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Marcus Camby: Backup Center AND Facilitator?

Posted By Howard Megdal On January 7, 2013 @ 1:07 pm In Roster construction | Comments Disabled

To me, the big reveal out of Saturday night’s win over the Orlando Magic wasn’t that Carmelo Anthony is playing at a monstrously great level. Nor was it Tyson Chandler’s efficiency, Amar’e Stoudemire’s strides offensively, or even Jason Kidd’s three-point shooting. We knew all that.

[1]No, it had to be Marcus Camby’s four assists.

For the past few games, Marcus Camby has been utilized in a very different way than most people, myself included, imagined when he joined the Knicks this summer. Camby has a career marked by strong defense, great rebounding, and occasional scoring. In other words, he’d be Tyson Chandler on the floor when Chandler needed a rest. Good? Good.

So seeing him, in the past week, get a start at power forward, spend much of his floor time in the high post, and collect four assists on Saturday night was not exactly what we all had in mind.

The thing is, it’s not totally clear that using Camby in this facilitator role doesn’t come at the expense of shot-blocking/rebounding Camby, while Camby passing the ball isn’t, itself, a net gain.

Consider that in his 13 minutes on the floor Saturday, he did manage four assists, but also two turnovers. And he grabbed a single rebound, well below what the Knicks can typically expect from Camby.

Overall, Camby has an assist percentage of just 9.6% this season, but a turnover percentage of 26.9%. This has come in just 116 minutes, so it is hardly definitive, but it does mean a Camby possession is about three times as likely to end up with no shot at all as with a Camby-assisted made shot.

Now consider what has fueled this team’s success so far- limiting turnovers- and what has been a significant weakness-rebounding overall, along with defensive lapses, particularly on the second unit- and putting Camby in the starting lineup alongside Chandler, or in a high-post role on the second unit, starts to make less sense.

It isn’t as if Camby has a rich history of success distributing the ball. His career assist percentage, as you’d expect, is 10.1%. His career turnover percentage is 12.9%.

The reason these both aren’t higher, particularly the latter, is the extent to which his employers have utilized him as rebounder/shot blocker, where his 19.2% and 6.1% marks rank among the best in the league, year after year.

The Knicks are down a point guard right now, with Raymond Felton out. I know Mike Woodson is looking for answers on how to fill that void until Felton returns.

Marcus Camby shouldn’t be part of that pursuit. He’s not suited for it, and he’s entirely too valuable to this team doing what he does best.

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