Detroit Pistons 115 – New York Knicks 89 – Game (?) Recap

Minutes before this game was on, Al Trautwig was at center court telling the viewers that coach Fizdale told his guys to treat the last seven games of the season as a playoff series, and that since we were 3-3 in the last six the game against Detroit would have counted as a game seven. Now, aside from the total retconning bullshit of that claim (yeah, sure. The last seven. What if we went 5-1 during that stretch? Or 0-6? It’s things like this that trigger my inner con artist alarm, but whatever), I think now we know what would happen if the Washington Generals played by total happenstance a game seven against an NBA team.

This game was utter trash and deserves not even the tiniest smidge of a recap, at that’s not only an indictment of the game itself, but also of my writing ability. There’s a saying in Italian that goes like this: “(He is trying to) extracting blood from turnips”, describing someone who’s trying to turn a bad thing into good results without any chance to reach his goal. Well, I won’t even try. Keep your orange and blue turnips, hoping that in July they’ll have become majestic roses.

So, instead of recapping this game (honestly, there’s nothing to say about the game: Detroit went up by a lot early. Mitch was in foul trouble, and that’s a shame because suddenly people kinda remembered how to pass the ball to him in the air. The 2+ block was interrupted. Jenkins was the only one able to put the ball in the basket apart from Mitch. Hicks played 21 minutes. That’s all), I will be handing out grades for the season, with basic stats (pts/reb/ast; TS%, WS/48) and whatever, for every guy who donned a Knicks jersey this season. Players in alphabetic order (surname):

Kadeem Allen: 18 games, 9.8/2.6/3.8; .582, .105. Kadeem was a very nice surprise for the season, being the beneficiary of the two-way slot left open when Trier signed his first true NBA contract. He’s an old sophomore (26), and he came here with a reputation of defensive-minded short shooting guard. He actually transformed (for a bad team, I know) into a capable point guard, with good instincts and a penchant for not turning the ball over too much while hitting shots. Look at the TS% and WS/48! Small sample size and all, these are the numbers of a very nice second/third string point guard for a playoff team. He won’t be shooting 45.5% from three on a steady diet of shots, but 39% would be more than good, and he has the mechanics to float around there. Grade for the season: B. I want him back.

Ron Baker: 11 games, 1.3/0.6/1.2; .376, .003. One of the good guys, as Clyde would say. I think he’s definitely out of the League. Kadeem is what we thought Ron could have been, but was never able to become. Wish you well, Ron. Grade for the season: D-. His defensive intensity will be missed. Everything else is useless and/or ugly.

Trey Burke: 33 games, 11.8/1.9/2.8; .496, .045. Regression to the mean was the name of the game for Trey, who’s definitely capable of 25/5/5 games as a dynamic backup but more often than not shoots you out of the game while not creating plays (not to self: copy/paste this sentence for Mudiay). I was happy to see him shipped elsewhere mid-season. Grade for the season: D. I had some expectations about him being able to man the point effectively, but should have known better.

Damyean Dotson: 72 games, 10.8/3.6/1.8; .528, .040. The OG Dungeon Boy, was the first beneficiary of some inexplicable strings of DNPs Fiz reserved to a few guys during the season. Dotson regressed a bit from his rookie season in a few areas, namely defense and rebounding, but shot better from three and showed some flashes as a tertiary playmaker. I really, really wish I could overlook his former criminal allegations and root lightheartedly for him. Anyway, grade for the season: C-. A good basketball cog to have around next year if we build a superstar core.

Henry Ellenson: 16 games, 5.6/3.3/0.9; .524, .059. A cool fourth/fifth big, with the requisite shooting for a stretch four, a knack for good ball handling, but too slow and not enough intense to really impact games consistently. I can see in his future a playoff game decided by his sudden unexpected insurgence, only to be forgotten for the next four years. Grade for the season: D+. Wouldn’t mind having around as a homeless man Olynyk, as I already said.

Billy Garrett: 3 games, 6.7/1/2; .437, -0.010. Thank you, next. Grade for the season: INC. (veering on F+).

Tim Hardaway Jr.: 46 games, 19.1/3.5/2.7; .531, .049. He was who we thought he were. Probably a good kid, not really versed in winning basketball. The poster boy for everything that’s wrong in Steve Mills basketball analysis. So glad he’s gone in the KP trade. Grade for the season: D. Hope he never comes back. I don’t harbor any ill will towards him, but I couldn’t simply stand him anymore.

Mario Hezonja: 57 games, 9/4.1/1.5; .500, .005. Apart from the late season insurgence of point Mario, he was very frustrating, especially when Fiz insisted on starting him and keeping Dot or Frank glued to the bench. Aside from Mitch, though, he had the most iconic moments of the season, and that has to mean something. Still waiting for Giannis to punch him in the nuts after the stepover. Hopefully it will be when the Bucks are playing another team and not the Knicks. Grade for the season: F+ (point Mario: C – even last night he had two gorgeous assists for Mitch; maybe I actually wouldn’t mind him here as a combo guard on a vet min).

Isaiah Hicks: 3 games, 4/2.3/0.6; .510, .012. A total waste of a two-way contract. Slow, unathletic, unplayable and unplayed. Grade for the season: INC. (veering on F-)

John Jenkins: 21 games, 4.7/1.6/0.9; .492, .002. The numbers aren’t there, but you can squint and see a James Jones-like path for John Jenkins. He badly needs someone who makes defenses collapse and then kick the ball out for open threes to thrive a bit. I liked his contribution (as much as you can like such a shallow on). Grade for the season: C—. Wouldn’t mind having him back if the right guys come on board.

DeAndre Jordan: 19 games, 10.9/11.4/3; .681, .185. Who would have guessed than DeAndre has such passing acumen in him? While he apparently lost a step and a half on defense, his play wasn’t half bad and there’s a real chance he helped Mitch grow into the vocal presence he is now on the court. It’s astounding to see that he’s played less games than Jenkins and only three more than Ellenson, but such is the tanking way. Grade for the season: C+. I don’t see the reason for wanting him back (considering he’ll command a lot more than the vet min), but I see the abstract reasoning in wanting DeAndre on your team.

Enes Kanter: 44 games, 14/10.5/1.9; .585, .144. Sooo glad he got bought out. I’m eager to see him getting his ass kicked by Steven Adams in the series against OKC. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish anything bad on Enes, but his shtick grew incredibly stale and annoying (and his defense-averse ways were even more annoying). Props for standing up against Erdogan, but it’s not politics, it’s basketball we’re talking about. The poster boy of why WS/48 doesn’t describe everything right. Grade for the season: D-. I can’t wait to see him come back to the Garden and get posterized by Mitch over and over again.

Kevin Knox: 74 games, 12.9/4.4/1.1; .477, -0.026. The rookie played the most games and minutes for the 2018-19 Knicks while being terrible in every aspect of the game save for shooting threes. I don’t have a lot of faith in him becoming a good NBA player, but as a 9-10th man off the bench to shoot threes and be quite tall he could carve his spot for a decade, I guess. Not what you’d go for in the lottery, but if you swing for the fences that’s what you have to know you could get. I love the idea that as soon as Zion Williamson will post his first 30 point game next year the media will run the list of teenagers scoring 30+ in a game in the NBA and Kevin’s name will be there, a perfect trolling figure amidst all-time great. Grade for the season: D+ (if he wasn’t a rookie he’d get an F).

Luke Kornet: 45 games, 7/3/1.2;.537, .090. Luke ended the season on a tear, but he just gave us confirmation of what we already suspected: he can be an NBA player. He has to play in a system that limits in a hard way his shot creation but gives him the green light to bomb away. He’s like a very limited Brook Lopez, and we saw this year what difference can make a player like him if surrounded by good to great players. He’s a good fit for Mitch, and even for that reason alone he needs to be back. Grade for the season: C+.

Courtney Lee: 12 games, 4.7/2.3/1.3; .527, .087. Courtney is the clear cut example that advanced stats don’t have to be terrible even if you can’t be a good basketball player anymore. You simply have to understand what you can and can’t do anymore. Hated his contract, never hated the guy. Wish him well. Grade for the season: D+. Prime candidate for a buyout in 2020 in Dallas.

Wesley Matthews: 2 games, 7/1.5/2.5; .330, -0.114. Somehow, this washed up guy is a starter in the Eastern playoffs. I thank him for his huge contract that was perfect to match salaries in the KP trade. Grade for the season: LOL.

Emmanuel Mudiay: 59 games, 14.8/3.3/3.9; .531, .024. Improved by leaps and bounds, still has no idea whatsoever on how to run a basketball team. I commend him for the good job he did on becoming a better player, but honestly it’s not enough, not by a long mile. I would sleep much more comfortably if I didn’t know about Fizdale’s love for him. You can’t be an average playmaker in this league with 24 AST% and 14 TOV% if you can’t defend, can’t hit consistently your threes and the team stops dead in its tracks as soon as you pump the air out of the ball just because you breathe inside an NBA arena. Mudiay’s future is the third most anxiety-inducing subplot of the offseason (free agency and lottery night being the other two). Grade for the season: F+.

Frank Ntilikina: 43 games, 5.7/2/2.8 .417, -0.044. Well take a look at me now/cause I’ll still be standing here/and you coming back to [the] Knicks/it’s against all odds/it’s the chance I got to take. It’s so hard to stay on team Frank, I don’t know how I manage to do it and still pretend I can write on the smartest blog I know. This season was terrible for Frank fans. He regressed everywhere, and also failed to stay on the court because he got hurt. I wouldn’t bet a dime on Frank being in the NBA after 2021. It’s a shame, I like his (presumed) style of play, super team-oriented and defense-oriented, but at some point you gotta hand some results, and he seems unable to do that. He reminds me of those people who have a nice sound to their talking voice, and friends of them ask me to teach them to sing. Apart from the fact that I’m not a singing teacher and I couldn’t even if would, I’ve seen too many of them not being able to really sing because they don’t feel anything when they do, even when they can “sing” in the right key. Frank looks the same to me in basketball terms. Grade for the season: F-.

Mitchell Robinson: 65 games, 7.3/6.5/0.6; .690, .218. I can quite recite by heart every single Mitch stat. I’m pretty sure his B-R page got more hits from me than PornHub ever did. A few numbers to digest at the end of this season: Knicks rookie records for most blocked shots in a season, most games in a row with at least 1 block, most games in a row with at least 2 blocks (2nd ever in NBA history for a rookie), highest WS/48 (6th best in NBA history for rookies, just ahead of MJ), highest BPM (6th best in NBA history for a rookie), highest BLK% (second highest in NBA history for rookies, 4th highest ever), highest TS% (highest ever for a rookie, minimum 1000 minutes played). He’s second in VORP amongst rookies this year despite having played a lot less minutes than the others. The guy is simply unbelievable. His production waned a bit in the last week, but you can see that teams really game plan for him. It’s hard to block many shots if the other team is scared to shoot around you. A foundational piece if there ever was one in the last 35 years of Knicks history. Grade for the season: A+. (Might I remind you he’s a second round pick and he’s under contract for 4 years for peanuts? He might be hands down the best contract in the whole NBA right now, at least of non-max ones).

Dennis Smith Jr.: 21 games, 14.7/2.8/5.4; .473, -0.013. Not a great player, and the numbers are there to tell you exactly this, but you can see a functional point guard in him. Problem is, he’s frail and his shot is broken. The good thing is that we have him under contract for two more years, so there’s no rush to make decisions about him (unless a certain flat-earther comes along). I’d like to see what he’s capable of when not hurt. He seems to have a good nose for steals. Grade for the season: C—

Lance Thomas: 46 games, 4.5/2.5/0.6; .482, .004. A great locker room guy, an endless abyss of suckitude on the court. I can see him sticking around in the future for MSG, but I think we saw the last of him on a Knicks jersey. I can’t say I’m unhappy of that. Out of 492 to ever don the blue and orange, Lance is 60th ever for games played. This sums up perfectly the Phil tenure and subsequent years. Grade for the season: D–

Allonzo Trier: 64 games, 10.9/3.1/1.9; .564, .031. Lost behind Mitch’s stupendous rookie season there has been another strong rookie season here. A lot of ups and downs, mainly thanks to injuries and the non-existent offensive sets, but in the end a fairly good debut for Iso Zo. I don’t know if he’s the guy I’d keep around if superstars were to come here (maybe a more “never off his script” guy like Dotson would be better?), but I was extremely pleased by his attitude and skill level compared to the League at large. Grade for the season: B.

Noah Vonleh: 68 games, 8.4/7.8/1.9; .561, .091. It seems like Vonleh hasn’t played in two years, when he only missed 14 games. He went a bit AWOL even before, because after the All-Star break his play totally cratered (pairing him with DeAndre wasn’t that smart), but in the end it was a solid season from him, but still forgettable enough that we should be able to sign him at the minimum again. Grade for the season: B-. Definitely like to have him as a third/fourth big.

David Fizdale: he’s great at one thing: selling you what he says. That was a major skill to have during such a bad season. Everything else was mediocre at best, and I wouldn’t mind if they canned him today (they won’t, and they’re right. For now). Grade for the season: D-.

Guys, it’s finally over. I’d like to thank you all for bearing with me throughout this dismal season, for having kind words for my writings, for making me feel your support. If I did put a smile on your face here and there, well, I want you to know that those are the riches I’m striving for in this life. A smile because you made someone laugh; a tear because you moved something inside someone’s soul; a fist pump because your name is Mitch and you just swatted a Celtic attempt at the rim.

I’d like to thank Mike and Brian for the opportunity.

I’d also like to present to Brian my condolences for his mother. I cheated a bit and read the comments in last night’s thread. I don’t know personally any of you, but as it happens with most online communities you end up knowing people with matching hobbies or tastes better than you do on your day-to-day real-life interactions. On that basis, I think I can say for sure that Mama Kathleen Cronin had to be an amazing woman, since she raised such a great guy.

Be nice to each other, guys. We only get a splinter of time on this Earth, caring for other people is the best we can do. (If you have a few spare minutes, though, feel definitely free to argue about whether Barrett or DeAndre Hunter is the right choice at #3.)

 

New York Knicks 103 – Detroit Pistons 120 – Game Recap

Tell me where you’ve already heard this story: Knicks go down double digits in the first quarters, a scrappy second unit helps bringing them back into the game, during the third quarter they make a run to tie the game (or at least to make it close), then proceed to lose the game by more than 10 points without offering even a sliver of resistance, and the starters all end up with highly negative plus/minus for the game while getting outrebounded and outshot. Oh, they also get killed in the pick and roll over and over. Same old story, right? Yes, it is. It is so much that we played Lance Thomas 13 minutes (Mario Hezonja 32!) and Kornet just 4 garbage time minutes.

The only thing that changed a bit from the last few games is that, at last, we reached the 100 points threshold for the first time since January, 24th. It’s more than two weeks in a League where the average team is scoring 110 points a night. If “eat what you kill” is our mantra (blech), I guess we’ve become fiery PETA supporters.

I wish I could tell you the game was fun to watch. It wouldn’t be true. There are snippets where it’s kinda fun to watch this team, sure. The fact that Kanter got bought out (and THJ got shipped out of town, and Mudiay is hurt) has left very few players on the roster you can be aggressively annoyed at, be they on the bench or be they on the floor. So, apart from the fact that you have all the right in the world to yell at your device of choice everytime Hezonja touches the ball or Lance tries a stupid foray to the rim that of course will not end in anything good, it’s hard to hate this team. Baby steps, they say. I might agree. But we still have 28 games to endure. I mean, we collectively. I wouldn’t ask anyone to watch them from start to finish out of pure basketball passion. Well, those 28 games better be at least half-full of basketball-related content. I have to say I’m not holding out hope for that, with an ever-churning roster (sign someone from the G-League and give him all Lance and Mario minutes, if you’re not playing Kornet, dammit!) and a coach who doesn’t look able to do anything apart from complaining for weird calls. I’ll stay on course for Mitch, for the new-toy-vibe of DSJ, and for everyone who’s still willing to read my half-digested takes on every Knicks game. When this season will be over, we’ll look at each other and we’ll feel the pride of having endured one of the worst slogs ever in Knicks history, head up high. And we’ll hope for something on lottery night, and then on draft night, and then on July, 1st.

But until then, let’s talk about our daily Knicks!

The good:

– If you want to know why the Frank vs. Dennis Smith Jr. (31 pts, 2 rebs, 8 ast, -18 +/-) debate ever existed, just watch DSJ play defense on the pick and roll. While not Mudiay bad, he really is bad. Andre Drummond had a monster first half (20 pts, 9 boards in the first two quarters), but apart from a couple occasions where he bullied the rail-thin Mitch, Andre feasted all night on the horrible rotations on the pick-and-roll. DSJ has real trouble staying in front of his man, and with a quite disengaged DeAndre manning the paint for now, that’s an easy recipe for opposing centers to rack up points very fast. “But hey, Farfa!”, you might say, “We’re in the good section. You sure you’re not lost?”. Yeah, I’m not lost. I was just doing some much needed lampshading on the defensive deficiencies of our guy before starting to sing his praises. Look, it’s not the 31 points. It how they came to be. A hyper-efficient night (31 points on 15 shots), coupled with 8 assists – and only one of them was of the cop-out variety, where the scorekeepers give an assist to someone just because they feel like Santa – pretty much offsets those problems. Speaking of problems: turnovers are a real problem for Dennis, but at this point I’ll take them. It’s clear that he has point guard instincts and that he cares about finding the open man, be it inside the paint or on the perimeter. Sure, he lacks the brain (or the stamina? He looked positively gassed by the fourth quarter) to always make the right play, but he’s a second year player. Contrary to what I foresaw when he came back in the KP trade, I’m kinda sorta liking what I see from him. I think this game will be an outlier in terms of efficiency, but throughout Knicks history, there have been only 53 games where a guy has scored 30+ pts on 15 shots or less, and Dennis Smith just netted one. Since 2012, there is no such game (Melo was the last one to do it). Now, granted, this says nothing about the projection for the kind of player DSJ is going to be, as I present you with some other names on that list: Toney Douglas, Nate Robinson, Eddy Curry, Quentin Richardson, Howard Eisley. But it doesn’t mean we can’t revel in a good game from our starting point guard from now till April. And he definitely has to learn to shoot better his free throws (I think it was mostly fatigue and nerves, though).

The bad:

– Kevin Knox (7 pts, 2 rebs, 2 ast, -21 +/-) has gone back to being useless/detrimental for the team. He shoots badly, he doesn’t do anything on defense, and generally speaking is a poor fit with the players who usually are on the court with him. But there comes a time when team chemistry can’t be the go to excuse. This kid is disorienting: what can he do on the court if he doesn’t hit his shots? He played 36 empty minutes, didn’t cut to the basket once, moved without the ball so that he could be found open on the perimeter just twice (and hoisted a corner three that missed so badly it ended up being corralled by a guy standing six feet from the rim – without the ball touching the rim). I’m stil all in on giving Knox all the minutes he can soak, but at the same time I hope he gets traded somewhere else by the end of the season, because I’m really afraid that’s gonna be his peak trade value. It’s good to see he can pass the ball a bit, but 2 assists to 3 turnovers still won’t do.

Fun-sized bits:

– Let’s get this out: Mitchell Robinson can’t stop being stupefying. In 15 minutes, 10 points, 6 boards (I counted seven but I might be wrong), 1 assist, 3 mind-numbing blocks. Two of those 3 blocks came in the same possession on 18+ feet jumpers. And he kept the ball in play after that. I think his defensive potential is unprecedented. Right now he can’t bang up inside with anyone, as he’s too skinny and gangly to be even a slight hindrance to beefy guys like Drummond, but that’s not a problem for the future. He’ll grow up. He seems to be a little better even on his defensive rebounding positioning. And the lobs, oh the lobs. I’ll say this: the fact that Mitch isn’t getting nation-wide praise while KP was heralded as a potential MVP in the making speaks a lot about how the big talking heads look at basketball. Which is to say, they don’t understand a lot. I hope the fact he played just 15 minutes is to keep him fresh for tomorrow or because he still is a bit sick, otherwise that’s just plain malpractice. He’s also so adrenaline-inducing that every minute he plays lasts at least three times a regular NBA minute.

– DeAndre Jordan looked a bit Kanter-esque in this one. He showed little-to-no fire, even while collecting another double-double. If this is the mentor they want for Mitch, I’m a bit afraid he might not be the right guy, character-wise.

– Damyean Dotson with a pretty meh game. 10 points, lackluster defense, only 2 boards. Still way better than seeing THJ on the court. Here’s hoping Frank will get the nod at the starting two when he’s healthy. I know, we’re going to be disappointed anyway.

– Allonzo played 30 minutes but seems to be suffering from DSJ’s presence. It’s ok anyway, it’s not like Zo was a surefire starting two guard in the league, he’s going to have ups and downs. I’m just sad he doesn’t get to the line much these days.

– What happened to Vonleh? I combed through the web but I could find no mention of an injury as to justify his 3 minutes of play (-12 +/-, he doesn’t have an answer for Blake), but I didn’t find any. We’ve not traded him for a second just to ditch him as soon he doesn’t hit his threes and gets killed inside by someone? Well done, yeah.

– Why are we giving 30+ minutes to Mario? No, really. I wasn’t even that horrified at his game tonight (very low expectations, yeah), but it makes no sense not to release him to free additional roster spots for G-League tryouts. Mario has grown up a little bit on me, but that’s not enough.

– I like Kadeem Allen. He’s the answer to the question “What if Ron Baker actually knew how to play basketball?”.

I’ll go get ready for the 4th game of the DSJ-era, a back-to-back against Toronto where there’s a high chance we’ll lose by 30. I don’t care. Give me Mitch and I’m ok.

 

Detroit Pistons 105 – New York Knicks 92 – Game Recap

“Son, here you have a man who owns a Lamborghini; another one who’s happily married to the love of his life; and another yet who just lost his job and got his car repo’d. Now tell me: who’s the rich one?”
“The Lambo one! We know for sure he has the money, a Lambo doesn’t sure come for pennies!”
“I think you have the wrong answer, child”
“Ohhh… so is it the married one? Because spiritual riches are more worthy than physical ones?”
“I think you have the wrong answer again, my son”
“Uh, dad. It can’t be the third one. From what you told me, he has nothing.”
“I agree, in a sense. The thing is, neither of them can be, and all of them can be.”
“How is it that so?”
“Because there are only two things that make a man rich, and you don’t know which man has them”
“I… I still don’t get it, pa”
“Of course. You’re too young.”
“So… would you please tell me?”
“Sure. You see, son, those two things are time, and hope. What good does all the gold in the world when you only have a month to spend it? Don’t you think a billionaire with a terminal illness would trade all of his money to live another ten years to play with his nephew in the backyard?”
“Oh, yes… I think so”
“And hope. Hope is even more important. You can have all the time in the world and all the money in the world, but if you have no hope… well, you’re poorer than anyone who has nothing but still wakes up with a big smile, because he hopes – and in doing so, he knows – that the present day will be the best day of his life. Every day”

From “The book I never wrote”, Farfa

***

Funny how just a few days can make all of the difference in the world, right? The last time I wrote a recap (six days ago) I was still writing scathing things about Tim Hardaway Jr., I was worrying about Mudiay being extended and. most importantly, I was dousing myself in hot coffee, alprazolam and fluoxetine just to stay awake during games without getting too anxious or depressed.

Now, the product on the court is still terrible, but at least I can watch it without trying to pull my eyes out thinking that the guy who’s relentlessly chucking still has two years and 34 million dollars on his contract, or that the quite bad starting PG who can’t shoot from outside is due an extension soon and apart from Fizdale magic there’s nothing granting him a second look (and still, we’re playing him 30 minutes per game). Suddenly. our aimless chucker is a starting PG who can’t shoot from outside and he’s playing more than 30 minutes, but that starting PG now has two more years on his relatively cheap rookie contract and might be a useful trade asset down the line.

The game itself was a pretty fun one in the first half. It started poorly, like a late reminiscence of the THJ era, with Matthews not being able to hit anything in sight and the defense looking completely discombobulated. Griffin abused everyone physically (no small feat on Vonleh), DeAndre looked disinterested just as he did throughout his Dallas days, and Smith Jr was always a step late in the rotations. Then, between the end of the first and the beginning of the second quarter, something happened. Mitch got in. Suddenly the whole team was looking to hit him for alley-oops. Dotson, Trier, Allen, everyone got in the game of “find your human pogo stick near the basket”, and it was a thing of beauty. It was like living again Linsanity for a few precious minutes, and marveling at the same time at the intrinsic mortality of the present and the inherent sustainability of the action. We got close (45-43 for Detroit) but some paint action from Detroit and poor rebounding from us sent us down 9 at the end of the second quarter. The third quarter was a bricktastic affair (17-15 for us in the period) which saw us get close again until a few bogus calls sent us spiraling a bit out of control again. The fourth quarter saw Detroit finally pull away thanks to some Blake action after a brief stretch of Kadeem Allen dominance ruined by another bogus charge call from the refs (Allen stole the ball at midcourt down nine after he scored the last unanswered five points, only to see his running layup waived off thanks to a Calderon-taken charge; now, I get Jose moves reeeaaalllyyy sloooowly, but he was clearly backpedaling there. The Knicks actually scored anyway on the next possession – a Lance Thomas corner three – but the momentum vanished like that). Dennis Smith Jr. put on his best THJ impersonation and the game was over. Nonetheless, this was the most exciting game I saw in a while from our Knicks, thanks to Mitch and a lot of newfound hope.

The good:

– Who else if not our best prospect in years, Mitchell Robinson (13 pts, 10 rebs, 2 blks, -1 +/-) in the first half was everything we could have wanted and even more. A behemoth above the rim, where he just outplays the 99.99% of his competition. Since day one we’re saying that if we had a competent point guard Mitch would be feasting at the tim. Now, we still don’t have a competent point guard (yet), but Mitch proved us right in a fantastic stretch of six minutes. Dunks, layups, rebounds, even an and-one. If this guy played consistently 24 minutes per game (and really, there’s no reason at all for that not to happen) I think he would garner a lot more attention from the whole league, ultimately making him a prized asset to dangle in front of New Orleans. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want Mitch to go anywhere. but a Mitch emergence could make life for the Lakers and/or Celtics even harder in trade talks. Your #MitchB-RWatch: he’s currently posting a higher WS/48 than the rookie seasons of Bill Russell and Yao Ming, to name a few. If he maintained the current WS/48 and reached the 1000 minutes threshold, he would put up the 25th best rookie season ever. He’s also on pace for the 2nd best season ever by a rookie in BLK%, the sixth in BPM (and, strangely, only the 197th in VORP).

The bad:

– Wesley Matthews (9 pts. 2 rebs, 5 ast, -11 +/-) can’t buy a bucket these days, but in the end who cares? I’m not even mad at him, mostly thanks to the fact that he’s a giant expiring. There are other things, though, that make me appreciate his bad play: he’s involved on defense (even if slow and ground-bound), he makes the extra-pass, he seems to understand basketball. Context matters: while he and his precedessor share the same salary, give or take, and some of the same infuriating tendencies, I guess nobody bats an eye seeing him shoot a one-dribble pullup jumper from 20 feet. I guess it’s like dating a girl/guy who’s very similar to your last partner, only you actually lived two years with the latter and hated her/his guts after a few months, while you know your new fling will be over after a few weeks, so who cares if she/he is into that pineapple pizza crap.

Hope-sized bits:

– DSJ is the only real tangible asset we got in the KP trade. Do I like what I see from him? Maybe a bit. I feel like he’s a better player than Mudiay (but that could just be my bias, or the fact that Smith actually looks for the open man from time to time), I’m pretty sure he’s way more fun to watch than Mud, I have no idea if he’s better than Mud at defense – but being worse is really hard – and I have, as we all do, a D-Rose themed fear that applies very well to Dennis. He had a blah game, I’d say a Fizdale magic game (25 points on 25 shots, 4 turnovers, astronomic usage), but in the end I think there might be an NBA player in him. Even if there wasn’t, I’m glad our FO doesn’t have to make a choice about his future until 2021. That totally settles the deal.

– I’m also looking forward to see Dennis win the dunk contest. If he did it while wearing a Porzingis jersey it’d be exhilarating.

– Will Knox ever hit more than half of his shots again? He literally did it twice in the whole season. That’s five times out of one hundred. Can you believe I’m actually looking forward to the day we trade Knox before everyone realizes he’s just not good?

– I seem to like DeAndre Jordan’s personality. It’s just a shame he stopped caring about basketball.

– Now think about what it means that Kanter still doesn’t play and we’re better for it while the last sentence is definitely true (also, at last it looks like the “We want Kanter!” chants got to an end).

– Is there any chance we trade Vonleh for a second? Dude’s looking very sad lately. Also a bit ineffective.

– Kadeem Allen is what we want Ntilikina to be, minus the freakishly long arms. I don’t know it that’s good for Allen or is the definitive indictment of the 2017 lottery pick.

– I can’t wait to discover if Fizdale can coach anything basketball related to an actual basketball team. Right now he looks more like a (not particularly competent) kindergarten caretaker. But, uhm, Fizdale magic I guess?

– This was your monthly token “Let’s play Lance Thomas for his defense on big ball-handling guys”. I would have played Kornet at the four for extended minutes, but who am I to say?

– I feared having Smith Jr would have been a little detrimental to Trier, and it looks like I was right.

– Dotson has been strangely inconsistent, but I can’t hold that against him, since it’s not like the rotations are consistent themselves.

And now, on to the next game against Detroit, and let’s see what the trade deadline brings along (but seriously, I’m not ready to say goodbye to Mitch, so… let’s talk about AD in the offseason, ok?).

New York Knicks 108 – Detroit Pistons 115 – Game Recap

Hello losing my old friend, I’ve come to talk about you again.

After the three-win streak that we just endured, finally a consolatory loss, and with a kinda better minute distribution from Fiz. The game was ugly (our Bockers ended up shooting 39.6% from the field, but entering the second half their percentage was under 30, welp) and much less closer than the final scores indicates; there were times tonight when watching those two teams playing that I caught myself wondering if I was witnessing some sort of impromptu post-modern art performance. Guys fouled like crazy (usual and unusual suspects) and in the end Blake Griffin was just too much for any of our defenders. In the closing minutes, out of frustration (and necessity) Fizdale dusted off a previously horrendous Frank to defend on Blake, and while he did a decent job at defending Blake (but kept on sucking extremely hard at the game of basketball) the score was well out of reach, so it didn’t count. Every other guy was bullied and torched by a curly, burly Motown discount version of LeBron James. But a loss is a loss, so rejoice!

The good:

– Allonzo Trier (24 pts, 10 rebs, 7 ast, -6 +/-) makes you wonder why in the hell the Knicks haven’t already cut someone to sign him, and not out of astonishment at Iso Zo’s feats; there is an opportunity cost lurking around the corner, and it says “The later you sign him to a real contract, the more it is gonna you cost”. I mean, our man got close to a triple double and was the driving force behind a very fake and weak comeback in the fourth. It’s pretty clear that Fizdale trusts him to be our closer, especially on nights where THJ doesn’t have it – and that might mean a lot of nights by the end of the season. The last sentence, while serving its duty as our daily reminder that our roster stinks (your closer is an undrafted guy on a two-way contract!), could make Trier think twice before accepting whatever lowball offer the Knicks will throw at him. What could have cost you 2 million a year might now cost 3 or more. Every game where Zo puts up those numbers and does so on 11 shots is gonna raise the price. An undrafted rookie rocking a .612 TS% (third among all rookies) on 20.4 USG% is the stuff of your dreams, even if he’s an older rookie. There have been 8 games this year where a rookie has put a GameScore of 23+: Zo has two of them (the others: Ayton twice, Doncic, Jackson Jr, Young, Carter Jr). It has to be said that while his offense was pretty much pristine, his defense was uncharacteristically lackadaisical. Ok, Ish Smith is a longtime Knicks killer, but he got where he wanted all night and Zo never did anything to stop him. I hope that Zo is not one of those guys that after having made it just gives up on defense.

– Someone has any effing idea why Damyean Dotson (17 pts, 1 reb, 1 stl, +5 +/-) could not find any playing time in the last 4 games and had to be taken off the shelf only because of urgent foul trouble? He’s by far – by far – better that any other 3/4 wing we have. I can’t shake this feeling that Perry is constantly in Fiz’s ear telling him to play his precious Mario. More importantly, Dot doesn’t give up. Like an utmost professional, he stepped into the game and proceeded to score 17 on 8 shots in 23 minutes. He could have been a little better on defense and on the boards, but you can’t have it all. I just hope that Fizdale never buries him again, it’s the only very baffling things he did in the recent winning streak. I don’t know about those trade rumors, too. Do we have to trust our front office with getting a good return from an unheralded second round pick on a uber team friendly contract? I don’t. Let’s hope Dot sticks around.

The bad:

– Frank Ntilikina (0 everything, -5 +/-) played one of the worst transparent games I’ve ever seen. The only thing preventing him from earning a cool 16 trillions was bricking 3 shots, fouling 3 guys and turning the ball over once. I’m a fan of Frank for evidently irrational reasons, but it gets harder and harder each day to think we didn’t make a serious mistake picking him at 8th last year. His game was so ugly that I can’t even remember anything about him on defense, save for the couple possessions when he was assigned to Griffin. Hey, what do you say if we pretend (paraphrasing what someone suggested in one of the last threads) that Dotson was our 2017 first round pick and Frank was our second round pick? Maybe we could shift expectations and apologetic contortions.

– Trey Burke (6 pts, 1 reb, 12.5% FG, -18 +/-) has turned into a pumpkin again. It’s unbelievable how much variance affects his games. Or not! Actually, his success is predicated on being a marksman on the least efficient type of shots in the game: the long two-pointer. If it doesn’t fall, you have a 6’1″ mountain of bricks staring at you, and that shot usually comes and goes. His game-low plus/minus tells the same story. It’s no coincidence that our defacto PG in the last quarter was Trier.

– I guess Mitchell Robinson’s (2 pts, 5 rebs, 1 blk, -13 +/-) scout report is officially out. His second consecutive mention here it’s not exactly his fault, it’s more about experience and tendencies that can and will be corrected. That said, it’s become obvious that he has no way of stopping crafty, huge big men near the rim without fouling them; the same can be said about speedy driving guards who are not afraid of contact. Another night prematurely ended by six quick fouls. It has to be said that giving him the Griffin assignment was like dropping a hurt, bloodied puppy on a sea full of hungry sharks, and Griffin caused the fouling out of Vonleh and Hezonja too. Growing pains, guys!

– Kevin Knox (4 pts, 3 rebs, 14.3& FG, -4 +/-) is, right now, a terrible basketball player. You had to hear the deflated, defeated somber tone used by Mike Breen late in the fourth quarter in referring to Knox: “Knox really looks lost, Clyde”. It was a torrent of sadness, as if a million neurons were facepalming in unison like tiny synchronized swimmers. And Breen has been with this team through a lot of bad times. He was there when the East was big. When Beno passed the ball. When Mardy Collins was playing for us. And I’ve never heard anything so dreary come out of his mouth. But Knox is the perfect recipe for piling losses, so yay! I can be happy again! …or not.

Fun-sized bits:

– Enes with another double double. Guy is a machine. A slow, overpayed, self-inflated one, but a machine nonetheless. I wish we were in the 90s to trade him for a king’s ransom. We’ll end up buying him out instead. But his terrible defense is pivotal to our tank effort, so until March maybe it’s cool (if Mitch really can’t stay on the court).

– Mudiay with a vintage Mudiay performance. Do I have to act surprised?

– Chuck Hardaway’s numbers in his last 4 games (3 W, 1L): 17.3 ppg on 32.3 FG% (47.3 TS%). At least he reduced his usage to just 23%.

– Frank’s TS% is 43.5. His 2017-18 was 43.7. I think we would be excused if we started thinking about him as a non-shooter.

– If Vonleh has foul trouble issues, the whole team suffers. Tonight it was really apparent. His game is pure substance, even when posting mediocre numbers (6 pts, 7 rebs, 1 ast, 3 blks). He keeps on shooting the three at a .400+ clip, though.

– This would have been the perfect game to unleash a sprinkle of Ron Baker; I’m a bit sad that didn’t happen.

– Mario is playing a bit better, but nothing that grants him any of Dotson minutes.

– Stanley Johnson killed our guys tonight with 21 points, and his defense on the perimeter was very good. Is this again my heart saying “Be patient with Frank” in the background?

Another back-to-back for us tomorrow against the 76ers. Don’t know why but I have a feeling that we’re gonna win. Let’s see if I’m wrong (I hope to be)!

Game Preview & Thread: Knicks @ Pistons

It’s been rather dreary here at Knickerblogger these last few days, why with all the dysfunction within the organization — losing doesn’t help things either — but perhaps a match-up with the league’s worst defensive team is exactly what the Knicks need to turn things around.

To help get a better idea of what to expect from the Detroit Pistons tonight, I brought in Jameson Draper of Pistons Powered and Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys.

The Pistons and Knicks are both 3-6 coming into tonight’s game. Which team should be more concerned about their rough start?

Chase Thomas (@ChaseThomasSBN): I think it’s the Pistons. The Knicks have a lot of problems, but I don’t think it’s time to hit the panic button with the team’s defensive anchor Tyson Chandler out of action. The Pistons went all in this summer in free agency to finally get back in the playoffs,but their big free agency acquisitions aren’t gelling with one another.

Jameson Draper
(@jamdraper): I’d say the Pistons, mostly because their expectations coming into the season were much higher. I don’t think it’s necessarily concerning for either team, but it there was one I’d worry about, it would be Detroit.

Matt Watson (@MattWatson): The Knicks are coming off a 54-win season; the Pistons, meanwhile, won 54 games in the previous two seasons combined. Simply due to expectations, the Knicks are in more trouble. All Detroit needs to do is win a couple of games and they’re back in the hunt for one of the final playoff spots, which is pretty much all Pistons fans are hoping for this year.

The Pistons and Knicks are also both struggling to find the right starting lineup. The Pistons starters actually have a plus/minus of -35 thus far. The Knicks obviously are thin in the frontcourt right now, so should we expect Smith-Monroe-Drummond to have big nights?

Chase: With Felton ailing, Prigs not playing much, and Andrea Bargnani doing Bargnani like things on defense, the Pistons should be able to penetrate and finish at a relatively high rate against the Knicks. The Pistons starting lineup can have a big night if they don’t stand around the perimeter and focus on beating the Knicks up inside — specifically with Monroe on Melo.

Jameson: Offensively, yes. They always have big nights on that end of the court, regardless of the competition. Defensively, maybe they’ll do a bit better than normal. With the exception of Smith, who is a superstar on defense, Drummond and Monroe have been struggling this season. Maybe against a weak frontcourt, though, they can hone their skills.

Matt: Detroit’s big frontcourt has surprisingly struggled on the defensive end this year, allowing random second- and third-tier big men to go off. Even though New York’s frontcourt is thin, don’t be surprised if Andrea Bargnani or, hell, even Kenyon Martin pops off for 20 and 10. I wish I were kidding.

But on the other end, yes, I expect a lot of points and offensive rebounds from Detroit’s big three. Smith has been hot and cold all season, but he’s done a great job of playing within himself the last two games. Greg Monroe will always do his thing, and Drummond gets most of his production off putbacks and alley-oops.

Raymond Felton hasn’t played well against quality point guards so far this season. With that said, do you think the Pistons should focus on challenging Felton with Jennings and Bynum or focus on getting the ball inside to Smith, Monroe and Drummond?

Chase: I’d focus on attacking Felton with a variety of pick-and-rolls and get the ball in the hands of Monroe on the low block as much as possible.

Jameson: They should do a mixture of both. The Knicks, overall, are not the best defensive team, and the Pistons need to take advantage of that, as they can score a bunch of points.

Matt: Jennings talked a big game about being a pass-first distributor in the preseason, but for the most part he’s already abandoned that approach. Even on Sunday, when he racked up 14 assists, he took 22 shots (and did most of his scoring when the game was already decided). So regardless what I think the Pistons should do, I expect Jennings to look for his shot all night, for better or worse.

This is a two-parter. Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith are likely going to be matched up with each other. Predict how many shots total the two have tonight combined. Also, why are these two players starting for their respective teams?

Chase: Too many. Although I expect Smith to get the better of his matchup with Billups, so I expect he’ll be shooting quite often this evening. Smith is coming off a 3-for-18 outing against a good Hawks team, so everyone should brace themselves of what might come against a bad Pistons defense.

Jameson: Chauncey won’t shoot a ton, as he’s matured, is a veteran, and doesn’t play a large role on the team anymore. He’ll shoot his fair share of shots, but I wouldn’t call it “a lot”. JR Smith, however, will shoot his brains out. He likes shooting regardless of the skill of his defender. Add that to the fact that he’ll be defended by Chauncey Billups, who is awful on that end of the court, and we’ll find him shooting… A LOT.

Matt: I suspect Mo Cheeks started Billups earlier in the season out of respect for the veteran, but he’s missed a couple of games with knee tendinitis, opening the door for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Even if Billups returns and starts, I’d be surprised if he played more than 15 minutes. But I’m predicting 25 shots between the two of them — and that’s with Billups taking no more than five. I imagine Smith will try to put on a show following his recent Twitter spat with Jennings.

Josh Smith is taking 5.7 three-pointers per game so far this season. Is this a trend we should expect to continue tonight in New York and going forward?

Chase: I hope so. Smith staying out of the paint and hanging out on the perimeter is something the Knicks will need to pull out a victory.
Jameson- Yes. He’ll have open shots and he’ll take them. I’m convinced later in the season he’ll tone it down, but as of right now, I don’t see his three numbers going down at all.

Matt: I think so. Even in his last two games, when he let the game come to him rather than jacking up shorts, he combined for 11 attempts. So long as they’re open shots, I’m fine with that. He’s not the ideal guy you want taking that shot, but it’s also a function of Detroit’s weird offense.

The Pistons currently have the worst defensive rating in the NBA. Why has their defense been so bad, and what areas should the Knicks look to exploit in their defense?

Chase: The Knicks should utilize the pick-and-roll and attack the Pistons frontcourt. Monroe and Drummond are allowing opponents to shoot roughly 50 percent at the rim on them this season, per NBA.com. The Pistons hit the boards hard, but their interior defense is still very vulnerable.

Jameson: It’s odd, and honestly, I can’t pinpoint the exact reason. Jennings, with the exception of his pick and roll defense, is a good defender, as is Caldwell-Pope. The rest of the Pistons backcourt is bad at defense. As far as the frontcourt goes, Smith is a great defender, Drummond is good, and Monroe is abysmal. It’s weird, because while it’s clear this defense has a lot of flaws, they have talent on defense still— they shouldn’t have the worst defense in the NBA, but they are. I mean, the Knicks could attack this team on all cylinders and be successful. It’s going to be a very high-scoring game.

Matt: The Pistons have had a lot of problems — and for a more detailed breakdown, I’ll defer to my colleague Mike Prada, but part of it comes down to Smith still adjusting to guarding small forwards, Drummond not living up to expectations as a rim protector and the team as a whole doing a better job defending 3-pointers. The first two I think will correct with time and experience (although perhaps not in time to stop Carmelo Anthony from going off); the latter is more problematic. The Pistons are allowing the opposition to shoot .392 from long distance this year — I have to imagine the Knicks will look to exploit that all night.

Who ultimately wins tonight and why?

Chase: The Knicks have been a better road team so far this season, but for the Knicks to win tonight they’ll have to do a couple of things really well. The Pistons interior defense has been dreadful and the Knicks will need to exploit that and not settle for contested jumpers. The Knicks transition defense is abysmal and the Pistons do a really good job of forcing turnovers so if the Knicks get sloppy offensively the Pistons could runaway with this one. Ultimately, I think the Pistons win in a very high scoring game.

Jameson: I say the Pistons pull it out in a high scoring affair. Both offenses will work perfectly fine, but the Detroit defense will finally prevail with a small glimmer of interior defense and stop the Knicks from scoring more than usual. They’re lofty hopes, but I can definitely see that happening tonight.

Matt: Even though it’s clear the Pistons have problems, they’re also capable of playing extremely well for long stretches. I actually like their chances tonight, especially in their first game back home. Vegas says the Pistons are 4.5-point favorites — that sounds about right to me. I expect a competitive game, but Detroit’s efficiency scoring in the paint should be the deciding factor.

Follow me: @ChaseThomasSBN

Debunking The Four vs Five Theory

One of the reasons I started this blog was to question NBA cliches, vapid expressions like “defense wins championships”, “momentum”, and “chemistry”. One thing that’s been on my mind recently has been some of the debates on KnickerBlogger during the Lee/Balkman era. For years David Lee has been a favorite by a section of KnickerBlogger writers and followers, and in the earlier days the General’s troops received a lot of criticism for supporting him so vehemently. Lee’s detractors argued that putting him on the floor hurt the offense because his limited skills gave opposing teams the equivalent of an extra man on defense, saying that the team was trying to score 4 on 5. Meanwhile Lee’s supporters argued that his excellent inside scoring and rebounding forced the opposing team to keep a man on him.

To be clear, this was early in David Lee’s career, before he extended his range to 15 feet and was more aggressive with putting the ball on the floor. Also I’d like to add that Renaldo Balkman deserves mention in this discussion. Much like Lee, Balkman’s offensive game was limited to scoring near the hoop and recovering his team’s missed shots.

This topic has been on my mind because some fans are giving a portion of the credit to the Knicks recent win streak to the insertion of Jared Jeffries into the rotation. I don’t want to bring Jeffries’ defensive contributions into this discussion, and admit that there’s no doubt most of his value comes from that end of the floor. What I’m most interested in is solely the discussion on the offensive side of the ball, and I’d like to limit this topic to that portion.

Jeffries is just awful on the offensive side of the floor, with exactly one skill – rebounding. Of course this is the same attribute that Lee & Balkman exceled at, but the latter were better at it and had the additional attribute of being able to score around the basket at a good rate. Jeffries slightly higher turnover rate is exacerbated by his low point total. (In other words, his hands are much worse than the other two.) If the ability for defenses to leave a offensively challenged 5th man uncovered was real, then Jeffries would be a lightning rod for such an effect.

  Player Year eFG% FTA  FT% ORB AST TOV  PTS  TS%
Jeffries 2010 .444 2.8 .576 3.1 2.2 1.9  8.2 .473
 Balkman 2010 .521 3.2 .531 3.4 1.5 1.6 10.5 .533
     Lee 2008 .575 3.7 .762 3.8 1.7 1.7 12.7 .621

A good example of Jeffries ineptitude was Saturday’s game. Jeffries overall line wasn’t awful, as he scored 12 points on 10 shots with just 2 turnovers and 2 assists. However his stats, which were atypically good for Jeffries, belies how poorly he played. Easily he could have had a much better night, as he missed two wide open three pointers, a 5 foot hook shot, and three layups two of which were blocked. The latter acts are typical of Jeffries who at 6-11 is inexplicably feeble around the basket. At the end of the night, Jeffries was a team worst -13.

If you asked me to sum up in as few words as possible why I don’t believe in momentum in basketball, I would say watch enough games, and you’ll see that when announcers start talking about momentum often enough the momentum will “shift”. Momentum typically isn’t something a team builds on, but rather it has zero predictive ability. New York had a lot of momentum in their 12-0 run early in the first quarter, of course until the Rockets followed it with their own 13-5 run. Momentum truly is just the last shot. You would expect when the Knicks began to play Jeffries, one of the worst offensive players in the league, major minutes that there would be a sizable group of fans discussing the Knicks being hurt by having to play 4 vs 5 on offense. However it seems that the opposite has occurred. When the Knicks put Jeffries into the starting lineup and began to win games, no one mentioned his hindrance on the offensive side.

Normally when I debunk something I tend to look at it from a statistical bent. However in this case, since the observational analysts seem to be content with the results, I guess I should be as well. Or rather, if by using the same source (a team trying to score with a player who isn’t able to score on his own) and method (observational data) a group of people come up with two different theories (Lee/Balkman are detrimental to the team, Jeffries is not) then you can assume that there is an inherent flaw in the study and the theory has no merit. From my perspective this is a clear case of looking at the result and trying to fit an answer into the blank. When the Knicks were playing poorly, the “4 vs 5 offense” existed and part of the problem. When they were playing well, the “4 vs 5 offense” wasn’t real.

I guess if I wanted to give real proof I’d point to the 2006 Pistons who had the league’s 4th best offense despite giving Ben Wallace 35 minutes a night. From an observational standpoint I could look at Saturday’s game. If the Rockets let Jeffries freelance without a defender then David Lee and Wilson Chandler would be the most hurt. But the duo shot a combined 20-30, most of their work coming from in the paint and in the midrange.

In fact the Knick offense was fine unless Jeffries was shooting. If he made his three layups (which you’d expect from someone 6-11), the Knicks start the 4th quarter up by 7 points. Add in the two turnovers and two wide open three pointers he missed, and the team would have cruised to victory with an average performance from #20. So it wasn’t that the other team was able to use Jeffries to stunt the rest of the offense, but rather it was Jeffries own futility which hurt the offense. So if the Knicks aren’t having their entire offense disrupted by having Jared Jeffries on the floor for 33 minutes a game (his average since December 6th), then playing a offensively superior player like a young David Lee or Renaldo Balkman wasn’t a detriment either.

What’s Wrong With the Knicks?

The New York Knicks have limped out to a 1-6 start, their worst since 2003 when they began the year 1-8. That season, they eventually finished 37-45, which would actually be an improvement for this team. So although history shows us that all is not lost, there are some issues the team must overcome to get back on track.

Not to Three?
The team’s three point percentage of 30.3% is 57 points lower than last year’s average, but that number isn’t indicative of how bad New York’s shooting has been. That percentage is inflated by Danilo Gallinari’s sizzling 46.6%. The non-Gallo Knicks are shooting an appallingly bad 22.5%. And while the knee-jerk reaction is to blame non-shooter Jared Jeffries and rookie Toney Douglas, the pair are actually 2nd and 3rd on the team respectively in three point percentage. It’s the regulars of Hughes, Harrington, Duhon, Chandler, and Robinson that are sinking the team.

For some teams, going through a cold spell from behind the arc might be a nuisance, but D’Antoni’s offense requires the team to make their treys to open up the inside. I documented this here, showing how other teams are clogging the middle and daring the team to beat them from the outside. That said this is probably an early season funk, and more likely than not New York will end up in the middle of the pack with regards to three point shooting. Hopefully the drought will end sooner than later.

Ill Ill Will?
It seems that Knick fans are split on their opinion of Wilson Chandler. Some see a youngster with a lot of upside, while others see caution flags from his advanced stats. But neither side envisioned him playing this poorly. Chandler has been dreadful in 2010, starting off the year with a PER of 7.7, nearly half of his 2009 rate of 12.9. The decline is entirely due to his anemic shooting: 39.9% TS% and 20.0% 3P%.

Chandler did have surgery in the offseason, which prevented him from working on his game during the summer. The good news is that his non-shooting stats have been identical to last year, which means that there isn’t a lingering physical issue that is causing his decline. The bad news is Chandler was never a good shooter to begin with, and that he needed the extra time to work on his jumper. The best the team can hope for is to send Chandler slashing to the hoop more often, which is usually a good prescription for any athletic player struggling to find their range.

There’s No Movement, No Movement, No Movement…
What happened to the movement on offense? The hallmark of D’Antoni’s offense is having some kind of constant motion, either via ball or players. But this year, it seems that the half court offense has become stagnant. And of course there’s the limitation of the roster. Chris Duhon is still passing up easy buckets in the paint, Al Harrington is still refusing to pass the ball, and Jeffries is still getting court time. The one guy who has the multifaceted game to jumpstart the offense, Nate Robinson, is sidelined with an injury.

Again it seems the lack of an outside threat has hurt the team, but perhaps D’Antoni should be finding another way to generate points. Given his reputation as an offensive coach, he should be able to coax some more production out of this group.

Pennies On the Dollar (Or Thousands of Dollars on the Millions of Dollars)
While one could argue that their precious cap space and a lack of assets prevented them from making a major move, the truth is the team failed to improve at all. The team didn’t deviate from their 2009 roster much, adding only Darko Milicic, Jordan Hill, Toney Douglas, and Marcus Landry. None of these players are averaging 10 minutes per game.

The problem boils down to New York failing to find any low cost help. It’s easy to say the NBA is a superstar’s league, but the truth is that teams need to fill their entire roster. This means front offices need to not only be successful in acquiring superstars, but digging the bargain bin for productive players. The Celtics might not have won a a title without their big trio, but perhaps their troika of youngsters Rondo, Perkins, and Powe was equally important to that championship run. The same could be said for the Spurs for turning the undrafted 30 year old Bruce Bowen and 57th overall pick Manu Ginobili into a part of their core. And the Pistons would not have won their last championship without Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups – two players that were relative nobodies before their arrival in Detroit.

Every year there seems to be a few unheralded players who find success on the major league level, in addition to homeless veterans willing to play for a bargain. In the Donnie Walsh era, the Knicks have flirted with lots of inexpensive players like Von Wafer, Demetris Nichols, Anthony Roberson, Cheikh Samb, Mouhamed Sene, Courtney Simms, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Joe Crawford, Chris Hunter and Morris Almond but failed to unearth any rough gems.

For a team that relies on outside shooting so much (New York was 1st in three pointers attempted last year), the team has a glaring hole at shooting guard. The 2-guard position is filled by a small forward (Wilson Chandler), an undersized point guard (Nate Robinson) and an aging slasher with a questionable shot (Larry Hughes). To compound the situation the team does have a free roster spot and there are some options available (Almond, Crawford and Szczerbiak). It would cost the team a fraction of their total salary to acquire a shooter, but for some reason they’re content in staying pat. Having a three point specialist would probably be helpful a few nights over the course of the season. But developing one from the NBA scrap heap into the rotation would be the mark of a good front office.