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What Can We Expect From Starbury?

Posted by Neil Paine on January 8, 2009

Although he is still technically a member of the New York Knicks (and could remain so until February 19th's trade deadline), we've all heard the rampant speculation and rumors surrounding Stephon Marbury's eventual destination. He wants to go to the Celtics, and even Kevin Garnett approves the hypothetical move, despite Marbury not exactly departing KG's T-Wolves on the greatest terms back in 1999. However, there is the matter of salary-cap logistics -- what happens if Marbury still won't take a buyout, and how do you move his massive contract?

But what I'm really interested in is what one of Marbury's potential suitors (I'm looking at you, Boston) could possibly expect to get out of the former star point guard. Marbury's first full season in New York (2004-05) was a rousing success on an individual level even as the team faltered; he scored 21.7 PPG, was 4th in the league with 8.1 APG, and finished 8th overall in Win Shares with 11.7 (including 10.3 OWS, good for 3rd among all players). Since then, though, Starbury has garnered more headlines for feuding with Larry Brown, testifying at Isiah Thomas' sexual harrassment trial, and giving incredibly bizarre interviews than he has for his play on the court. Check out Marbury's decline since 2005:

Year Ag Tm  G  MPG  ORtg  %Pos DRtg  Flr%  Stop% lgRtg P/36 TS%  AsR  ToR  FTr  OR% DR% Bk% Stl%
----+--+---+--+----+-----+----+-----+-----+-----+-----+----+----+----+----+----+---+---+---+----
2005 27 NYK 82 40.0 117.7 25.7 111.2 0.543 0.432 106.1 19.6 57.5 36.0 14.6 42.0 1.8 7.1 0.1 2.0
2006 28 NYK 60 36.4 109.4 22.9 113.6 0.526 0.423 106.2 16.1 53.2 31.9 16.6 42.1 1.4 8.4 0.2 1.5
2007 29 NYK 74 37.1 111.2 21.7 111.7 0.503 0.426 106.5 16.1 53.9 25.2 15.9 40.5 1.6 7.6 0.3 1.4
2008 30 NYK 24 33.5 108.8 20.8 115.0 0.504 0.405 107.5 15.0 52.7 23.1 15.0 43.8 2.3 6.1 0.2 1.4

Even with the drop-off, Marbury was still a slightly above-average offensive player last season, but when combined with his questionable defensive effort, he was a below-average overall player. At age 31 in 2008-09, this is what our Simple Projection System sees in the cards for Marbury this year (numbers are per-36 minute rates):

FG  FGA  3P  3PA  FT  FTA  ORB  TRB  AST  STL  BLK  TOV  PF  PTS  FG%  3P%  FT%
---+----+---+---+----+---+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----
5.1 12.4 1.1 3.3  3.6 4.8  0.7  3.3  4.9  0.9  0.2  2.4  2.7 14.9 .412 .338 .738

Assuming he plays the Sam Cassell late-season backup PG role this year (Cassell had 299 minutes in 17 games for Boston last season), that works out to this stat line for the 2009 season:

Min FG FGA 3P 3PA FT FTA ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
---+--+---+--+---+--+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+--+---
299 42 103 9  27  30 40  6   27  41  7   2   20  22 124

Normally we'd also adjust for pace, but the Knicks' weighted 3-year average pace of 91.1 is essentially the same as Boston's 91.4 mark this season, so Marbury's numbers shouldn't be affected at all by moving to the new environment. Put him on this year's Celtics, and what have you got?

Year Ag Tm  G  MPG  ORtg  %Pos DRtg  Flr%  Stop% lgRtg P/36 TS%  AsR  ToR  FTr  OR% DR% Bk% Stl%
----+--+---+--+----+-----+----+-----+-----+-----+-----+----+----+----+----+----+---+---+---+----
2009 31 BOS 17 17.6 104.7 21.8 104.4 0.486 0.429 107.4 15.0 51.4 22.2 16.2 38.8 2.5 8.0 0.5 1.2

The Celtics need depth, everyone knows that. Rajon Rondo's current backup, Eddie House, is essentially a shooting guard masquerading as a PG, and Gabe Pruitt is still a project, so adding Marbury makes sense for Boston (assuming Marbury's infamous "clubhouse cancer" rep doesn't come into play). But given the projected numbers above, it's only fair to warn the C's that they're not getting the Marbury of old; those stats represent easily the worst output of his career, and without having played an NBA game since January 11, 2008, there's a good possbility he'll be even worse while he shakes the rust off. Everybody involved says they're not expecting "Starbury" to be a star, but rather a role player... and based on these projections, I'd say that's all he's capable of at this point.

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