New York Knicks: Statistical Explanation Of What's Holding NYK Back
Dec 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek reacts after a play in the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks are close to being a true contender, but there’s still room for improvement. What are the issues that are holding the Knicks back?
The New York Knicks shouldn’t be upset, nor should they be satisfied with the way they’re playing after 30 games. Projected by most pundits to miss the playoffs, New York has overcome a slow start to achieve a respectable record of 16-14.
While a 16-14 is above .500, the Knicks have bigger goals and expectations than being in the middle of the pack come April.
New York has lost four of its past six games, which has created reason to be skeptical of the early success. It’s 13-8 since opening the season at 3-6, however, which creates the pace for 32 wins over the final 52 games.
If that proves to be the case, then the Knicks will finish the regular season at 48-34 and should easily make the playoffs with that record.
Rather than making an assumption about how New York will finish or which pace will be maintained, however, the current flaws must be rectified. Statistics aren’t the end-all, be-all, but there are numbers that paint a telling picture.
The question is: what are the statistics saying about what’s holding the New York Knicks back after 30 games played?
Dec 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) greets Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler (21) after the game at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 127-114. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
5. Road Woes
It’s no secret that NBA teams play an equal 41 games at home and 41 games on the road. For that reason, one can’t help but be concerned about the fact that the New York Knicks consistently fall apart on the road.
It’s easy to be encouraged by the Knicks opening the season 11-5 at Madison Square Garden, but it’s hard not to be concerned about New York being 5-9 on the road.
Thus far in 2016-17, the Knicks are scoring 104.1 points per road game on a slash line of .431/.350/.788. By comparison, they’re allowing 110.3 points per game on an unforgivable slash line of .458/.366/.759.
When a team is losing by an average of 6.2 points per game, it’s hard to blame anything other than lackluster energy and effort.
New York doesn’t need to be elite on the road during its first year with its new roster and new coach, but it must improve. Flirting with .500 is an acceptable goal for road games, whether that’s 20-21, 21-20, or simply 14-13 or 13-14 the rest of the way.
The Knicks have been strong at home, but are in desperate need of a turnaround on the offensive end of the floor.
Dec 20, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Jeff Teague (44) passes the ball defended by New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
4. Protecting The Paint
The New York Knicks should have one of the most dominant defensive interiors in the NBA. Kristaps Porzingis is a 7’3″ shot-blocking Goliath with unprecedented coordination and athleticism for a player his size, and Joakim Noah won Defensive Player of the Year in 2013-14.
Instead of dominating the defensive interior, however, the Knicks have been one of the worst teams in the Association at protecting the paint.
New York is allowing an average of 46.2 points in the paint per game—the third-worst mark in the NBA. Oddly enough, the Knicks haven’t experienced many issues with actually protecting the rim itself.
Instead, the Knicks’ problem has been being unable to keep the opposition out of the paint and rotating quickly enough to adequately contest shots at the rim.
New York’s poor rotations have played a major part in their inability to stop sending opponents to the free throw line. The fix will be a combination of the perimeter players keeping their assignments in front of them and both Porzingis and Noah rotating quicker onto guards.
There’s nothing more important to quality defensive rotations than communication. New York must be more vocal on defense.
Dec 22, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks center Kyle O’Quinn (9) reacts after a dunk against the Orlando Magic during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
3. Defensive Rebounding
From a pure volume perspective, the New York Knicks are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA. That’s corroborated by the fact that the Knicks rank No. 2 in the NBA with an average of 15.7 second chance points per game.
The area in which the Knicks consistently come up short, however, is keeping the opposition off of the offensive glass.
The Knicks are allowing 14.8 second chance points per game, which is the third-worst mark in the NBA. Cutting into that number could be enough to help stabilize the defense and create the foundation for superior execution.
Allowing that number to remain where it is will translate to more losses for a Knicks team that’s leaving too many wins on the table.
Teams that control the offensive glass tend to fare well in the playoffs, but only if they succeed in preventing the opposition from doing so. If the Knicks are going to make a deep postseason run—or a run to the postseason at all—this issue must be resolved.
New York has the potential to dominate the glass on both ends of the floor, but it hasn’t yet shown a consistent ability to do so.
Dec 9, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek reacts against the Sacramento Kings during the second half at Golden 1 Center. The Knicks defeated the Kings 103-100. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
2. Defensive Intensity
The New York Knicks have been struggling on defense, but that’s not a product of a lack of talent. New York has the personnel to excel on defense, including Justin Holiday, Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah, and Kristaps Porzingis.
Unfortunately, the Knicks have struggled to find a consistent measure of energy and intensity during the 2016-17 NBA regular season.
A team with as many veterans as the Knicks shouldn’t struggle to bring a consistent effort, but thus far, that’s been an issue. Brandon Jennings called the Knicks out for it in November and Carmelo Anthony did the same in December.
The Knicks are building for the long-term and expending more time and energy on building the right offensive system, but effort shouldn’t be optional.
The Knicks can fix this issue by simply playing with a more acceptable effort on the defensive end of the floor. They don’t need to be an elite defensive team in the short-term, but they’re playing too poorly for the offense to consistently overcome.
As for the statistics, try the fact that the Knicks rank in the Bottom 5 of the NBA in points allowed per game and point allowed per 100 possessions.
Dec 9, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) dribbles the ball past Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Knicks defeated the Kings 103-100. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
1. Ball Movement
Jeff Hornacek is attempting to install a motion offense that enables players to work without the ball and exploit openings in an opposing defense. When the New York Knicks have attempted to run the offense, it’s been a beautiful sight to see.
Unfortunately, the Knicks have a tendency to relapse, overvalue isolation basketball, stop moving without the ball, and fall apart offensively.
The Knicks are 6-1 when they dish out at least 25 assists and 15-5 when they have at least 20 assists. That means New York is 1-9 when they fail to reach 20 assists, which is as easy a statistic as any to interpret.
The Knicks have a win percentage of .750 when they accumulate at least 20 assists and .100 when they fail to reach that attainable number.
For as clear as it is that the Knicks—and teams in general—win when they move the ball, they won’t stop going ISO. New York run isolation plays with the third-highest frequency of any team in the NBA and rank No. 21 in field goal percentage in said scenarios.
When the Knicks commit to moving the ball, they win. When they refuse to move the ball, they lose.
It’s early enough to find the fix, but the Knicks need to be proactive in correcting these flaws.
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