J.R. Giddens: Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?


Like with most of New York  -Hell, like with most of America, we here at Buckets have recently become a teeny, eensy, weency bit obsessed with this summer’s upcoming free agency extravaganza.  However, in our desire for newness, we shouldn’t completely forget about what we already have.  Thus we return to our ongoing Clash-song-inspired series, Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?, where we look at our players from last season who don’t have fully guaranteed contracts with the Knicks for next year.  We’ve gone alphabetically, already covering the following:

Earl Barron

Jonathan Bender

Chris Duhon

And now we bring you our first player with whom we hold all the cards: JR Giddens.

What do I mean by us holding all the cards?  We have a team option on Giddens for next season.  If we want him back, we get to keep him, and we know the price ($1,100,640).  No haggling.  Also, it’s important to note that should we keep him, we’d also once again have a team option on him for the following year too.  Thus, if he takes the next step this season, we’d be assured of bringing him back at a relatively reasonable price.  And then the subsequent season if we offered him a qualifying offer, he’d be our restricted free agent.  The big question though is: do we believe he can turn into an impact player?  No, he’ll never be a superstar, but could he be a solid, Raja Bell-type role player?

I bring up Raja Bell, a player noted for his defensive abilities, because every time JR Giddens checked into the game last season, Knick announcers Mike Breen and Walt “Clyde” Frazier would gush about how Giddens had a great rep as a defender coming over from Boston.  Personally, I never saw it.  And considering that in two years with the Celtics he only got into 27 games, I’m not sure that even they thought he was that good.  I mean, if you’ve got a defensive stopper, particularly on a defensive team like Boston, you find him minutes.  Okay, his minutes DID more than triple from his first season to his second, but that’s only ‘cuz he went from averaging 1.3 minutes to 4.7.  When he got to New York he must’ve felt like he was allowed to run hog wild, considering he averaged a whopping 12.7 minutes.  That’s almost ten times the amount of minutes he had the previous season!!  Imagine if LeBron went from 40 minutes a night to 400!  That’d be nearly seven hours of The King ballin’!

Okay, okay, you say the Celts are a veteran-ladden team, so just ‘cuz he didn’t see any minutes doesn’t mean jack, right?  I mean, Bill Walker also never got in, but he was pretty darn good in New York.  Likewise, Earl Barron couldn’t get on the court during the Miami Heat’s championship run a few years ago, but when he played for us he seemed like a nice piece.  The thing is that Giddens never seemed to take advantage of this opportunity to show us what he’s got.  I didn’t see him shut anyone down.  If anything, I saw several players zoom right past him, making me all the more confused about his defensive reputation.

In Giddens first five games with the Knicks he saw decent back-up minutes, but then he seem to disappear from the regular rotation.  In the final 10 games he had four DNP-CDs (Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision) and three games where his minutes were in the single-digits.  In other words, at a time when Coach Mike D’Antoni was finally giving youngsters like Toney Douglas, Bill Walker, and Earl Barron an extended look, Coach D decided he didn’t want to look at Giddens anymore.  During most of those games, Tracy McGrady and Wilson Chandler were even out injured, so it should’ve theoretically been even easier to get minutes.  Not if your first name was just a couple of initials.  Apparently J.R. got a call confirming this from Indian’s T.J.Ford.  Word is even J.R. Rider got benched in his Southern California rec league.  Despite being coached by Mister Celibate, A.C. Green.

That said, at least J.R. didn’t indiscriminately jack up shots, giving him a very respectable Knicks’ FG% of 48.7% (a huge improvement over his 42.9% shooting in his 21 games with the Celtics earlier in the year).  On the other hand, from long-range he was a dude, missing all ten of his three-point attempts.  His 63.6% free-throw shooting was also a disappointment for a perimeter player.  Although at least it was a step up from the 50% he shot from the line while in Boston.  Clearly he must’ve been getting shooting tips from Rajon Rondo and not Ray Allen.

Sure, he could improve a bunch since this will be just his third year in the league, but the reverse of that argument is that he is already 25, the same age as LeBron.  Honestly, the main positive with Giddens at this point is his reasonable price tag.  If he turns into a genuine defensive stopper, then he’s a good deal.  Although the under-reported part of what makes defensive stoppers like Bruce Bowen, Raja Bell and Shane Battier so great is that on offense they can hit the three, making them useful on both ends of the court.  The Knicks’ goal this summer is to get someone (or two) who can create their own shot.  That makes it all the more important for everyone else to be adept at shooting the three, keeping the court stretched out so the other team’s defense can’t clog the paint.  It’s what makes Toney Douglas, much like Mo Williams, a point guard who’s more of a long-distance threat than an assist man, a potentially decent “piece.”

In the end, particularly since it seems like D’Antoni ain’t a big Giddens fan, my gut tells me we should just let him walk.  However, since we’d have to pay him so little, I’d be fine if Donnie Walsh and D’Antoni decided to give the guy a second chance.  Maybe, like with Breen and Frazier, they’ve seen something in him that I haven’t.