Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Knicks 3 Main Problems In 2014

With 11% of the season gone by, now seems to be a good time as any to look statistically at what ails the Knicks. At 3-6, New York has a few major areas to address.

PROBLEM #1: Shooting

New York currently ranks 23rd in offensive efficient field goal percentage at 47.4%, and that is the main reason the Knicks are only 17th on offense in the NBA. The Knicks were 3rd overall last year, so this is a serious decline. At the center of the problem are Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith. If Felton’s eFG% of 40.8% can be described as horrendous, then the thesaurus is at a loss for Smith’s 33.2%. For the former, one has to wonder if the loss of his pick & role partner in Tyson Chandler is bothering Felton. Bargnani is more of a pick & pop guy, and the Knicks seem to be using him with ‘Melo more than Felton.

As for Smith, there are a couple of theories on why his shooting has hit the toilet. Could it be just plain rust, due to the lack of a full preseason? Could there be a lingering physical issue from his injury? Or is it Smith’s full commitment to his social life that has affected his on the court play? During the offseason, someone suggested to me via Twitter that Chris Smith might have been signed as a way to keep Earl exercising exorcising his demons. Considering the evidence at hand, if that was the plan, it’s failing miserably.

I got out the ol’abacus and calculatrized the Knicks shooting percentage if Felton & Smith were at their 2013 averages. Based on those two alone, New York would rise above average to 12th/13th in team shooting. So even if these two right themselves, there’s still work to be done.

PROBLEM #2: Opponent Shooting

New York is 28th overall on defense, and just like on offense the main problem is shooting. The Knicks are allowing a healthy 51% eFG% to the other team, which is 22nd in the league. I decided to look at 82games, and check out opposing eFG% by player on the court/off the court stats. And two players stuck out from a negative perspective.

J.R. Smith is +17.1 in terms of opposing field goal percentage. That is other teams are shooting 65.2% while he’s on the floor. So in essence he’s stinking up both ends of the floor, and probably a few nightclub bathrooms as well. The second culprit is Andrea Bargnani. His shooting has improved enough to get the Garden boo-birds off his back, and he’s experiencing the second highest rebound rate of his career. However when he steps on the court, opposing teams become better shooters by +12.9 points. Coincidence?

Ole!

Ole!

Kenyon Martin leads the team in this endeavor with -11.1, while Cole Aldrich’s -4.3 mirrors that of Tyson Chandler (-5.0).

PROBLEM #3: Fouls

When the Knicks faced Dwight Howard and they went to the Hack-A-Shaq strategy, Coach Woodson probably didn’t have to tell his team to do anything differently. New York is dead last in foul rate, by a large margin. Main hackers are Pablo Prigioni (5.6 ft/36), Amar’e Stoudemire (5.1), Kenyon Martin (4.1), and Iman Shumpert (3.9). Pablo and Iman’s inclusion is telling, because normally guards don’t go around slapping wrists.

SUMMARY
From my perspective, it’s time to give Felton and J.R. some time to work out their kinks and let Pablo and Hardaway/Murry get a little more burn in their place. I’d expect both players to eventually iron things out, but a little time to meditate on the bench might help. Then I’d give Cole Aldrich some real time at center, and Kenyon a little more too. Let Bargnani play the 4 more with ‘Melo (40.0 mpg) on the pine. That would also solve the “Anthony will end up as a pool of goo by the end of the year from over-usage” issue as well. Finally I’d run a practice where the team plays 5 on 5. Any person that fouls gets substituted, runs some suicides, and has to wait to sub back in. That might solve #3.

59 comments on “The Knicks 3 Main Problems In 2014

  1. SirJim

    “Bargnani leads the league in HGG, Hilarious GIFs Generated.” Couldn’t agree more. As good as he’s been, he’s still a beautiful, awkward stork, flapping his way around the court.

    Speaking of, there’s been a lot of squawk made about trades in NY. As unimpressive as Felton has been and as badly as JR has played so far, I think we need to stand pat. Melo came out of the gate a bit rusty, but in the last few games has been shooting more efficiently and looks far more solid. Both Felton and JR are injured/coming off of injuries, and both of them miss having Chandler in the middle to help out. You get used to that kind of presence and it’s no wonder they’re struggling without it.

    This is essentially the same team as last year, plus a few injuries and a flapping Italian who’s still learning the system. Everybody relax. If we’re still struggling by January, then we can talk about who needs shipped out.

  2. Brian Cronin

    It’s not so much talk, though, so much as it is a near certainty that Shump will be traded. This team is the ultimate “where there’s smoke there’s fire” team. We knew that JR’s brother would get a roster spot and that JR would get a starting job before JR even signed his contract. So when those same sources are telling us that the team is going to be trading Shump (hell, they literally thought that they had traded Shump until Denver insisted on a draft pick, as well), it just becomes a matter of trying to figure out the best possible deal we can think of for him.

  3. Nick C.

    Maybe the shooting is karma for last years absurd three point shooting to start the season from Kidd and Brewer? How much of it is random variation and how much is suckitude.

    Is the opponents shooting based on a disproportionate amount of (largely uncontested) lay ups/dunks or wacky outside shooting? If the jump shooting on both sides is way out of line from expected norms then I could see things evening out. Certainly JR and Felton won’t shoot this poorly, but Bargs probably won’t shoot as well as he has either. Anyway it is time for the “accountability” coach to actually hold his pets accountable.

  4. nicos

    Who leaked the info about Shump’s surgery? I wonder if it might have been his agent in order to make trading him tougher- though given his deteriorating relationship with Woodson I can’t imagine he’s dying to stay here.

  5. SirJim

    It does seem that they will be moving Shumpert, and I disagree with that move. But I suppose that’s why I don’t work in an NBA Front Office.

    I’d say the poor shooting is more of a reflecting of too much Isolation play and not enough ball movement, which is part of the reason I’d like to see Prigioni in the starting lineup. Even the Knicks that are struggling with their shots still seem to do ok with wide open, catch and shoot looks. When Melo is the focus and Tyson is a lob threat, swinging the ball and forcing turnovers are the best way to get those looks. Pounding the ball around the perimeter for 16 seconds is not.

  6. ephus

    My theory that Bargnani is competent at some (but far from all) defensive assignments is going to get a test when the Knicks play Indiana. Bargnani is going to have to handle Hibbert in the post. If he can do so with similar results to his shut down of Dwight Howard, then it becomes clear that he can be trusted to handle on-ball defense in the post, but not playing defense in space, transition defense, rotations or rim protection against penetration. So, then it would be up to Woodson to use Bargnani in a manner that takes advantage of his abilities and covers up for his disabilities.

    The Knicks need JR Smith to be the player he was last year during the regular season. If he continues as poorly as he started last year (and played in the last seven games of the playoffs), he cannot stay on the floor.

  7. ess-dog

    I’m thinking JR is not really back from the injury and the time off. I think he will at least get back to “decent”.

    Rondo ain’t going to happen, but that’s good, because he’s a bad fit with Melo anyway. We need shooting and rebounding. Shump and TH2 are not good shooters. Felton is not a good shooter. JR and Prigs are at least average. Maybe they should start?

    We need rebounding and defense at the pf. That’s what we should get for Shump, if he has to be traded.

  8. flossy

    The Knicks need JR Smith to be the player he was last year during the regular season.

    The problem is that for 5 months of last year’s regular season, JR kiiiind of sucked, or was average at best. And then for one month he was walk-on-water, “holy shit, this man is incandescent” hot. It took a superhuman month of basketball for him to even get his TS% up to .522, which is hardly something to brag about. And he wasn’t particularly good the year before that, either.

  9. JK47

    JR has played 3700 minutes with the Knicks now, and has a .513 TS% over that span. In short, he’s really mediocre, and incredibly overrated. I’ve held out hope that JR would return to the .575+ TS% player he was in Denver, but it ain’t happening. The Knicks don’t discourage his worst tendencies, and they allow him to be the “true” JR, which is to say, an inefficient, dunderheaded chucker.

    Don’t like him.

  10. flossy

    JR has played 3700 minutes with the Knicks now, and has a .513 TS% over that span. In short, he’s really mediocre, and incredibly overrated. I’ve held out hope that JR would return to the .575+ TS% player he was in Denver, but it ain’t happening. The Knicks don’t discourage his worst tendencies, and they allow him to be the “true” JR, which is to say, an inefficient, dunderheaded chucker.

    I was looking back at his shooting numbers from the good old days. Hard to believe there was a season where he had a usage of 26% and a TS of .603, while taking 88% (!!!) of his FGA either at the rim, or from 3 (where 84% of his 3FGs were assisted). Last season only ~53% of his attempts came from those two areas.

  11. Kahnzy

    Rondo ain’t going to happen, but that’s good, because he’s a bad fit with Melo anyway.

    You mean pairing a pass-first PG with a shoot-first forward is a bad fit? I’d take Rondo over Felton any day of the week if we could swing it without giving up every first rounder for the next decade.

    Anyway, if Shump’s to be traded, I’m at least glad to hear that Mills has pulled out on a deal when the other team starts asking for draft picks. I just hope whatever we get for Rondo is of the quality that the rumor indicate (i.e. Faried or Rondo), even if it’s not exactly what would shore up our weaknesses.

  12. daJudge

    Mike, I think your analysis is really spot on, clearly justified by the evidence. Some of the problems however depend on the particular players’ [non]performance. So please Knicks, fire up that Cole Train. He’s not some savior, but he is what this team needs. “You can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.”

  13. nyk8806

    I wonder what Feb 2012 would have been like if potato head was coach instead of potato chip. Hmm…our depth has been ravaged by injuries and our primary ball-handler rotation has consisted of the unmitigated disaster of DWTDD, corpse of Mike Bibby, point-forward Melo, and I-ain’t-no-PG Shump. You have some untested/undrafted young guard sitting at the end of the bench. What do you do? Hey, Melo’s only averaging 34 MPG – let’s play him more, make some other nonsensical adjustments, and hope for the best! Hey, JR Smith is almost back from China…maybe he can play PG?

  14. stratomatic

    JR was probably more efficient in Denver because Karl generally has a very good offensive strategy. He likes to run, attack the rim, and shoots 3s.

    He used to bench JR on a regular basis for poor shot selection. That’s probably what eventually lead to Denver letting him go. He was constantly battling with Karl over shot selection. I’d guess that JR’s shot selection was WAY better in Denver than it has been in NY. In NY, if he takes an endless number of bad shots he gets promoted to the starting lineup.

  15. Zanzibar

    EPHUS QUOTE: “So, then it would be up to Woodson to use Bargnani in a manner that takes advantage of his abilities and covers up for his disabilities.”

    (1) Only playing Bargnani with Melo and our best perimeter defenders who happen fortunately to be our best 3 shooters (Prigs/Shump). (2) Going under the pick in PnR. Statiscally it’s been shown that this is the best approach anyway. Only a few guards like Calderon, Nash and Paul can really make you pay so in the case of Calderon you’d go over the pick. Better to have Teague take lightly contested mid-range shots than attack the rim (3) Maybe mixing simple zone and man coverage.

    Anybody got anything else?

  16. ruruland

    “JR was probably more efficient in Denver because Karl generally has a very good offensive strategy. He likes to run, attack the rim, and shoots 3s.

    He used to bench JR on a regular basis for poor shot selection. That’s probably what eventually lead to Denver letting him go. He was constantly battling with Karl over shot selection. I’d guess that JR’s shot selection was WAY better in Denver than it has been in NY. In NY, if he takes an endless number of bad shots he gets promoted to the starting lineup.”

    He did bench JR for poor shot selection, and those shots were often really deep 3-pointers.

    So far this year he has the third highest 3 point attempt percentage of his career (percentage of shots that are 3-point attempts)

    He once had INCREDIBLE range: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uoYAJCE3L8

    And was a dead-eye shooter closer to the line.

    The last three years he’s just suffered a big drop in 3pt percentage.

    He’s not in a running system and is without a running pg, so transition opportunities don’t exist like they did.

    He attacked the rim better last year than he did at any point in his career.

    We saw him significantly reduce the step-back jumpers the last third of last season, and we haven’t seen much of them this year.

    He’s missing open 3-point shots, not finishing at the rim and not drawing fouls.

    Dating back to the playoffs, he has made just 48 of his last 170 shots !!!! (28 percent)….

    He doesn’t seem to be getting the same elevation on his jumper that he used to, and his shot has looked especially flat this year.

  17. Loathing

    Seems to me like Jr. (not JR) is playing well enough to make Shump expendable. It might also be because Jr’s a rook and still has more room to develop. Shump has shown flashes of star power, and the Knicks are trying to sell high on him, thinking he’s already hit his ceiling. Maybe he has, I don’t know. Everyone (here and everywhere else) is saying the Knicks should go after some size n’ rebounding for him. Anyone know what the Rockets would want for Asik? Or if the Knicks would be better suited for going with a non center, just who would be available that would stack with Shump straight-up?

  18. ruruland

    I’m a big believer that Shump will turn into a really good player, and definitely has a higher ceiling than THJ, but it’s certainly a diminishing returns situation with all three of them.

    I think Hardaway can be a proficient spot-up shooter, and solid defender, but the Knicks need to get more good guard creation. Shump has the ability to turn into that.

  19. JK47

    Hardaway has a usage above 20, which is what it takes to get respect on this team. Shump doesn’t chuck enough so he’s gonna get the boot.

  20. Loathing

    Makes me wonder, since we’re on the subject…would anyone be willing to trade for Twit n’ L’il Twit?

  21. DRed

    Seems to me like Jr. (not JR) is playing well enough to make Shump expendable.

    Lesser Jowles hasn’t played well enough to make Toure Murry expendable yet. Let’s not get carried away by a gorgeous finger roll or two.

  22. Loathing

    Ruru: Won’t fit according to the trade machine…added McCallum n’ Meeks to make the salaries work and it seems to be WAY too lopsided for the two Cali teams to agree to. Only way it happens is if D’Antoni convinces Kupchack that bringing STAT will bring back the old Suns with Kobe along for the ride. Uh-huh.

  23. Brian Cronin

    TGTBT, right? Rumor: Shump to Sac, Gasol and Isaiah Thomas to Knicks, Felton & Amare to LA.

    Seems like it. It’d be a great trade, though. Thomas is out of favor in Sacto for some reason, so maybe there’s something to it? Seems hard to believe that the Lakers would take on salary for 2014-15, though, especially when it is, you know, a washed-up STAT.

  24. ruruland

    A deal centered on Thomas/Shumpert with the Knicks unloading Felton and getting a big seems pretty good to me.

    Thomas/Prigs makes a lot of sense to me, and should for any of our resident 2 pg advocates.

    Honestly, I’m not sure the Knicks could do much better than Thomas (career 575 TS/22 usage and upward trending)

  25. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, I’m all for Thomas. Of course, the downside/irony/whatever of the situation is that Thomas is so similar to Lin who they let go of for nothing and now they’re possibly giving up Shump for a Lin replacement.

  26. ruruland

    Right now Thomas is playing at a 22/6 per 36 w/ a 593 TS. Defensive deficiencies aside, that’s top 5-10 caliber pg play.

  27. Zanzibar

    Seems hard to believe that the Lakers would take on salary for 2014-15, though, especially when it is, you know, a washed-up STAT.

    Unless some behind-the-scenes action is happening where both Amare and Nash take medical retirements and ride off into the sunset together. If I were Nash though, I’d lobby for a deal which sent me to Pacers for Granger if I had any juice left. Gasol may be too good and threatening their lottery pick.

  28. ruruland

    “Yeah, I’m all for Thomas. Of course, the downside/irony/whatever of the situation is that Thomas is so similar to Lin.”

    Similar, contract aside, Lin is a better defender/pnr ballhandler, while Thomas doesn’t have turnover problems and is pretty much an elite shot creator at this point.

  29. JK47

    Hard to see what the Lakers would like in that trade unless they think Amar’e can still play. Gasol’s contract expires this year and Amar’e’s runs through 2015– why commit to two years of Amar’e at this point? PG is a black hole for the Lakers right now, but it’s not like Felton solves that problem.

    Is there a salary cap implication of that trade that I’m not thinking about from the Lakers’ perspective? They only have $12M of salary committed for 2014-2015– most of that in the form of Steve Nash’s salary, and he may very well medically retire.

  30. Brian Cronin

    Don’t you just hate the weird biases in the league against certain types of players? Isaiah Thomas has been really good but he is so short that he gets no respect, even from his own team!

  31. flossy

    Hardaway has a usage above 20, which is what it takes to get respect on this team. Shump doesn’t chuck enough so he’s gonna get the boot.

    He just fits with the organizational culture you know?

  32. Brian Cronin

    Awesomely, the rest of the Atlantic just keep on losing. So the Knicks will actually be a game ahead of the first place team in the loss column after tonight’s Sixers’ loss. The Atlantic Division is hilarious. All five teams have lost at least their last two games.

  33. EB

    Everyone knows Shump has knee problems right? And that this is basketball? Might have something to do with wanting to trade him…

  34. yellowboy90

    If that means He can come to Ny then I all for it. I have been on the Thomas and Thompson wagon for a minute. I would hate to lose Shump but a rim finisher and three point shooter is what the Knicks desperately need. I would however start to play Murry more and more though during this time.

  35. flossy

    One thing that Jeremy Lin has that Isaiah Thomas never will is six additional inches of height. Can a 5′ 9″ guard really ever be anything but a defensive liability?

    Oh well. Still couldn’t be worse than Felton. I’d do a Felton/Shump for Isaiah Thomas/Jason “CAA Client” Thompson deal, probably.

  36. nyk8806

    Isaiah Thomas playing alongside THJ here would kind of be hilarious, but I don’t see that trade happening.

  37. JK47

    Well, Isaiah Thomas can put the ball into the basket at a far better rate than any guard on this roster, and he’s a low turnover player too. He may be a defensive liability but so is Felton; better a one-way player than a no-way player.

  38. DRed

    He just fits with the organizational
    culture you know?

    8 assists in 9 games. AND 11 rebounds. He’s like the perfect Knick.

  39. JK47

    Isaiah Thomas’ contract expires after this year though. Would the Knicks even be able to re-sign him or would it be a rental for the rest of the season? Because if that’s all it is, that seems like an incredibly shitty way to burn an asset.

  40. Owen

    We get Gasol for stat and all it costs is Shumpert?

    Just getting out from under Stat’s deal is a huge win right?

    Seems as pie in the sky as it gets.

    Joke?

  41. Brian Cronin

    saiah Thomas’ contract expires after this year though. Would the Knicks even be able to re-sign him or would it be a rental for the rest of the season? Because if that’s all it is, that seems like an incredibly shitty way to burn an asset.

    His Bird Rights would go with him in the trade, so they’d be able to exceed the cap to re-sign him.

  42. max fisher-cohen

    Stat’s contract is meaningless from the Knicks’ perspective as they’re still over the cap next year even without it. Unless Carmelo leaves… But if that happens, then the Knicks really have no choice but to rebuild (right?) so they probably wouldn’t care much about 2014 free agents. No premiere guy is going to come to NY to play alongside Felton, Bargnani and an aging Tyson Chandler.

    The trade would be a no-brainer for the Knicks. Shumpert may well turn into a good player, but even if he becomes a competent off the dribble player (finishing, passing, decision making), he’s still only going to be like $10m/year type guy — in other words, replaceable if the team truly intends to get under the cap in 2015.

    The only way the Knicks can unload Stoudemire for value is by taking on a longer term contract, in which case they could probably get a second useful asset alongside Stoudemire, but they’re going to kill the prospect of offering a max contract in 2015.

    My guess is the problem the Knicks are running into with Shumpert trades is that they have no expiring contracts to add to the pot to match salaries with older players. That’s probably the only reason why Faried became a target — the salaries match.

    As far as the possibility of a medical retirement for STAT goes, doesn’t he have to play fewer than 10 games this season in order to go off the books next year?

  43. ruruland

    Murray likely to get a lot of minutes on Tuesday and Felton will be held.

    There’s some promise with Murray imo ,like there was with Lin/Cope.

  44. ruruland

    Murray likely to get a lot of minutes on Tuesday and Felton will be held.

    There’s some promise with Murry imo ,like there was with Lin/Cope.

  45. Donnie Walsh

    Isiah Thomas is booed mercilessly every time he touches the ball at MSG. He must be shitting bricks right now…

  46. Donnie Walsh

    ps– Ruru, it’s great to have you here offering objective analysis. Your carmelo defense and constant positive spin grows tiring, but when you contribute like you have today there are few who can contribute as positively as meaningfully. I’ve been a critic of you and your mindset here, but when you’re on you’re on, and you’re game is top-notch when you’re discussing the league objectively.

  47. johnno

    @46 — Ruru mentioned the rumor in the 23rd comment and it took 23 more comments before someone mentioned the fact that the guy’s name is ISAIAH THOMAS!?!?! I don’t care how good a player he might be — it scares the hell out of me to have that name affiliated with the Knicks again.

  48. DRed

    Extra A is tiny, which I don’t like, but I suppose it’s not like we’d be losing defense swapping him in for Felton.

  49. Frank

    Funny how no one is really even talking about Bargnani as a problem anymore — and I guess the reason is, he’s NOT the problem. Obviously guard play is. Since Tyson’s been out, Bargnani is actually a net +11 points/100 poss. In other words, he needs to be playing more, not less.

    Felton and JR are the ones that are absolutely killing us. Seriously, what are either of them doing for us? Neither plays defense, and both have been horrific on the offensive end. I’d honestly rather have Melo shoot 45 shots a game than have Felton and JR shoot at this point.

    And Amare… poor Amare, who is a net -42 points/100 poss for the year. That’s basically like scoring on your own basket.

  50. DRed

    Since Tyson’s been out, Bargnani is actually a net +11 points/100 poss.

    poor Amare, who is a net -42 points/100 poss for the year

    I believe these points may be related.

  51. Owen

    Frank –

    Bargnani has been -14 since our second game against Charlotte. Relative to expectations set by his first week that’s a huge positive. But in the strict sense of the word he has not been a positive, I don’t think. Or am I missing something in the conversion to 100 possessions? Where did you get that number?

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