Glancing At Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike & Ronny Turiaf

Feb 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom (7) is defended by Golden State Warriors forward Ronny Turiaf (21) at the Staples Center. The Lakers defeated the Warriors 104-94. Photo via Newscom

Will the Knicks finally have a defensive presence in the paint? Yes, we will. Meet Ronny Turiaf (source: Yardbarker.com)

ESPNNewYork.com, more specifically Tom Haberstroh, just ran three separate articles on the new arrivals from the Golden State Warriors: Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike & Ronny Turiaf.  Most had some interesting things to say.  Here are bits, starting off with the post on Anthony Randolph:

Despite his bounce and length, Randolph got blocked once every 10 shots which places him among the most-swatted power forwards in the game, indicating he could use the extra strength at the rim.

Yikes, that ain’t a very encouraging stat.  Maybe we can just have him leave the blocked shot until his last attempt, and then only have him put up 9 shots?  Hah, take that stats!

Randolph will fit nicely in Mike D’Antoni‘s system since he excels in the transition game but often forces things when he tries to take his man one-on-one in the halfcourt.

Many people often say how so-and-so will be good in D’Antoni’s system ‘cuz they’d be great in the fast-break.  The massive problem with that is that during D’Antoni’s two years in NY, the team’s been near the bottom of fast-break scoring.  In other words, the Knicks don’t play a transition game, they play a half-court one.  Sure, in Phoenix when D’Antoni had Steve Nash at point they scored a ton racing down the court, but that’s Nash.  Since new point guard Ray Felton should be a large, walloping improvement over Chris Duhon, perhaps we’ll start getting some transition points.  But Felton just spent the last two years playing in Larry Brown’s slow-it-down-a-bit and then slow-it-down-some-more offense, so it could take a while for that to formulate.  Truth is, conceptually D’Antoni’s system isn’t that different from Don Nelson’s system where players are given the okay to take an open shot even if it’s early in the shot clock.  Meaning Haberstroh’s “positive” statement about Randolph benefitting from the system doesn’t make me feel much better than the blocked shot stat.

Not enough bad news for ya?  Try this:

Defensively, he [...] allowed [his] opponents to score a basement-dwelling 51 percent on post-up situations, according to Synergy Sports Technology.

Um, well the Knicks under Coach D ain’t about D (ironic, huh?), so who cares?  As Haberstroh mentions, David Lee was equally sucky, so it ain’t like we’ll be taking a step back.  Plus Randolph does get the occasional block which should excite the Garden enough to make us forget the next five times when he gets pump-faked out of position, leaving a wide open lay-in.

Okay, okay, we’ve had enough depressing Knick Knews the last few years, let’s get to the positive things:

Fresh off his 21st birthday, Randolph is younger than lottery selections Wesley JohnsonEkpe Udoh and Ed Davis.

[...] he’s also managed to average 16.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per 36 minutes during his two-year career.

[...] Even the Knicks brass don’t know what to expect from Randolph next season but he could easily approach double-double territory in a Knicks uniform.

Well that sounds pretty tasty to me.  David Lee did that, giving us great stats with no D and we loved him as our top guy.  If our new secondary man can produce the same, that’s definite cause for optimism.

Moving on to Azubuike.  First, again we start with the bad.  For those who don’t know last year he had:

a torn left patella tendon and even though the injury happened back in November, there’s a chance he won’t be fully recovered from surgery in time for training camp.

Ugh.  Hopefully he’ll be fine by the start of the season, but you hate for a new guy in a new system to miss the whole training camp.  Particularly if it’s someone who can compete for a starting spot.  You want the team already in their rhythm and going strong by the end of camp.  It’d be less than ideal for the Knicks to start out the season with Wilson Chandler at shooting guard, then have to tinker during actual games with Azubuike before deciding who should ultimately settle in there for the long haul.  But what can ya do?  Onto the good:

Azubuike boasts a career .409 3-point percentage in his four seasons in the league.

[He] ranks as one of the top rebounding two guards in the league thanks to his strength and toughness in the paint — but it doesn’t hurt that he wields a nearly 40-inch vertical leap. The average shooting guard, according to Hoopdata.com, grabs seven percent of available rebounds but Azuibuke has collected nine percent over his career.

Yeah, nine percent instead of seven percent doesn’t sound like that big an edge, but hey, maybe that one extra rebound is the difference in the game?  This is much more impressive:

Azubuike was one of the league’s top isolation defenders in his last full season in 2008-09, holding his man to just 0.70 points per possession on isolation sets (league average is 0.86 PPP).

31302, PARIS, FRANCE - Thursday May 28 2009. Eva Longoria

Knick fans dreamed of getting a certain French NBA player. We did. No, it wasn't Eva Longoria's hubby, so clearly our dreams need to get more specific. In the meantime, fans will enjoy Turiaf. (Source: Yardbarker.com)

Lastly, we’ve got a post on the wonderful Ronny Turiaf, my pre-season pick for sleeper fan favorite.  By the way, not to get all semantical and Mr.Anal on you, but am I wrong in feeling like Haberstroh misuses the term “low-post presence” here?

[Turiaf] should provide the Knicks with a legitimate low-post presence they’ve long desired. He certainly hasn’t carved out an five-year NBA career because of his scoring chops.

Doesn’t low-post presence inherently mean that a player has offensive moves in the post?  Like don’t you call someone like former shot-blocker extraordinaire Dikembe Mutumbo a defensive presence or I dunno, a defensive deterrent?  ‘Cuz it ain’t like Mutumbo wouldn’t block shots taken at the high post.  Although I confess, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m totally in the wrong here, but it’s important I waste your precious time writing about insignificant forms of syntax.  The key is that our new Mr. T is a good protector o’ the paint.  Want the stats to back it up?  Habbie’s got ‘em for you (with my post having gotten this long I now feel Haberstroh and I have grown closer and I can shorten his name):

opponents scored on only 34.8 percent of their pick-and-rolls against a tandem featuring Turiaf, ranking him third best in the league (league average is 40.3 percent). Furthermore, the Warriors were 4.5 points per 100 possessions stingier with Turiaf inserted into the lineup.

That second stat isn’t quite as impressive ‘cuz the Warriors, like the Knicks, were known to be awful defensively, so probably just an average defender inserted into their lineup would help.  That first stat though, particularly because the Warriors suck, is all the more impressive.  He wasn’t defending the pick-and-roll with a Ron Artest or Bruce Bowen-type.  He was doing it alongside say an undersized Monta “Notice There’s No D In My Name” Ellis.

While he’s not known for his offense, it’s worth noting:

Among players who averaged 20 minutes per game last season, Turiaf used the eighth lowest percentage (11.3) of his team’s possessions.  [...]  That selfless discipline keeps him in the lineup even if he’s reliant on his teammates to hand him gimmes down low and put-backs off of misses.

Having seen him play a ton when he was on the Lakers, this time the stats don’t fully paint a correct picture.  He actually is a decent shooter from 10-12 feet away (from 9 feet away or 13 feet, he sucks).  And honestly, much like his French compatriot Boris Diaw, there are times you feel he passes it too much, giving up open opportunities for himself, which can kinda in its own way hurt the team.

All in all, Turiaf and Azubuike, besides having names that will take you a while to learn how to spell, should be big boons on the defensive end if they can overcome their injuries from last year.  They play the game smartly, squeezing the most out of their potential that they can.  Anthony Randolph, an athletic freak, is their complete opposite: he plays by (frequently poor) instinct, capable of doing almost anything on offense, while still having a ways to go to learn the basics of D.  The two older guys should ensure we don’t take a step back from last year.  But Randolph, if he can indeed take that next step, so should the Knicks.  Right into the playoffs.

Tags: Anthony Randolph Kelenna Azubuike Mike D'Antoni Ronny Turiaf

comments powered by Disqus