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Just The Sports: Sir Steve Francis The Unnecessary

Just The Sports

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sir Steve Francis The Unnecessary

If Steve Francis never plays another game for the New York Knicks, it will be no great loss to the team. In fact, his absence will provide only benefits to the franchise that calls Madison Square Garden home. After Francis was acquired from the Orlando Magic via trade last year, heads were scratched raw everywhere by those trying to figure how much sense it made to pair Stephon Marbury, an unreliable point guard, with another unreliable point guard. The answer is none. Assembling a playoff-caliber team requires the construction of a roster where every player is able to bring something new to the court when he is called upon to enter a game. Having clones, or players with identical attributes, playing together at the same time does nothing but make sure the opponent is the only one to receive an advantage.

When one of the clones is gotten rid of, the play of the whole team improves, which is exactly what has happened to the New York Knicks this season. Of the thirty-six games the New York Knicks have played this year, Steve Francis has appeared in twenty-one of them, a little more than half. Comparing the games where the Knicks had Francis on the court to the ones where he was unavailable shows the Knicks have done a little better without him, both on offense and defense. Without him, they are more efficient on offense (108.9 points per 100 possessions to 106.0 points per 100 possessions) and also turn the ball over less (13.0 turnover rate to 11.6 turnover rate).

Almost the exact opposite is true on defense. Sans Francis, the Knicks hold their opponents to a lower offensive rating (108.6 points per 100 possessions to 109.4 points per 100 possessions) and turn them over at a marginally superior pace (11.2 turnover rate to 10.3 turnover rate). However, the turnovers forced number is made less impressive by the fact opponents have a higher assist rate when Francis does not play (17.2 assist rate to 15.4).

Although none of the differences is large enough to be significant, that does not mean the indictment of Steve Francis is any less damaging. What the data are really saying is that it does not matter to the New York Knicks whether or not Francis plays. When he is gone, they do not miss him and when he is there, he does not add anything. Therefore, the Knicks would be wise to look into foisting Steve Francis on an unsuspecting NBA franchise.



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