Nets the new kings of New York?
|New kings of New York?
Evaluating whether the Nets or Knicks will be Gotham's best team in 2012-13
So who will win the battle for Gotham next season, the Brooklyn Nets or the New York Knicks?
Among all the storylines in the NBA next season, few will be met with more anticipation than the fresh rivalry between the Knicks and their new neighbors in Brooklyn. The teams face off Nov. 1 in Brooklyn. With a little help from our friends at Basketball Prospectus, we compared the starting lineups of each team and their projected value for next season along with a short a.ssessment of the reserves.
With both teams featuring Olympians, players approaching 40 years old, and an influx of international talent, there's a good chance these teams will not only be jostling for a greater share of the New York fan base, but also for position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture next season.
What measuring sticks will we use? Win percentage and WARP (wins above replacement player). Both measures are based off Kevin Pelton's SCHOENE projection system that compares each player's career to the most statistically similar careers across NBA history and sketches out how they performed in the subsequent season. (Definitions can be found at basketballprospectus.com.)
Without further ado, let's get right to the projections ...
Deron Williams (0.619 Win %, 11.1 WARP) versus Raymond Felton (0.511, 4.8 WARP)
This one isn't particularly close, especially now that Mike D'Antoni is out of the picture in Madison Square Garden. Williams ranks as one of the top point guards in the league, someone who hasn't been fortunate enough in his career to be paired with a shooting guard that scored more than 14 points per game. In his entire career. Joe Johnson will change all that, and you can expect an uptick in a.ssists for that reason.
While Williams has few peers at the point guard position, Felton has devolved into a below-average point guard struggling with fitness issues. The zip that made Felton an able penetrator has escaped him and he hasn't shot well from downtown since he left Charlotte. While Williams was spending his summer playing for Team USA, Felton was reeling from the most disappointing season of his career. The numbers here say it all: Williams.
Joe Johnson (0.511, 5.3 WARP) versus J.R. Smith (0.544, 5.7 WARP)
Edge: New York
Surprised? Join the crew. The SCHOENE projection system feels bearish on Johnson because of one simple reason: All-Star shooting guards don't age well. For every Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, there's a Michael Finley and Steve Smith. Johnson may be coming off a strong season in Atlanta at age 30, but he's quickly approaching the common expiration date for shooting guards: the early 30s.
While Johnson finds himself on the wrong side of 30, Smith is just entering his prime. His shooting display (or lack thereof) in the postseason still leaves a sour taste in plenty of Knicks fans' mouths, but Smith is better than that. If this projection system proves true, Johnson and Smith's career paths will be moving in opposite directions next season.
Gerald Wallace (0.511, 5.2 WARP) versus Carmelo Anthony (0.582, 8.7 WARP)
Edge: New York
No one will debate this matchup, not with Anthony ablaze in London, scoring 37 points in 14 minutes Thursday against Nigeria. (Side note: that's a Wilt Chamberlain-breaking scoring pace of 106 points in 40 minutes). Anthony may be the anti-Wallace in the hustle department, but he projects to be the far better player next season.
We may never fully understand why the Nets traded a first-round pick to get Wallace and then sign him for a huge contract in the offseason, but he should be an above-average player at his position next season. It seems like yesterday that Wallace was a promising teenager in the league, but he's certainly looking less spry at age 30. Like Johnson, it's more likely we'll see a big drop-off from Wallace than a resurgence in Brooklyn.
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
Amare Stoudemire's skills appeared to be on the decline last season.
Kris Humphries (0.516, 4.4 WARP) versus Amare Stoudemire (0.487, 3.5 WARP)
Yes, this is a lot closer than the casual NBA fan may think. Stoudemire isn't nearly the player he once was and chances are, at age 30, he won't suddenly regain the explosiveness that made him elite in Phoenix. An offseason trip to see Hakeem Olajuwon might work wonders, as it did for Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and LeBron James, but SCHOENE sees Stoudemire's rapid decline continuing in 2012-13.
And then there's Humphries, who matched or topped Stoudemire in just about every meaningful statistic last season with the exception of shot volume. While Stoudemire didn't stand out in any category last season (except for defensive indifference), Humphries ranked among the top rebounders in the league -- again. Humphries might not offer highlight reel dunks every night, but at least he shows interest in contributing to other areas of the game.
Brook Lopez (0.522, 5.1 WARP) versus Tyson Chandler (0.554, 7.1 WARP)
Edge: New York
Can you find two more dissimilar starting centers in the league? Probably not. Chandler plays all-world defense, rebounds with tenacity and has little offensive skill aside from put-backs and lob finishes; Lopez can score in bunches in a variety of ways, rebounds like a small forward and isn't exactly Dwight Howard on the defensive end.
There's a solid chance that Lopez will be a better rebounder than he has been the last couple of seasons when he battled injuries and the effects of mono. Lopez will be surrounded by questions next season, but the biggest one of all will be this one: Will he make Nets fans long for the Howard circus again?
Overall starting lineup
Brooklyn: 31.1 WARP; New York: 29.8
Don't sleep on Mirza Teletovic. Though he may not start next season, all signs point to him being a solid rotation player who could break into the starting lineup at some point. The 26-year-old was one of Europe's top scorers last season, averaging 21.7 points in the Euroleague -- but don't ask him to do much else. He'll be a strong boost of scoring off the bench along with MarShon Brooks and C.J. Watson. Reggie Evans will continue to gobble up missed shots -- but don't ask him to do much else.
On the Knicks' side? Well, it depends on how you feel about the upside of 40-year-olds in the NBA. In Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Jason Kidd, the Knicks have cornered the market on players a decade past their primes. Hey, if the Miami Heat can pull it off, maybe the Knicks can, too. Then again, maybe not. Steve Novak will look like a toddler by comparison.
The Nets might have wished for a bigger splash to open their Brooklyn office, but there's a fair chance that they'll be the top dogs in New York in 2012-13. The Nets have the best player in Williams, a sneaky deep roster and considerably higher upside next season with Teletovic and Lopez. New York was a No. 7-seed last season, but now that Jeremy Lin is in Houston, there's not much youth on the Knicks to help propel them to the next step.
(Author's note: For more WARP projections and the overall team projection, be sure to get your hands on the 2012-13 Basketball Prospectus -- a must-own for any serious basketball fan.)
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