The New York Knicks (5-0, 2-0 away) visit the San Antonio Spurs (7-1, 3-0 home). I’ll just come right out and say this; I’m still not sure I’m ready to trust what I see from the Knicks so far. It’s not that I lack faith in my team, or that I think this is a fluke in any way–the advanced stats confirm this team deserves the record it has. I guess it’s just after a solid decade of being pretty bad, and an off season full of seemingly classic Dolanism, it seems strange that the team finally looks like a strong, well balanced team.
A buddy of mine on Facebook said “Dion, (that’s my real name) so I guess the Tebow aura of winning despite stinking has spread to the Knicks.” My response, “Tebow may have won in Denver but his stats made it clear that he was defying the odds. I’m not sure that is the case with the Knicks.” It was this conversation that helped me realize that I hadn’t looked at the Knicks stats at all this year.
|SRS||Pace||Off Rtg||Def Rtg||Pts/Game||Opp Pts/Game||Diff|
|Knicks||16.7 (2nd)||91.3 (24th)||113.3 (1st)||96.2 (1st)||103.4 (2nd)||87.8 (1st)||15.6|
|Spurs||4.4 (6th)||92.4 (16th)||104.6 (9th)||100.3 (9th)||96.6 (18th)||92.6 (9th)||4|
I really don’t want to use the word “dominant” at this point, but the numbers make an outstanding case for that. The Knicks are—statistically—the most efficient team on both the offense and defense. And perhaps this is the source of my cognitive dissonance with regards to this team. The numbers tell me the team is efficient on offense, but the roster has names like Anthony, Smith, Brewer, and Felton. I’ve never associated those names with “efficient”. The names I associate with “efficient” are Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. It is kind of odd to see the Knicks–albeit only 5 games into the season– combining a slow pace, highly efficient offense, with top tier defense much as the dominant Spurs teams have done. It will be interesting to see if the Knicks can continue to find success against the standard bearer Spurs.
Maybe I’ll start to believe.
What to watch for:
1. The other guys
The headliners for the Spurs continue to be Duncan and Parker, but the team is getting solid contributions from starters Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. Green has been an incredibly efficient scorer (63.6 TS%, 62.1 eFG%). The one thing I noticed about him is that the vast majority of his scoring chances come via an assist. He struggled against the Lakers when he was forced to create offense for himself. He is taking advantage of cuts, ball movement, and the pick and roll. Because he is knocking down his open shots, but not creating many shots on his own, the Knicks would do well to keep a defender near him. Don’t lose Green on screens and back cuts.
2. JR Smith
Outside of Smith, the Knick reserve core has not contributed very much thus far. Both Novak and Wallace have been little more than one dimensional shooters, which wouldn’t be so bad if they were making the shots. Pablo Prigioni reminds me of The Rock’s original WWE persona, Rocky Maivia. Rocky Maivia’s shtick was that he was always smiling no matter what because he was just happy to be there. Pablo, I’m happy you are here but I think you’d be happier if you made a few shots. Anyway, if Smith struggles, there may not be anyone else to provide scoring off the bench.