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.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

20 thoughts to “What’s Wrong With the Knicks?”

  1. MIke – on the flip side, what’s right with the Knicks? (crickets)

    I read in one of the local papers that a longtime NBA scout said that the Knicks aren’t hustling and getting back on defense. That is incredibly alarming to me, but I guess I shouldn’t be suprised based on those abominable 1st quarters.

    Hahn talks about the Knicks getting Iverson. Before the season, I’d vote a resounding no, but now I’m not so sure. We need to somehow make this team respectable, and soon, and the man can still score. I understand the downside with him, but a 20 win season would be a complete disaster on many levels. Of course, if the Grizz would take back Jeffries, it’s a no-brainer.

  2. I would take that deal in a heartbeat, because the Knicks could cut Iverson with no cap implications for 2010. Memphis would have to include someone else (Steven Hunter?) and they can’t trade IVerson until Dec 15th. But the more important question is: are they that desperate? My magic 8-ball says all signs point to no.

  3. “Al Harrington is still refusing to pass the ball”

    Is there a “catch:pass” ratio stat? I would be awestruck if someone passes the ball less per touch than Al Harrington. Even Jamal kept his head up until he decided to let it fly.

    Ess Dog pointed this out last week as the main problem with the Knicks and since then I have come to agree. It’s a stupid way to play, even in a non “D’Antoni system”.

    Which brings me to my next question: Does D’Antoni even know what the D’Antoni system is?

  4. A version of the D’Antoni system looks pretty good back in Phoenix, but look at the remarkable mix of players:

    Need balanced, smart play? Nash, Grant Hill

    Need slashing, aggressive scoring? Stoudemire, Jason Richardson, Barbosa

    Need a big to hit threes? Frye is doing this so far.

    Need to make an open jumper? ALL of these guys can do that. (Maybe not Barbosa.)

    Do the Knicks have even one guy who could crack into that rotation? Gallo is an upgrade on Frye in most ways, but still….

    It seems like the Knicks can count on rebounding from Lee and possibly 3’s from Gallo. But, after that, each game is a total crap shoot, with the emphasis on crap so far. The only other established roles are: Duhon’s mediocre point, Chandler’s outside bricks, and a few crazy, arm-swinging, Jeffrightened minutes.

  5. What’s worse is if LeBron is serious about wanting to play for a winner, there is even less reason to think he or any self-respecting free agent would come here, making this whole routine a fiasco and dooming them for at least two more years. Like most everyone else who posts its only Lee and Gallo that are worth anything. Everyone else is perhaps leagues worst at their position JJ and Duhon, unproven the rooks or on the downside if there ever was an up Hughes and Harrington. Darko what can I say? Other than a few passes he has shown little to indicate he mertis major minutes (at least on a real tem). Utah must be laughing themselves silly knowing they have our pick.

  6. actually I think LeBron might relish the situation of basically being an assistant GM and getting to sign off on who is brought in around him, especially after the schmos Cleveland has surrounded him with for his career thus far.

  7. Jon, I have actually mentioned that LeBron could be the first player who engineered all facets of major NBA trade. He could approach DW and Ferry and say: I want to go to the Knicks but I don’t want to completely screw Cleveland and propose a deal that gets him to NY and gets him the most $$ through sign and trade using Curry’s contract so Cleveland has no long term $’s committed and can rebuild. Maybe throw in the Knicks ’12 first rounder and Jordan Hill or Chandler and get Nate to sign and trade as well.

    Basically, neither GM would be able to say no. Would be interesting.

    This Knicks team will lose 60 games. This is the worst of the teams of the last 5 years. D’Antoni can only coach good players.

  8. I think the “D’Antoni system” was really the “Steve Nash system”. Mike just put his name on it and headed to the bank.

  9. Unlike last year, the Knicks aren’t shooting well. Like last year, they don’t have a legitimate center out there defending the paint.

    I said it last year, and it remains true, 7SOL really is the alchemist’s dream. You can’t turn trash into treasure by running and gunning. The Knicks would be a lot better if they brought in an ugly, nasty rebounding center type and put him out there for 35 minutes per game, aesthetics be damned…

  10. “I think the “D’Antoni system” was really the “Steve Nash system”. Mike just put his name on it and headed to the bank.” – Z

    Come on Z. I know you are frustrated (so am I) but don’t go this far. Where was the “Steve Nash system” when he was in Dallas, a team that had a star (Dirk) and several very good players? And where were his MVP awards prior to Mike D? And where are they now, post Mike D? He’s still good, but the “Mike D system” made his an MVP caliber player. Period.

    My conclusion: Mike D is like Phil Jackson – they both can coach stars and can get the most out of talented teams. If your looking for coaches that can squeeze something out of nothing (and the Knicks have nothing right now), then you can look at guys like Jeff Van Gundy (squeezing out a finals appearance in ’99 from a Knicks team that had no business being there), Doc Rivers (getting a no-name team of reserves to win 41 games in 2000) and Nate McMillan (squeezing 52 wins out of the Sonics in 2005).

    If/when the star(s) arrive in 2010, you’ll love Mike D again.

  11. D’Antoni is looking and sounding a lot like Larry Brown circa 2005 these days.

    And Nash was pretty great in Dallas, won 60 games, made the WC finals– same results as the Suns. Plus, he’s putting up career numbers so far this year with Channing Frye replacing Dirk and Marion as his running mate…

  12. The revisionism gets kind of funny around here (and other forums) when the team is in the kind of funk it is. D’Antoni really had nothing to do with it! It was Nash! It was Colangelo! D’Antoni presumably just rolled out the ball and told his guys to run a few pick and rolls. He was a loser before he came to Phoenix and he’s a loser now. Fire the bum.

    I’m sure Terry Porter wishes the “Steve Nash system” kept him employed. For that matter, Gentry is implementing a lot of what he learned from D’Antoni’s system, and he has more talent to do it with than the guy he used to work under presently. Details, details.

    And please, no Larry Brown comparisons. That sort of stuff should be saved for the knuckledraggers at the Post. Unless a few of those commenters migrated here…hmmm…

  13. It’s as if before he came to the league, Harrington had only played 1 on 1 and had never even heard of 5 on 5 basketball. How do Mike and Donnie not see this? But as someone else said, how do you bench the “vocal leaders”? Better just to purge them. I was laughing at our Grant Hill attempt at the time, but now I see his leadership was sorely needed.

  14. Revisionism? I don’t want to fire him. i don’t think coaches matter all that much. But it is frustrating to see personnel decisions driven by the 7SOL system, rather than simply by looking for the best availabe players.

    Darko isn’t a great rebounder and to my eye he really isn’t a great defender. I will take him over Eddy Curry though. How about a guy like Shelden Williams who got a shot out on True Hoop today after strong play and who posted awesome college numbers. How about Louis Amundson. How about Ben Wallace. I bet we could roll out Joey Dorsey and get better. How about Chuck Hayes or Marcin Gortat?

    I don’t know, it’s not really the name of the guy that matters, it’s just the idea of finding the best players, putting them out there, and getting a coach to make it work and actually cares about defense…

  15. How is every decision driven by the 7SOL system? Darko and Jordan Hill look like they have Walsh’s imprint as much as D’Antoni’s. Harrington is a Walsh favorite, and actually doesn’t run particularly well (Crawford was arguably a better fit for the “system” if we play the ideology game). And the Knicks have passed on PGs and 3 point shooters that fit a certain stereotype of D’Antoni’s thinking, rightly or wrongly.

    The point is that people are now trying to tie certain questionable decisions/non-decisions to the visibility of the coach and broad perceptions of his philosophy (my favorite sighting over the summer: his tendency to favor “Euros”. Didn’t know he was a currency trader on the side).

    The coach is not remotely perfect, and he’s made mistakes, but the “system” isn’t as monolithic or one-dimensional as people think in either the type of player that plays for him, or the type of basketball that’s played.

  16. What exactly is the system? Letting Wilson Chandler shoot anytime, anywhere? Letting Al Harrington catch it, drop his head, and drive at will? Playing Duhon 55 minutes a game? Playing Lee exclusively at the 5 even though he can’t defend down there? Whatever it is, it’s not working.

    Besides, how is it revisionist to finger the coach for a 1-6 start in which most of the games the team trailed by 20 points, at home, on the road, to good teams, to bad teams… They were down 33 points in the first half to the Milwaukee Bucks!

    I am not saying “fire him”. But the title of this thread is “What’s wrong with the Knicks”, and a significant problem appears to be that D’Antoni’s inability to adjust his system (i.e. keep Harrington and Chandler from destroying the offense) is what has been wrong with the Knicks so far.

  17. First thing that jumps out from the 82games.com data is that they are actually +1.8 per 48 minutes that Lee is NOT on the court. Not what you’d expect, although I know a lot of that was compiled during that huge run against the Sixers when Harrington was playing like a man possessed and Lee was on the bench.

    Also check out the opposing PER for Hughes: a lowly 8.2. Only Chandler’s counterpart is within even 4 of that. It’s amazing that any position is that low for any sample of time against the Knicks, given how bad their team defense is.

    If you look at the most used lineups, the best ones always include Duhon, Hughes, and Gallo and then 2 of 3 of Chandler, Lee, and Harrington.

    Apparently the Knicks have a feva’ and the only prescription is more Larry Hughes.

  18. D’Antoni needs to dumb this system down a bit and maybe hire a defensive coach. Why not hire a John Starks or a Charles Oakley to teach this New York team how to play defense. Finally why are certain players playing when the game is on the line I don’t care how much money Mr Jeffries makes but he has no place being on the court in the last 5 minutes of a game when the game is close. Let’s play the young guys if this is a lost season so the hell with jeffries, harrington, curry, milicic, and huges.

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