The New York Knicks are off to a 5-7 start to the 2016-17 NBA regular season. Beyond the record, what exactly is wrong with the Knicks?
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Nov 1, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the first quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
12 games into the 2016-17 NBA regular season, the New York Knicks have a number of red flags. 5-7 isn’t exactly a bad place to be, but the Knicks have more to worry about than being just one different result away from .500.
In order to fix the problems at hand, however, the Knicks must outline the current issues and address them directly.
New York is off to a 4-2 start at Madison Square Garden, which is a promising enough record to be encouraged by. 4-2 would translate to a record of 27-14 during 41 home games, which would normally be enough to create the foundation for a postseason appearance.
By merely going 14-27 on the road, the Knicks would be an even .500 and have a shot at reaching the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
Unfortunately, there are issues that New York must find a way to overcome. Some areas of weakness are more influential than others, but every flaw is significant enough to derail the Knicks’ postseason aspirations.
The question is: what exactly is wrong with the Knicks through 12 games in 2016-17?
Nov 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Knicks center Joakim Noah (13) and New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) celebrate during the second half at the United Center. The Knicks won 117-104. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
5. New Personnel
It’d be impossible to address the issues with the New York Knicks without acknowledging the elephant in the room. The Knicks aren’t just 12 games into the 2016-17 NBA regular season; they’re 12 games into a new era.
It wasn’t until the regular season opener at the Cleveland Cavaliers that the Knicks’ starting five played its first game game together—and yes, that includes the preseason.
Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, and Joakim Noah—all of whom are starters—joined the Knicks this past offseason. The same can be said about Brandon Jennings, who’s the Knicks’ backup point guard and sixth man.
Overall, 10 of the Knicks’ 15 players and five of the first seven players in the rotation weren’t on the roster in 2015-16.
Due to the fact that the Knicks have an almost entirely new roster, being 5-7 after 12 games isn’t terribly concerning. What is concerning is the specific issues that are plaguing the Knicks, however, which is why this is ranked at No. 5.
This is far from an excuse, but ignoring the fact that the starting lineup has 12 games of experience together would be silly.
Nov 14, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Justin Holiday (8) looks to pass defended by Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry (30) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
4. Second Unit
The New York Knicks have one of the better starting lineups in the NBA. Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and Joakim Noah have all showed out at points of the 2016-17 season.
What’s hurting the Knicks’ starting lineup more than anything else, however, is the fact that it can’t take too many moments to rest.
Brandon Jennings and Justin Holiday have begun to turn things around, but there’s certainly room to improve. Some of that may be adjusting the minutes of underutilized players, but it’s also a matter of overall inconsistency.
Even Holiday and Jennings have struggled at times in 2016-17, while Lance Thomas has already missed four of the Knicks’ first 12 games.
Once Thomas returns from a bone bruise in his left ankle, the Knicks’ second unit should improve. The question remains: what can New York expect from the likes of Ron Baker, Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and Kyle O’Quinn?
There have been flashes of brilliance, but the Knicks must find a consistently reliable rotation amongst the reserves.
Nov 14, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith (10) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
3. Poor Ball Movement
The key to any motion offense is actually having the players on the floor remaining in motion. That’s been absent for the better part of three seasons, as the New York Knicks have all but lived in isolation during the Carmelo Anthony era.
That isn’t necessarily Anthony’s fault, but it’s a flaw that head coach Jeff Hornacek must work to correct.
The Knicks are currently 4-0 when they record at least 20 assists and 1-7 when he fails to reach that mark. That sends as clear of a message as imaginable: the Knicks when they move the ball and lose when they struggle to.
Yet, through 12 games, the Knicks have only recorded 20 or more assists in 33.3 percent of their games so far.
It’s not just that the Knicks aren’t getting assists; come the fourth quarter, New York isn’t even moving. The ball sticks with the stars and ball movement dissolves into ineffective and inefficient isolation possessions.
When the ball is moving, however, the Knicks border on being unbeatable—and a 4-0 record with 20-plus assists is proof of it.
Nov 11, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; New York Knicks center Joakim Noah (13) blocks the shot of Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks have the personnel to be one of the most dominant defensive teams in the NBA. Unfortunately, the personnel hasn’t been as dominant as many expected it to be during the 2016-17 regular season.
The personnel has been so underwhelming that the Knicks are currently the worst defensive team in the NBA.
Through 12 games, the Knicks are No. 30 in the NBA with 108.8 points allowed per 100 possessions. New York is No. 22 in points allowed per game, No. 21 in opponent field goal percentage, and No. 27 in opponent 3-point field goal percentage.
New York has allowed at least 110 points in six different games and has held opponents below 100 points just once this season.
New York’s defense should turn things around, but there’s more to this equation than just being talented. Closeouts must be faster and rotations quicker as the Knicks attempt to evolve from the wort defensive team in the league into one of the best.
If the Knicks don’t turn things around on the defensive end of the floor, it’ll be difficult to make the playoffs.
Oct 10, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) dribbles the ball during the third quarter against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks won 90-88. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
I mean no disrespect in writing this slide, but the New York Knicks don’t seem to be trying very hard during road games. Whether it’s a matter of poor traveling habits or something else, their rotations are weak, pace is slow, and overall level of effort underwhelming.
“We haven’t been locking in well on the road,” Jennings said after the Knicks failed to hit the .500 mark and dropped to 5-7. “That’s our big problem. If we want to be the team we think we are, we’re going to have to lock in better on the road. We got to play 10 times harder. Teams play better when they’re at home because they’re feeling good.
“When coaches are doing the game plan, we got to listen,’’ Jennings added. “When the coach is writing the play, everybody’s got to pay attention. There’s a lot stake for us.’’
The Knicks simply haven’t accomplished enough collectively to be coasting through any game, let alone one on the road.
Through 12 games played, New York is 4-2 at home and 1-5 on the road. Its road losses have come by 29, 13, 28, 11, and seven points, and the context of the closer losses isn’t entirely promising.
New York scored 10 points in the fourth quarter of a 102-89 loss to the Detroit Pistons and made the score respectable during what was truly a blowout of a 119-112 loss to the Washington Wizards.
As Jennings, a member of the Knicks, point outed, the Knicks need to play with a sense of urgency. Making the playoffs isn’t a given, nor is contending for a title—the goal for this veteran team with a combined zero titles amongst the starters and sixth man.
If the Knicks aren’t going to give 100 percent on the road, then the dreams of making the postseason will remain exactly that: dreams.