Wrath of the X-Man


March 10, 2013 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Let me just preface this by saying that any man who shaves not only his head, but also his eyebrows in an attempt to look more intimidating and terrifying, is the perfect person to play for Pat Riley.  With that being said, in my never ending (and compulsively obsessive) attempt to understand why the Knicks lost the 1994 finals, I believe that I finally discovered that reason.[1]  It’s not something someone did; it’s not even someone who played for the Knicks at that time.  The reason why the Knicks didn’t win the championship in 1994 is because they didn’t resign Xavier McDaniel after the 1992 season.

McDaniel was a fan favorite at the garden, as well as the perfect player for the Knicks at the time.  Here was a guy who wasn’t going to take away from the offense by drawing touches away from Ewing and Starks, but he would give you a solid 15 pts night in and night out.  In his lone year in New York he averaged 48% from the field, and 14 pts.  Not only was he effective, but he was efficient.  He was also a guy who had great presence within the paint, and coupled with Ewing and Oakley, they would have formed the toughest frontcourt in the league in 1994.  Obviously he wouldn’t have been the go to guy, but he would have thrived in a limited role, as a backup scoring option/enforcer.  Imagine Charles Oakley, but with a more well-developed offensive game.  As far as toughness goes, there weren’t any small forwards tougher than the X-Man himself.

But, after failing to resign the toughest small forward in the NBA, the Knicks opted to make a trade for the softest small forward in the league.  The rumor goes that McDaniel wanted a multi-year deal for about $1 million, but the Knicks were only going to commit to one year for about 600,000.  Stupid, I know.  The Knicks would have gotten an economy of scale, and had to pay him a lesser average salary had they signed him to a multi-year deal.[2]  But no, they let him walk and instead made a very dumb trade to fill the sizable hole left by McDaniel.

I can’t be the only one who thinks that trading away a star point guard for a backup point guard and a power forward you intend to make a small forward, is a very stupid idea.  After all in 1994 the Knicks didn’t really have a starting point guard, but two bench players who just so happened to be starting games.  What it comes down to, is that the Knicks lost to the Rockets because they didn’t have a good point guard familiar enough with the team to facilitate the offense, as Jackson had done.

Anyway, so the Knicks get all-star power forward Charles Smith who was supposed to add a new dimension to their team; it never happened.  Smith stuck out like a sore thumb on the defensive minded and tough New York Knicks.  Smith wasn’t tough, and he wasn’t capable of holding his own on a championship caliber team.  In the 1993-94 season, his player efficiency rating (which is exactly what it sounds like) was at an 11, while the league average is 15.  What that means is that he was more harm than help.  That is a very not good thing to have from a starter, especially if you have designs on a championship.  Oh yeah and he played like shit in the playoffs.

Yeah I rag on Charles Smith…..a lot, some of it, well, most of it is justified actually, but what I can’t fault him for is misuse.  The Knicks had no need for him on the team, and because of that he played out of sync from everyone else.  He was a power forward who was forced to not only play down to small forward, against faster and more agile guys, but also to be introduced in new offensive system on top of that, and play defense.[3]  He’s just a guy who never should have played for the Knicks in the first place.

McDaniel was basically a better version of Kenyon Martin, which back in the early 90s was exactly the kind of player a team needed.  McDaniel knew his role on the team and succeeded in that role, whereas his replacement Charles Smith, looked lost and out of place on a team that was a better fit for McDaniel.  The Achilles Heel of the Knicks frontcourt was Charles Smith because of this.  The Knicks went from a strength in their small forward spot to a glaring weakness.  Smith was not going to assert himself and put up 20 pts. per game as he did with the Clippers.  Had he done this I’m sure it would have been Ewing and Oakley saying “Not one, not two, not three, not four…” instead.[4]

Not only did the Smith deal create a hole at the 3 spot, it also created one at the point guard spot, as by 1994 Doc Rivers and Derek Harper should not have been starters anymore.  The Knicks would have had a much better chance of defeating the Rockets had they not traded Mark Jackson away.  They wouldn’t have traded him away for Charles “Mr. Softy” Smith if they had resigned the X-Man, Xavier McDaniel as they should have done.  It would have been nice to see the X-Man spend more than one season in New York, it would have been even better to see the him help the Knicks win it all.

[1] Either that or I have completely lost my mind.  Both are equally viable options.

[2] And, the best part would’ve been that they wouldn’t have gotten Charles Smith.

[3] A concept which apparently is still alien to him.

[4] Of course this goes with the assumption that no one expected Jordan to ever come back to the NBA.

5 thoughts on “Wrath of the X-Man

  1. Marc says:

    It’s December 2 2013. I’m at this site because I typed into google, “Why did Xavier McDaniel leave the Knicks?”. Clearly I still don’t have closure. The problems that plagued the Knicks after 1992 were a lack of ball handlers & a solid 2nd scoring option. X was a much more athletic player who was a competent dribbler. Jackson was an exceptional floor general who could set guys up. Most important is that X was capable of getting 20 points on any given night. As long as he chipped in 15 a game though the Knicks would be tough to beat. One simple move that really killed the Knicks chances.

    I also wonder sometimes what would’ve happened if they had gotten Dominique Wilkins as was rumored at the time. No closure at all.

    • Hi Marc,

      I think you’re absolutely right. The hole that the X-Man left not only deprived them of a viable scoring option behind Ewing, as there really wouldn’t be one until Houston arrived, but it also forced the trade that brought Charles Smith over in exchange for Mark Jackson.

      In trying to plug up one hole at small forward, they created another hole at point guard, as Harper nor Rivers could run the offense like Jackson did. Had they resigned McDaniel they would have had that 2nd scoring option, and they would have to trade Jackson away which left them with a skilled ballhandler.

      I think a starting five of Jackson, Starks, McDaniel, Oakley, and Ewing would be more than competent enough to take down the Rockets in 94.

      • Marc says:

        Charles Smith was a good player but a bad fit for NY. The guy played power forward & center for the Clippers!! He put up nice numbers there but asking him to play small forward & guard athletic players like Pippen was too much. McDaniel’s toughness really fit. Harper was a good scorer & a really good defender but he wasn’t the floor general Jackson was. He didn’t really make players better the way Jackson could with his passing. Like I said, ball handling was a weakness for NY. I cringe remembering Oakley trying to bring the ball across against the Bulls.

        I sometimes question letting Gerald Wilkins go. I liked Rolando Blackman but he wasn’t the athlete & defender Wilkins was.

      • Marc says:


        At about the 6:15 mark, McDaniel is surrounded by Bulls players & still manages to dunk the ball! I’ve said all I need to say.

      • It’s funny, because when people ask him about the Charles Smith play, X just said “I would have dunked the ball in the first place”.

        X is so great, it was stupid to let him walk.

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