It’s cool seeing that the guys still have some fight in them, even if they don’t end up with a win. After a winning effort in Sacramento, they followed up with another great second half, especially in the third quarter, that was nullified thanks to a completely ice-cold stretch in the last 6 minutes of the game.
Mike Miller is apparently doing a decent job, even while making some puzzling decisions (Mitch keeps on playing just around 25 minutes per game and RJ stays out there a bit too much for a guy who’s hitting that rookie wall very early and very hard). The offense is something else entirely: you see people actually moving and kinda cutting. We didn’t transform overnight into the 2013-14 Spurs, not at all, but at least the vomit-inducing isos are way down and we’re seeing a bit more variety in terms of playcalling. Talent is what it is, but Miller doesn’t look in over his head. That’s a vast improvement from the Fizdale’s days.
Some of Fiz’s stans, if such a thing exists, might argue that the Knicks are playing much better because Payton is finally back. I mean, there’s no denying that having a semi-competent point guard helps, but it’s worth repeating that said point guard was benched for the first game of the season to start… Allonzo Trier. It’s not like Fizdale really knew what he was doing.
But we’re past that; now it’s time to look at what the players are doing under Miller’s reign (2-3) and compare that to their season averages, to try and understand if something changed or not (my wild guess before starting this experiment: the youngsters got worse. Not such a good look, but let’s see if I’m right).
– Marcus Morris
Last five games: 20.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, .461 FG%, .389 3P%, .905 FT%. 31.2 MPG
Season averages: 18.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, .427 FG%, .473 3P%, .852 FT%. 32.5 MPG
It’s pretty much the same Morris, but with much more sustainable shooting average and a slight uptick in his passing ways. Nothing to watch here, this iteration of Marcus Morris would probably be asked to score 20 on any given night for our team, even if prime Popovich was here.
– Julius Randle
Last five games: 20.2 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, .457 FG%, .348 3P%, .704 FT%. 32.8 MPG
Season averages: 17.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 3.4 APG, .445 FG%, .265 3P%, .669 FT%. 32.1 MPG
Randle is tangibly better under Miller, and I think there’s enough evidence that he’s being used a bit better (another stat: his TOs for the season are 3.1 per game, in this stretch they’re just 2.0). He’s also shooting a bit better, but it’s not like he’s unable to maintain these percentages: if anything, he should be able to shoot around .500 from the field. I think Miller has been fixing Randle some.
– RJ Barrett
Last five games: 10.8 PPG, 6 RPG, 1.8 APG, .323 FG%, .238 3P%, .643 FT%. 33.2 MPG
Season averages: 13.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, .383 FG%, .292 3P%, .546 FT%. 32.3 MPG
Ok, Barrett’s a rookie and wild swings should be expected; that said, if there’s anything about Miller that I’m disappointed in is the fact that Barrett’s looking even more lost than before since the other Mike’s at the helm. Shooting averages are atrocious, he almost stopped distributing the ball and he’s still playing too many minutes. It will take a major cataclysm to make me doubt that RJ’s gonna have a bright future in the NBA, but early returns – especially with a coach that looks like he can put together something passable – are a bit discouraging. Some of that, though, might be that in an effort to win as many games as possibile (#lolknicks) Miller’s trying to maximize known quantities such as Randle and Morris and he’s kinda overlooking the long goal. I can’t blame him, honestly, but it’s not good for the Knicks in the long game. If that’s the case, it’s the umpteenth damage Pills are inflicting to this moribund franchise. Also, if you want to win, why you’re keeping RJ in when Frank’s playing much better (if only for a night)?. This is very perplexing.
– Frank Ntilikina
Last five games: 4.2 PPG, 2 RPG, 2 APG, .333 FG%, .167 3P%, 1.000 FT%. 18.4 MPG
Season averages: 6.1 PPG, 2 RPG, 3.1 APG, .382 FG%, .328 3P%, .800 FT%. 24.6 MPG
Frank’s been a smoldering pile of manure under Miller until last night, but I wouldn’t read too much into that if we’re evaluating Miller’s performance. Frank just suffered some sort of mental breakdown that also coincided with the re-emergence of Elfrid Payton (and that could have worsened Frank’s already brittle confidence). Anyway last night Frank played great, even dunking on a fastbreak and emoting plenty after that. He’s still kind of a bust, but I can’t, I can’t, I won’t stop rooting for him. It’s like a doomed crush. You know you need to stay away from that, but you can’t. That’s how I feel about Frank. I know I’ll be let down, but I’ll revel in every spark of passion from now until my heart bursts in a firework of thorns.
– Mitch Robinson
Last five games: 11.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.4 APG, .684 FG%, .000 3P%, .636 FT%. 26.0 MPG
Season averages: 9.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 0.6 APG, .685 FG%, .000 3P%, .618 FT%. 22.2 MPG
And here we have the real test for Miller. The numbers are clear: Mitch’s playing better (and more) under Miller’s tenure, which is a pleasant indication. While I’d like Mitch’s minutes to rise up to 30 per game, I’ll keep short of complaining for now. It looks like Miller’s already been able to talk Mitch out of trying to defend people fouling them while trying to block things below the shoulders. He’s blocking less shots (1.6 BPG in the last five games, 1.8 for the season), but he’s also turning the ball over less (0.6 to 0.8) and most importantly his fouls are way down (2.6 to 3.3). Eye test also says the PnR is seeing a quiet resurgence in the Knicks’ playbook. Now, if only Miller understood that Mitch should try to shot when he’s totally open from 15 feet out as to keep defenses on their toes we’d be way closer to Mitch becoming a real useful player. For now he’s still just a majestic shadow that gets projected unto our collective Plato’s cave.
– Damyean Dotson
Last five games: 5.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, .379 FG%, .318 3P%, .000 FT%. 15.0 MPG
Season averages: 5.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, .408 FG%, .316 3P%, .714 FT%. 15.7 MPG
Still the same Dame. He was instrumental in Sacto’s game, but honestly he’s been playing just badly. He should be a shooter, but his 3P% suggests otherwise. Miller’s system did nothing for the guy and I’d be curious to see his minutes go to Trier.
– Bobby Portis
Last five games: 9.6 PPG, 5 RPG, 1.4 APG, .514 FG%, .273 3P%, .778 FT%. 18.4 MPG
Season averages: 9.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, .417 FG%, .351 3P%, .735 FT%. 21.4 MPG
Me likes this. Less minutes, more efficiency for Bobby. If he plays 18 MPG as a back-up four it’s not that bad. Still a waste of 15 million dollars, but heh, are they mine? Sadly, they’re not. I’d probably be way more interested if seeing Knox as a full time PF at 18 MPG, but alas, these are the way of Pills and it’s highly unlikely things are gonna change soon.
TL; DR: Miller’s doing a quite fine job of playing to the strenghts of his best players (Mitch included, surprisingly), while simultaneously not changing that much in the rotation. Grade until now: C+.
Let’s see what happens against Atlanta, I will make the ballsy (?) prediction of a 15+ points win.