You need a game-winning stop -- who is your choice?
Posted: Tuesday December 19, 2006 11:23AM; Updated: Thursday December 21, 2006 3:02PM
Who would you rather have?
Each week, SI.com's Jack McCallum analyzes two players of similar talents and/or on-court tendencies. (Contracts and salary-cap considerations are non-factors.)
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
You've got a one-point lead, your opponent has the ball, time is running out and you have to assign a defender to guard the ball-handler one-on-one. Would you rather have that player be Utah's Andrei Kirilenko or Sacramento's Ron Artest, both of whom were All-Defensive first team last season?
Kirilenko's fundamental grasp of defense has been extraordinary ever since he came into the league in 2001. "He knew more about defensive positioning as a rookie than most guys who had been around for 10 years," Doug Collins, then coaching the Washington Wizards, said back then. He is also a shot-blocker (2.56 per game) and Artest, by and large, is not.
But Artest, the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year, is also a smart defender and manages to stay in front of even the quickest dribblers despite his linebacker-like bulk. Artest is also leading the league in steals (2.53 per game, compared to Kirilenko's .89), because he has quick hands and can simply wrench the ball out of his opponent's hands.
"Kirilenko is textbook, but I'd still take Ronnie," says one NBA assistant coach. "He may have lost a quarter of a step over the last few years, but he's still one fearsome sight out there on defense when he's motivated."
One other factor: Though Artest goes through stages when he's a human technical foul, his defensive ability is recognized by the officials -- witness the fact that he commits relatively few personal fouls. Kirilenko is no foul machine either -- he is whistled for an average of 3.2 per game -- but, in a critical situation, Artest's man is less likely to go to the line than Kirilenko's.
So I'll take ARTEST.
React: Which player would you rather have?
Reader responses: Knicks guards
Here's a sampling of your responses to last week's Choosing Sides involving the Knicks' Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis and Jamal Crawford:
Victor Rodriguez of St. Louis: "If Crawford could be coached to take better shots and develop as a point guard, he would be my pick over the aging, overpaid Starbury and Stevie Franchise."
Kevin of Chicago: "Spending this much time thinking about three tremendous me-first guys has sent my entire day into a tailspin. I feel queasy."
Joe of New York: "When you watch them play I can't see how you can pick Francis simply because he looks physically shot; he doesn't dunk anymore or look explosive at all. The effort and attitude are there, but he is a shadow athletically of what he was doing in Houston or even his first year in Orlando. Marbury looks fine physically; he just looks tentative/confused. Crawford also looks fine physically but just displays bad judgment/shot
selection. Both players could benefit from a change of scenery (the booing is affecting Marbury) or a better coach (Crawford displayed better judgment under Larry Brown)."
Randy Weatherton of Phoenix: "I'd take Francis hands down. He is the only one who has proven that he can at least distribute the ball (his Rockets days with Cuttino Mobley) like a point guard. The other two are definitely shoot-first tweeners."
Eric Ganser of Chicago: "It's a trick question and the answer is that none of these guys will ever win an NBA championship. All other dialogue is for conversation's sake. I would like to personally thank Isiah Thomas for getting Jamal out of Chicago. He is and always will be inconsistent and awful. Who would you rather have -- three guys who don't know how to play team basketball, or one Chris Paul? They should be watching his game tapes daily."
Koopa of Brooklyn, N.Y.: "I choose Steph because if you watch enough Knicks games, you'll notice that the ball moves around the floor better when Marbury is at the point. Crawford shoots too much and has questionable (at the very least) shot selection. I can't count the amount of times I've seen Steve Francis dribble the ball into turnovers at key points in the game. When he's not doing that, he overdribbles and then takes a bad shot when he should just pass the ball to Eddy Curry in the paint."
Kevin Dolorico of New York: "My first choice is Crawford. With the Knicks building around Eddy Curry, they don't need the most creative floor leader out there. If you look at Crawford as a PG, he's just as quick as Francis/Marbury and he's taller and longer than both -- not to mention younger. He also seems to have great chemistry with Curry."
Ifie of Florence, N.J: "With Francis, you have a player who might have issues here and there, but is committed to winning, and has proved that in Houston and Orlando. One coach asked him to play a style everyone knew would be detrimental to his stats and he did it anyway. The other team asked him to help out until its star of the future developed. Knowing he'd be traded as soon as Dwight Howard looked capable, Francis didn't gripe, but played with the young roster and with passion. That makes Francis the obvious choice of the three. His recent knee issues aren't encouraging, however."
Jason G. of Toronto: "I would keep Crawford. Shooting percentages aside, he still has the onions to take the last shot, is taller so he matches up better defensively with either shooting or point guards, and he's younger. He also doesn't seem to be as big a head case -- although he could be the third-biggest head case on the Knicks and no one would notice."
David Barwick of Columbia, S.C: "I would have to take Marbury. Crawford is way too trigger-happy, and though I don't see Marbury ever being considered an elite player again, I don't see that happening for Francis either. Marbury just seems like a better leader than Francis and he also seems like more of a pure point guard."
Mir of Pakistan: "Well evaluated, well judged. I'd take Francis too. However, you forgot to mention a real gamebreaker: rebounding! I'd say he's the best rebounding point guard (yes, better than Jason Kidd) in the league, and has even averaged 7 rebounds in a season, whereas Crawford and Starbury have never even averaged 4 rebounds per game. Franchise, any day."
Aaron of North Dakota: "I know Crawford has the questionable shot selection, but it's better than the 'I attitude' of the other two guys."
Philip of Green Bay: "Give me Steph. Haters will say Stephon is a negative because when he leaves teams they improve dramatically, but that could also be due to the fact that he's been replaced by future Hall of Famers Jason Kidd and Steve Nash."
Derek of New York: "Marbury and Francis aren't even considered marquee players anymore. Just for the sake of the argument I will select Crawford, but I would bring him off the bench as my sixth man. Crawford is pretty good in that role. This way you can limit his somewhat bizarre shot selection and make him the No. 1 guy with the second unit."
Brandon Eversoll of Broomfield, Colo.: "Talk about a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't scenario. They all have their up-and-down sides, but I would have to go with Crawford simply because he's younger and seems like he'd be more apt to willingly adjust his game than either former 'superstar' Francis or Marbury. Besides, if I keep the young guy, I can always trade him later."
E. of New York: "Truthfully? I'd take none of the above if I actually wanted a winning team, which, as a Knicks fan, I barely recall in any event."