forward, and I possibly may end up altering my approach, in particular doing something I said I wouldn’t do, but that’s for another time. Now, it’s time to track my players.
At the moment, here’s the stats of my players – with those that haven’t played subtracted. These aren’t all the stats I’m looking at (particularly the advanced stats, but when I’m using them, I’ll specifically refer to them). I’m not going to go through every single player on here (as I want these to be short updates each time), but there are several things that are jumping out to me already. Firstly, I vastly underrated Enes Kanter. He’s currently averaging a double-double across the season with 12.2 points per game, and almost 12 rebounds a game. The main stat that jumps out to me however is the one Sabremetricians love, PER. PER is Player Efficiency Rating, and it adds up all of a players box score stats, and then puts them into a ratio, considering what team a player plays for, and therefore comes up with a player’s value, with 15 being average. At the moment, with 22.1, Kanter is clearly having a great season, and is making me reconsider my thoughts on trading him. He also has an EWA (Estimated Wins Added) of 3.5.
However, there are a few other things that are jumping out at me. I’m somewhat underwhelmed by the performances of Porzingis. For sure, he’s having a decent season, but that’s really all I can say it is – decent. For an 87 overall player, he should really be leading this team with over 20ppg, especially when you consider I have him set as the first option on offence. I did say I wouldn’t trade Kristaps, but I won’t lie, I put him into the trade finder the other day, and there were some that I considered very tempting. Again though, that’s for another time. Another quick and easy analysis is that Alonzo Trier needs more playing time. His TS% (true shooting percentage) and eFG% (effective field goal percentage), both stats that take into account all ways players can score, and adds them onto a value system (3’s are more than 2’s). Although his box score numbers don’t suggest that much value, his advanced shooting stats suggest a talented scorer. So, his minutes will go up, and Hezonja’s (who’s stats aren’t good) will go down. Hopefully that will lead to an increase in his EWA. An evidence based process that should lead to good decision making. See, Trust the Process.
Right, now for the main topic of this post though, and it’s my issues at Point Guard. Whilst the above analysis is clearly evidence informed, the main evidence that is jumping out at me is that our Point Guard Frank Ntilikina is costing us games. A comparison with our backup PG and Sixth Man Trey Burke (who granted is a more offensively minded player, but is still competing with Ntilikina in the defensive stats) demonstrates the difference between both players. Ntilikina isn’t scoring well, isn’t assisting that much, and his advanced stats are very poor. I had intended Ntilikina to be the Gary Payton-esque rottweiler Point Guard, defending from the backcourt, but his wins added are a poor -0.9, and he’s turning the ball over far too much (2.5 per game) for his relatively low usage rate when compared to others around him. Ntilikina is in the last year of his contract, and I’ve decided to make the decision to move him on.
Trade: The New York Knicks send Frank Ntilikina and a 2023 2nd Round pick to the Boston Celtics for Aron Baynes and the Grizzlies 2019 1st Round Pick (Top 5 Protected).
Aron Baynes is a decent player, but he’s not the real aim here (he’s on an expiring contract which will be allowed to run out), the 1st Round Pick is. We need young talent and the best way to get that is by making draft selections, and by doing this, we’ve given ourself another 1st Round selection, as well as our own pick. The pick has a Top 5 protection on it, meaning if it lands there it remains with Memphis, but Memphis are currently in the race for the Western Conference Playoffs, and the pick is currently slated to fall at 22 – ours is set to fall at 16th currently. This will mean a shuffle around at Point Guard – although I intend to keep Trey Burke at Sixth Man, a role he’s excelling in. I may give Mudiay a shot, and see how he gets on. It’s becoming clear Point Guard is a major area that I need to improve. So, this brings us to the end of the first full recap edition of this new series. I would love some feedback on how you’re finding this series, so please do feel free to leave comments in the comments section, or contact me via Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you once again, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.