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?
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.
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.