Today’s 4 Factors (vs CHI, 11/24/07)

After each game this season, we’ll be taking a look at what the four factors have to say about the game– how the winner won and the loser lost. For an intro to the four factors, see A Layman’s Guide to Advanced NBA Statistics.

Knicks defeat Bulls, 85 – 78

	Pace	Eff	eFG	FT/FG	OREB%	TOr
CHI	92.0	84.8	38.0%	18.1	21.6	15.2
NYK		92.4	41.0%	36.1	27.9	17.4

Finally, the losing streak is over. Still, it’s hard to take much comfort in this win. The Knicks had to fight tooth and nail to beat the struggling Bulls– perhaps the only team in the league underperforming more than the Knicks themselves– without their best player, Luol Deng.

New York’s woes continued on offense, even though the Bulls haven’t lived up to their defensive reputation so far. The Bulls have been allowing opponents a rather generous 49% eFG, but still the Knicks turned in another effort in the low 40s. The saving grace was that not all the guards were terrible– Marbury had a nice game, helping to offset poor shooting performances from Crawford, Q, and Nate. But things will have to get better if the Knicks are to have any hope against better teams.

This game was won on the other end of the court, as the Bulls played even worse than the Knicks offensively. It seems wrongheaded to give the Knicks too much credit for a good defensive performance here. The Bulls came into the game averaging 92.8 points per 100 possessions, worst in the league by a wide margin, and were without their best offensive player. On the other hand, one could argue that any time the defensively inept Knicks can hold an opponent below their average offensive performance, it is a strong defensive effort (relative to the norm). The Knicks’ best effort was on the defensive glass, where they took away one of the Bulls’ only offensive strengths (29.1 o-reb% coming into the game). It was a good team effort, but credit Quentin Richardson in particular for a tough presence on the boards.


4 factor stats were acquired using the ESPN4Factors script by Cherokee of the ABPRmetrics board. Firefox users can use this script (after installing the Greasemonkey extension) to see 4 factor stats automatically displayed in all NBA boxscores on espn.com.

2008 Thread: Bulls at Knicks 11/24/2007

Your pre-game/post-game comments here.

The Bulls come in with a superior 2-8 record. They have the league’s worst offense, averaging 92.8 pts per 100 possessions, 8.1 pts worse than the 25th ranked Knicks. However Chicago’s defense is a stout 13th (104.9 pts/100), compared to the Knicks 28th ranked defense (112.8 pts/100). The Bulls are first in the league in forcing turnovers.

Tonight’s 4 Factors (@ DET, 11/21/07)

After each game this season, we’ll be taking a look at what the four factors have to say about the game– how the winner won and the loser lost. For an intro to the four factors, see A Layman’s Guide to Advanced NBA Statistics.

Knicks lose to Pistons, 86 – 98

	Pace	Eff	eFG	FT/FG	OREB%	TOr
NYK	85.0	101.2	48.8%	10.0	32.4	17.6
DET		115.3	53.9%	21.1	27.5	10.6

Not the world’s most encouraging game. But, it wasn’t quite as bad as recent performances. The offense wasn’t good– right at NY’s season average, against a Pistons team that has been slightly below average defensively– but “not good” is a vast improvement over where the offense has been lately. The eFG% and TO rate were decent, if not outstanding. But a weak effort at the line didn’t help things along.

The D was about as bad as it has been, if not slightly worse. The Pistons’ offensive efficiency was a bit higher than both their season average and the average offensive efficiency allowed by the Knicks.

So it wasn’t a blowout, thanks to an offense that was tepid rather than putrid. Seems that this is about as good as things get nowadays. The Knicks must take advantage of a struggling Chicago team this Saturday, or else with the following games against Utah and Boston we’re looking at a losing streak that would likely extend to at least 11 games.


4 factor stats were acquired using the ESPN4Factors script by Cherokee of the ABPRmetrics board. Firefox users can use this script (after installing the Greasemonkey extension) to see 4 factor stats automatically displayed in all NBA boxscores on espn.com.

Two Changes Isiah Might Consider

So far the start of the 2008 season hasn’t been kind to New York. In fact it’s more like the new year has reared back and given the Knicks a swift kick in the groin. The Knicks have lost 8 of their first 10 games, the last two by a combined 58 points. While it’s easy to point to the off the court chemistry problems in the Big Apple, a large part of the problem has been their on the court chemistry.

One problem seems to be Isiah Thomas’ rotation, which doesn’t seem to maximize the talent he has. One of the Knicks’ problems is the lack of use of their younger players. Martin Johnson of the NY Sun noted this yesterday:

Even Thomas’s most fervent detractors admit that he drafts very well, yet it’s utterly mystifying why he doesn’t capitalize on that skill by playing his rookies more. Not only will they save him from playing players out of position, but they may further burnish his resume.

However the problem goes deeper than just playing the Knicks’ neophytes, there is an overall lack of a team concept. In yesterday’s game thread Ted Nelson noted:

It seems to me like their attitude towards building a team is: we?ll just get the most “talented,” “athletic” players and let them play. The attitude of the coach, interestingly enough, seems to be the same.

Watching the games, Isiah seems to have two major areas of weakness when putting players on the floor. The first is his starting lineup which he tends to end games with (that is when the Knicks aren’t down by 20 or more points). Thomas’ starting lineup tends to be Marbury, Crawford, Randolph, Curry, and whoever is healthy enough to play small forward. Usually that’s Quentin Richardson or Fred Jones. The problem with this lineup is obvious: too many players that require the ball to score and too few that can man their position properly on defense. The frontcourt issue is easy, sub in David Lee for Zach Randolph. I can hear the eyes rolling of KnickerBlogger readers everywhere, both from the pro-Lee and the anti-Lee crowd. However this is a no-brainer.

A Randolph/Curry pairing was suppose to create a twin tower effect, giving the Knicks a one-two punch on the blocks. However the actual effect seems to be Curry forcing Randolph out of the post and into mid-range territory. Randolph’s shooting percentages (40% eFG, 44% TS) are well below not only his career averages, but the league averages as well. If you’re a defense facing Zach Randolph, you want to force him out to the perimeter instead of the low post, and this is exactly what Curry is doing. It’s not to say that the pair can’t coexist on the court (possibly by moving Curry to the high-post, but that’s a thought for another day), but for the time being it’s clearly not working. Not only would Lee complement the high usage starters, but Randolph would provide potent scoring off the bench for the reserves. In other words it makes sense to let Randolph anchor the bench than play an out of tune second fiddle on the first team.

While it’s obvious that Quentin Richardson isn’t helping out the first team, especially with his sore elbow, another area to look at are the guard spots. One idea would be starting Fred Jones instead of one of the guards. Jones has started when Richardson has been unavailable due to injury, but the problem has been starting him at small forward. Two sites have Fred Jones listed at 6-2, while another has him at 6-4. Either size is too small for the swingman spot, but the former slam dunk champ is athletic enough to be a good defender at the guard spot. And unlike Mardy Collins, it’s unconceivable that Jones could knock down a jumper here and there.

Isiah’s other rotational deficiency is his desire to play small-ball. Frequently he’s been putting out three guard rotations, something he likes to do with the diminutive Robinson. But Thomas went over the small-ball deep end against the Warriors last night when he put Robinson, Marbury, Crawford, Collins, and Randolph on the floor at the same time. That’s right Mardy Collins was playing power forward. Isiah’s small ball tactic doesn’t work because the guards don’t particularly complement each other. All the Knick guards excel when attacking the hoop, and other than Robinson, none are particularly adept at hitting the outside shot.

The three guard lineup also hurts the team on defense, where the guards’ poor defense is exacerbated by their lack of size. The Knicks would be better suited throwing a couple of swingmen on the court. A trio of made of Balkman, Richardson, Chandler, Jeffries, or Lee flanked by a guard (Robinson, Crawford) and a big man (Randolph, Curry, or Lee) could make an athletic group. This team would be ideal for a press/trap style of play and they would be able to play passable, if not strong, defense. Thomas could mix & match depending on opponent. Balkman or Jeffries would be able to shut down shooting guards with their length. Balkman is especially adroit at giving shooters trouble. Meanwhile Richardson or Chandler could provide shooting on the offensive end. However with a Robinson/Randolph combo (per se), the Knicks should have too much trouble generating shots on the offensive end.

It’s clear that Thomas’ faults as a manager go further than forging a relationship with his point guard. If he wants to turn this season around, he should find a way to make his players complement each other. These might be two ways Isiah might go about doing that. Certainly they’re no worse than anything the Knicks have done so far.

Tonight’s 4 Factors (vs GSW, 11/20/07)

After each game this season, we’ll be taking a look at what the four factors have to say about the game– how the winner won and the loser lost. For an intro to the four factors, see A Layman’s Guide to Advanced NBA Statistics.

Knicks lose to Warriors, 82 – 108

	Pace	Eff	eFG	FT/FG	OREB%	TOr
GSW	100.0	108.0	52.9%	19.8	17.8	11.0
NYK		82.0	41.8%	20.3	36.6	29.0

If the Knicks keep this up, we may as well prepackage the following message for all these 4 factor posts:

The defense was awful. The offense was awful. Awful D + Awful O = blowout losses and a lottery team. fin.

What still cannot be emphasized enough though is that the offense is hurting more than the D. 108 points per 100 possessions is actually below the Knicks’ season average so far, and also less than their average defensive efficiency in their two wins (109.5). So it’s terrible, yes, but not something that will change.

The amazing vanishing offense is continuing its whirlwind tour, however. And what dictates New York’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde mood swings is variation in the offense, which unlike the D, can range from very good to very bad. Right now we’re in a prolonged spell of utter badness. 82 points per 100 possessions. The 4th straight game under 43% eFG. And a whopping season high 29 TOs per 100 possessions, worst of the season by a large margin. The ’94 Knicks would have a tough time winning with that offensive performance, let alone this bunch.

It seems the league has adjusted to the Knicks’ offensive attack. The ball is in Isiah’s court now. What is his countermove? The clock is still ticking.


4 factor stats were acquired using the ESPN4Factors script by Cherokee of the ABPRmetrics board. Firefox users can use this script (after installing the Greasemonkey extension) to see 4 factor stats automatically displayed in all NBA boxscores on espn.com.

Now Is The Time

Isiah Thomas should be fired. Now. I know it’s only 9 games into the season. And I know that this road trip was brutal. I also know that the next few games are against tough opponents: Golden State, Detroit, Chicago, and Utah. All these teams were in the second round last year. And I know the East has gotten better.

I know that Isiah is a wonderful drafter. I might even dare say he’s possibly the best drafter of all time. Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady, David Lee, Nate Robinson, Mardy Collins, Trevor Ariza, and Wilson Chandler. That’s a fantastic team – and off the top of my head I can’t think of any GM that has done better with less in terms of drafting.

I know that the Knick team he inherited was a mess. The NBA’s worst salary cap, with little talent, and no young prospects. Scott Layden’s tenure was awful in New York. He took a near-championship level team, and turned them into a void. And I know this team is better than the one Isiah inherited nearly 4 years ago. I know Isiah wanted a younger and more athletic team. I can’t argue that this team isn’t younger and more athletic. That’s without a doubt.

I know that Isiah has been hit with a string of bad luck. Even Hollinger thought Marbury was a near-All Star around the time the Knicks acquired him. And who thought that a pair of Hall of Fame caliber coaches in Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown would end up the way they did. OK I might have thought Wilkens would have ended that way, but Larry Brown?

I know all these things. Yet the bottom line remains: this team isn’t a winner. Under Isiah’s tenure, the Knicks have finished with 39, 33, 23, and 33 wins. This year they’ve started off 2-7. And things don’t look to get better. Not with their upcoming schedule.

Dolan gave Isiah his extension early on an impulse. Just when the team was doing the opposite they are now – looking really good. At the time, their win streak put them into the playoffs and seemingly showed that the team had turned the corner. However things are as bleak as they can be. The season has barely begun, and it’s nearly over for New Yorkers. Coming off the heels of an embarrassing summer, and as nearly embarrassing controversy with their point guard. Coming off a road trip where they dropped 4 straight games, the last one by 32. Coming off of 6 straight losses.

Everything is in place for an Isiah exit. Grunwald can take over as GM. Herb Williams is still around to coach. The team is better off than they were 4 years ago. There are some good young players and assets to build on. The only thing left is finding the time to do it. And the time is now.