Next on the list in our Player Evaluation Series is Eddy Curry…
2008-09 Season: It only seems like Curry didn’t play this year. But he did. He played almost 3 minutes at Dallas on January 8th, during which the Knicks blew a sizeable lead and wound up losing a winnable game. Then almost 3 months later, he played 2 minutes at Charlotte, contributing 3 fouls and 1 rebound. He wrapped up his season the next game at Utah with his best performance of the season, playing 7 minutes, and collecting 3 points (1/1 FG, 1/3 FT), 1 rebound, and 2 turnovers. So overall Curry’s season was a wildly successful.
Strengths: Curry can eat more big macs in one sitting than 98% of the population; “‘You Know You Want To Touch It Dave’ became the funniest fantasy team name of the 2009 season.’“; He can burn through money like Mike Tyson or M.C. Hammer.*
Basketball-wise, I’m going to assume that a healthy, motivated Curry is still good enough to lead a team to 33 wins, as in the 2006-2007 season. He is a dominant low post scorer. Feed him the ball when he has good position down by the basket and six times out of ten you’ll get a bucket. There were games in 2006-’07 when nobody could guard him. He even took Dwight Howard to school on more than one occasion.
Things to work on: Eddy knows, Leon Rose knows, Donnie and Mike know: Curry needs to get in shape. Aside from that, I think it’s safe to assume that Curry hasn’t improved much in the areas in which he was deficient during his “good year” (how could he have? He’s barely played.). That means his reaction time is still leaden. That means his lack of passing skills ensures that he will have more turnovers in a given game than assists. That means he has no game anywhere on the court other than 3 feet away from the basket. That means he’ll never be a shot-blocker or a rebounder.
Being a dominant offensive center is nice, but it is a pressing concern whether the above weaknesses will be too much to overcome for Curry considering Mike D’Antoni’s system.** In order to thrive in D’Antoni’s offense, players have to be able to pass†, and it helps to have some sort of perimeter game, even if it’s limited to 15 feet. D’Antoni likes his bigs, like all his players, to run the floor. D’Antoni also likes his bigs to set up in the high post, set picks for the guards and roll to the basket. Curry hasn’t proven himself capable of doing either of these. I think the high post would be a pretty uncomfortable place for him, though I could be wrong, and I hope I am: Nobody is going to want to get in the way of Curry barrelling down the lane with a full head of steam from the high post off a pick and roll.
The Future: Curry is 26. He should be entering his prime. I’d like to think that he could get his act together and come into next season 40-60 pounds lighter. To that end, I appreciate that he’s going to fat camp.
Realistically though, I think the odds are stacked against him. I’ve been trying to think of NBA players with weight problems who have bounced back. It’s hard. I can think of 5 overweight players off the top of my head: Jerome James, Tractor Traylor, Mike Sweetney, Oliver Miller, and Shaq. Seems to me that of those 5, only Shaq has been able to play through weight issues, though he was limited by injuries throughout several regular seasons. So, can Eddy accomplish what so few other overweight players have? D’Antoni’s take: “I’m not going to take a mortgage out on my home [betting on it], but he wants to and why wouldn’t he?”
Because he’s occupying Jerome James’ position as resident lazy-Knick?
I hope Curry pulls it off because he needs to rehabilitate his value around the league. He’s scheduled to make upwards of $11 million in 2011 and he doesn’t want this contract to be his last one. More importantly to the team and its fans, the Knicks have to find a taker for Curry in a trade. That $11 million in 2011 number has to be off the Knicks cap if the Knicks are to be fully successful in implementing their 2010 plan. I’m dubious that the Knicks will be able to move Curry, even if he comes back in shape, because, while it’s true that dominant low post bigs are rare, $11 million is a lot for an injury prone, overeating, defensively challenged player.
Of course, I never thought the Knicks would be able to trade Jerome James or Zach Randolph, but they did. If Curry comes back motivated and in shape, it could be another interesting trade deadline next season.
Next up, Chris Duhon…
*Note: “But don’t you dare criticize [Isiah] Thomas … for the Curry trade.” After all, the Bulls used the Knicks’ pick on Ty Thomas, while the Knicks selected Balkman with Bulls’ pick. As we all know, “Tyrus Thomas will become a better player than Balkman. But not that much better.”
**Or should D’Antoni ditch his proven system, call the legendary Isiah Thomas, and ask for his help in incorporating Curry? After all, as mentioned, Thomas, using Curry as his focal point, led the Knicks to 33 wins in a season where Mike D’Antoni’s Suns won 61 games.
†Centers who command double-teams need to know how to pass in any system, or else they aren’t exploiting the double-team, and drawing the double becomes a liability instead of an asset.