New York Knicks: The Biggest Issues Through Six Games

The New York Knicks have gotten off to an underwhelming start at 2-4 overall and 1-2 at home. What exactly is plaguing the Knicks early in 2016-17?

Nov 1, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee (5) talks with forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the third quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Through six games, the New York Knicks have been one of the most frustrating teams in the NBA. There have been tantalizing displays of the team’s postseason-caliber potential and disappointing collapses in winnable games.

Though it’s easy to insult the Knicks, the more constructive process would be to determine what exactly is plaguing New York’s favorite team.

The Knicks achieved victory against the Chicago Bulls on the road and the Memphis Grizzlies at home. New York was also blown out by the Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets, and dropped winnable games to the Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz.

In all six outings, the 2-4 Knicks have repeatedly displayed what have appeared to be the same fatal flaws.

In order to improve and make a push for the 2017 NBA Playoffs, New York must first address the current slate of issues. They aren’t impossible to correct by any stretch of the imagination, but the reparations must be made.

The question is: what are the five biggest issues with the Knicks early in the 2016-17 NBA regular season?

Nov 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) reacts after making a shot against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at the United Center. The Knicks won 117-104. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

5. Absence Of Identity

Everything that follows this slide will come down to this same principle: the New York Knicks lack a team identity. There have been intriguing signs of progress in the development of such a critical factor, but not enough progress has been made for the wins to pour in.

According to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, starting point guard Derrick Rose acknowledged the absence of an identity on defense.

“You got to build that (defensive identity),” Derrick Rose said. “I’ve played on teams where before Thibs got there to Chicago, we didn’t have an identity. And he came and he changed the culture there, and he changed the identity. And we could do that here. We have to and we’re going to. But like I said, it takes time.”

Developing that identity will go a long way towards defining the success that the Knicks will either experience or fall short of in 2016-17.

The Knicks are a veteran team, but there are a number of young players on the roster who need guidance. There’s also a measure of inexperience amongst the veterans in the sense that most had yet to play together before the 2016-17 season.

The Knicks have 10 new players, three new starters, a new sixth man, and a new head coach, which has inevitably resulted in early chemistry issues.

Once the Knicks determine what type of team they’re going to be, the rest should fall into place. Nevertheless, this is a broad point that doesn’t entirely summarize the individual issues that need to be addressed.

Nothing will be more influential to the Knicks’ success or failure than finding a team identity.

Nov 6, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) boxes out New York Knicks center Joakim Noah (13) on a free throw shot during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

4. Losing The Rebounding Battle

The New York Knicks entered the 2016-17 NBA reglar season with the reasonable expectation that it would dominate the boards. The personnel is in place for the Knicks to be one of the best rebounding teams in the Association.

Through six games, however, the Knicks have been on the losing end of the rebounding battle more often than they haven’t been.

New York has been outrebounded by the opposition in four of its six games this season. That includes a 54-34 deficit against the Houston Rockets, which included the Kincks pulling down seven offensive rebounds to 19 by Houston.

Losing the rebounding battle that egregiously is all but certain to force the Knicks to lose, no matter the opponent.

Joakim Noah is an elite rebounder, Carmelo Anthony is the same based on his position, and Kristaps Porzingis has the potential to be dominant at 7’3″. Kyle O’Quinn is an excellent rebounder, as well, and the same can be said about Willy Hernangomez.

Yet, after six games, the Knicks have a rebounding differential of -5.0. Something needs to change for New York to turn the season around.

Nov 6, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) dribbles the ball against Utah Jazz power forward Derrick Favors (15) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Utah won 114-109. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

3. Too Much ISO

The New York Knicks have done an outstanding job of generating offense early and often. Courtney Lee has become a first quarter star, Derrick Rose has been driving at will, and Carmelo Anthony has taken over many a first half.

Unfortunately, the Knicks seem to forget that the second half is even more important to team success than the first two quarters.

New York’s ball movement has stalled in the fourth quarter, more than any other. The primary ball-handlers go into hero-ball mode and the rest of the players on the floor stop moving without the ball in their hands.

According to Al Iannazzone of Newsday, head coach Jeff Hornacek doesn’t want the ball to stick with any one player.

“We try not to make [Porzingis] the focal point, but we’re trying not to make Carmelo necessarily the focal point or Derrick the focal point. We want everybody to be involved.”

That’s a rational goal, but it’s also one that hasn’t been met through six games.

Anthony’s isolation tendencies are stopping the ball and the same can be said about Brandon Jennings and Derrick Rose. They’re far from the players to blame for New York’s struggles, but against elite opponents, over-dribbling will lead to failure.

The occasional isolation possession can be invaluable, especially with a scorer of Anthony’s caliber, but dribbling out the shot clock is irrational and unhelpful.

Thus far, New York has gone ISO on 10.8 percent of its possessions—the third-highest mark in the NBA—and converted just 38.5 percent of those shot attempts.

Nov 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) is defended by New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee (5) during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

2. Lack Of Defensive Intensity

The New York Knicks have a chance to be one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Kristaps Porzingis is a phenom, Joakim Noah won the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year award, and Courtney Lee is a positionally versatile on-ball defender.

The Knicks have been the worst defensive team in the NBA through six games, however, and it all boils down to intensity and effort.

New York has allowed all six of its opponents to score at least 100 points and five of its six counterparts to score at least 110. It’s dead last in the Association with an average of 110.9 points allowed per 100 possessions.

For fans of more traditional statistics, the Knicks rank No. 26 in both points allowed per game and opponent field goal percentage.

The Knicks’ struggles aren’t because of the personnel; there’s size, length, and defensive prowess to be found throughout the roster. The issue is that New York is moving without a sense of urgency on the defensive end.

A combination of lackadaisical closeouts, slow rotations, and lackluster communication has inevitably led New York to its current slate of struggles.

Nov 1, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) drives to the basket as Detroit Pistons guard Beno Udrih (19) defends during the second quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Second Unit

For all of the criticism it’s faced, the New York Knicks’ starting lineup has actually played quite well. The starting lineup has a positive +/- through six games and all five players have produced quality numbers.

The biggest issue for the Knicks has been a second unit that’s failed to produce the quality minutes that New York so desperately needs.

The Knicks received quality minutes from the bench during the 111-104 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. Against the Chicago Bulls, however, four starters played at least 35 minutes and Kristaps Porzingis was active for 33.

Only one bench player recorded a positive +/- against the Bulls: Justin Holiday, who played 14 minutes and finished with a mark of +1.

New York has the personnel to run a successful second unit. Holiday, Brandon Jennings, Kyle O’Quinn, and Lance Thomas have all shown signs of life, and Ron Baker, Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and Marshall Plumlee have upside.

The question is: can the second unit step up during the 2016-17 NBA regular season?

New York’s upside depends on the consistency of the reserves.

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