Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

When Do We Get Our Title?

In short, if you mean when do the Knicks become a top five favorite to win a title, then the answer is probably not for a while. The main culprit, as my last article went to great lengths to illustrate, is Stoudemire’s contract. The construction of this team and Stoudemire’s own health have relegated him to a player best used for 15-20 MPG, and even as the most super duper sub in the league, he is still overpaid by at least $10 million. That $10 million would go a long way towards repairing New York’s bench.

New York has a lot more to worry about, too, than Stoudemire’s role and health or Shumpert’s compatibility. The team’s deep reliance on Kidd and Smith is dangerous as well, Kidd due to his his age (as our roster has illustrated, old guys can fall apart fast; also, Kidd recently hinted that he may retire at the end of the season), and Smith because the Knicks can only offer him a contract around $6m/year. With the vast improvements he’s shown in the last month especially,  Smith could see offers of $10+ million/year from up and coming teams like Washington or Detroit.

But if the team stays together and relatively healthy, I do think New York has a chance of becoming the sixth or seventh best team, a few spots up from their performance this year and a distinct second best team in the Eastern Conference, the kind of team that every 30 years or so catches a number of breaks and streaks to a championship.

Still, I spent the last two articles discussing concerns such as these. Instead, here are some things New York can do to help their chances in this season and beyond.

 

Start J.R. Smith

Our best lineup (again: Felton, Kidd, Smith, Anthony, Chandler) has played in 35 games but has only played 233 minutes together. That’s about 6.7 minutes in each game in which all five were healthy. Why? Because J.R. Smith, for some mysterious reason, has to be  our sixth man. Considering that just swapping one player out of those starters will almost always severely diminish our returns, this could possibly be the most costly mistake the Knicks have made all season, and when starting James White is on your list of mistakes, that’s quite an achievement.

For comparison, our initial starting lineup, which was never as good as the above lineup, not even when Ronnie Brewer was shooting like Jesus had taken a personal interest in him, played 211 minutes together in 18 games, or 11.7 MPG. Just getting our best lineup to that number would result in us outscoring opponents by about 1.8 more points a game. Free points, Mike Woodson: Do you want them?

 

Move Shumpert to the Bench

This isn’t so much an issue with Shumpert as it is a question of, “Who do you bench when you add Smith to the starting lineup?” As the only other decent wing defender on the roster, it has to be Shumpert. And remember, Shumpert isn’t playing starter minutes anyway. A move to the bench would not have to reduce his time on the floor.

You can also smile knowing that Shumpert has been a lot more effective shooting the ball with Stoudemire (56.1% TS%) than without (45.8% TS%). This difference is even more surprising when you remember that most of the minutes during which Stoudemire shared the floor with Shumpert were earlier in Shumpert’s recovery. Despite his better play of late, Shumpert’s shooting was still superior with STAT.

Shumpert may be benefiting from the fact that with Stoudemire as the offensive centerpiece, the initial attack occurs far closer to the rim, meaning Shump’s more likely to catch the ball with space to immediately shoot. A remarkable 82% of Stoudemire’s shots come within eight feet of the rim (for comparison, Shaq in his prime only took around 85% of his shots in that range). Even excluding Anthony’s threes, Melo takes only 44% of his shots in that same region, and as covered extensively already, the less pressure on Shumpert to replicate Kidd, Felton and Smith’s playmaking, the more he can help the team.

 

Take Full Advantage of Prigioni

The Knicks have a total of 144 minutes available at the wing slots. With Felton and Smith at around 36 each, and Shumpert and Kidd (ideally) at an average of 23 each, we get to a grand total of 118 minutes.

Who’s playing those other 26 minutes? Up until recently, the answer from Woodson’s perspective seems to have been, “First, we should run Kidd into the ground with extended minutes, and then let’s give those other minutes to, I don’t know… the shittiest players on our roster?”

Seriously, why when he had Prigioni waiting on the bench did Woodson bother experimenting with Chris Copeland, who seems to experience every defensive possession as though he’s Mike Conley in Chris Paul’s “The Disappearing Act” NBA ad, the generally incompetent James White, or Old Man Thomas?

You don’t have to dig deep to see that he has a positive impact on the team. His +/- per 48 +6.9 is tops on the roster by a significant margin, and if you’re looking for a reason as to why Prigioni has been so effective, you don’t have to look any further than Jason Kidd. Their numbers are remarkably similar.

I imagine Woodson’s fear is (or was — Woodson has started giving Prigioni a little burn) that the Knick defense would collapse with both Kidd and Prigioni on the floor, but, to put it mildly, I don’t see the logic of using Steve Novak instead, which is exactly what Woodson had been doing (quite effectively, in fact) during the bulk of Prigioni’s minutes.

Come on, Woodson, at least give the guy a chance to fail.

 

Outlook

First off, if J.R. Smith leaves this summer, the dream is dead.  The Knicks have been dependent on him all season as, along with Chandler, he’s the only guy who can be a plus on both ends of the floor. It’s already a huge challenge with Smith for the Knicks to put together balanced lineups. Without J.R., I wouldn’t be surprised to see New York earn a losing record next season, so if you’re listening Mr. Dolan — if any of you on the inside are listening — be nice to J.R., and maybe give him a speech about how awful it is to be as rich as — well — as rich as you are.

That said, if we assume Smith, Martin and Prigioni stay, there is the possibility of blue skies ahead. With a starting lineup of Felton, Kidd, Smith, Anthony and Chandler, and with Stoudemire, Prigioni and an improved Shumpert as the main players off the bench, I could see New York coalescing into the 53-55 win team management likely hoped they would be and distinct second best team in the East.

The main reason why is because they won’t have to play terrible players/lineups anymore, and more than anything, it’s been a few terrible lineups that have killed New York this season: The Brewer lineups after he fell apart, the lineups that featured Kurt Thomas or White, and the lineups with Shumpert sharing the floor with Anthony.

To illustrate how big an impact this can have, consider the fact that the Nets will go from 4th worst in the East last year to probably 3rd or 4th best this year. Sure, Joe Johnson is pretty good, but he’s not great, and while Lopez has been great (and healthy), he has done so at the expense of Kris Humphries.

The biggest reason they’re better though is this: Last year, Shelden Williams, an indifferent DeShawn Stevenson, Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar and Sundiata Gaines all played over 750 minutes each. Three of those guys aren’t even in the league this year and rest assured that Petro will be gone as well once his contract is up. This year, those minutes are going to Joe Johnson, C.J. Watson and a somewhat less indifferent Andray Blatche. In other words, they don’t have lineups (as the Knicks have had at times this year) that chronically annihilate leads and grow deficits.

With the atrocious White lineups, late-era Brewer lineups, and  Shumpert’s terrible compatibility issues/struggles for his first eight weeks, New York has played a number of truly awful lineups. Certainly not on the level of the 11/12 Nets but far more than most teams with records similar to theirs.

However, the major issue barring New York from becoming a legitimate part of title discussions (beyond the seemingly unbeatable Miami Heat) will remain Stoudemire’s contract because let’s be real about Stoudemire, shall we? When its best players are in, this team works great without STAT. It has shown signs of working great with him as well, but the bottom line is that it’s rarely greater with him, so who cares? If your car gets you to work, you don’t buy a second car just because it will get you to work too. The same is true for scoring power forwards.

What the Knicks need to truly become the top five team that we all want to believe they can be is a star guard; that guard doesn’t have to be Chris Paul, but he has to be better than any of the detritus New York is likely to haul in by casting Stoudemire out into the trade waters. If dangling Shumpert and our pick along with STAT could haul in a player like Paul Pierce, at that point, I wouldn’t blame you if you invested in some confetti. Otherwise though, your best investment will probably be in Eastern Conference Semifinals Bi-Champion pennants. They make those, right?

58 comments on “When Do We Get Our Title?

  1. flossy

    “If your car gets you to work, you don’t buy a second car just because it will get you to work too. The same is true for scoring power forwards.”

    Actually, Amar’e was originally the car that got us to work. We cashed out our retirement fund to buy another, similar, more reliable but slower version of the same car.

    Point being, I don’t understand all the bitching about Amar’e’s contract, I really don’t. Without him signing here, none of the other pieces of this puzzle would have fallen into place, so would we really have been better off? We’ve managed to go more than $20 million over the salary cap even *with* his contract on the books, so can you really say he is preventing the team from getting a better supporting cast? Why, because they’d be able to use the full MLE rather than the taxpayer’s mini MLE? I doubt it.

    Anyway, the answer to “when do we get our title?” is “not while LeBron has anything to say about it,” and that’s true regardless of whether Amar’e is on the books or not.

  2. flossy

    Also, if anyone wants to pay JR Smith $10+ million per year, they can have him. Love the guy, but not at that price.

  3. BigBlueAL

    “But if the team stays together and relatively healthy, I do think New York has a chance of becoming the sixth or seventh best team, a few spots up from their performance this year and a distinct second best team in the Eastern Conference, the kind of team that every 30 years or so catches a number of breaks and streaks to a championship.”

    Who says they arent the 6th or 7th best team in the NBA and 2nd best team in the East right now?? They are on pace to win 51 games (not far off from 53-55) and could finish 2nd in the East and 7th best record in the NBA.

    I know many will argue with this but the only teams I would make a clear favorite over the Knicks in a playoff series are the Heat, Spurs, OKC and Clippers. Denver too if they have homecourt which they would since they have a better record. Memphis and Indiana to me would be toss-ups and I would definitely take the Knicks over the Pacers especially if they have homecourt which is a strong possibility come this May.

    I agree with all your points but to me your best case scenario for next season could easily happen this season. Not having a healthy Amar’e makes it tougher unfortunately but I still fully believe the Knicks this season can/will make the conference finals and at least put up a decent fight vs the Heat. Of course they need a healthy Chandler come playoff time for this to happen.

  4. BigBlueAL

    BTW I get that the Knicks this season are 9th in the NBA in SRS and 3rd in the East. But Im not gonna use that stat to make me feel like they have no chance against the Pacers in the 2nd round. The difference between the Top 4 and the next 5 is significant which is why I said the Knicks are not in the class of Mia/SA/OKC/LAC but the next 5 are not separated by that much. The Nets are 11th behind the Lakers and they are both barely above average. Its a big dropoff from the Knicks at 9th to the rest of the above .500 teams.

    As a fan I believe (falsely at times lol) in hope and not being depressed because the numbers say the Knicks arent quite as good as the Pacers but its close enough and the fact is the Knicks could finish with the better record that I believe the Knicks will beat them in the 2nd round if that matchup occurs. Im not worried about the Knicks being better or as good as the Top 5 teams in the West statistically. Hell the Knicks swept the Spurs this season. I just know the Knicks record wise will finish either 2nd or 3rd in the East and either 7th or 8th overall. Not bad considering all the injuries they have had this season.

  5. steveoh

    When will the Knicks get their title? I think it’s the same for most upper-echelon teams in this day of age. Timing.

    1. Put yourself in position where your team is clicking on all cylinders and is as healthy as possible in April, May and June.

    2. AND THEN, hope that LeBron isn’t himself either physically or mentally. Because truthfully, we’re all living in his world right now.

    The Knicks just need to take care what they can handle – be healthy and gel. And that might not be enough.

  6. max fisher-cohen Post author

    Hey BBA, the same things that could happen next year could happen this year too. It’s just a tougher gamble with Stoudemire’s knee. I think the Knicks DO have a chance against the Pacers even without Stoudemire. If things go very well for New York, they could end up as good as the Nuggets. That’s what you’re saying, right? If so, then you’re also saying that right now, they’re not better, which is all I’m saying.

    Don’t forget that the Bulls should have Rose back next year. So yeah, I would say Miami, OKC, San Antonio are in a different tier, and then New York, with good fortune, could potentially join that second tier of LAC, a healthy Bulls team, Indiana, Denver, Memphis and the Clippers. We may disagree about where they rank among that group, but even if you say they’re the best of them, and I say they’re closer to the bottom, we don’t disagree by much.

    FOr the record, I for sure think NY has a chance against Indiana. With homecourt, even without Stoudemire, they might be a slight favorite.

  7. er

    so i wake up from my post work/pregame nap and what do i see…. Marc Gasol in Uniform and ready to play WTF?!?!?

  8. ruruland

    er:
    so i wake up from my post work/pregame nap and what do i see…. Marc Gasol in Uniform and ready to play WTF?!?!?

    Bring it.

  9. max fisher-cohen Post author

    By the way, if any of ya’ll get bored during a commercial or something, try building a Knick rotation where all these things are true:

    1) Stoudemire never plays center.
    2) Prigioni and/or Kidd is always on the floor, but Kidd plays fewer than 25 minutes.
    3) Stoudemire plays no more than 15 with Anthony.
    4) Egos are served (i.e. guys get the minutes THEY would think they deserve)
    5) The Knicks play stick to a 3 guard lineup as much as possible.

    It’s tough, and it gave me some sympathy for Woodson’s sometimes wonky rotations.

  10. massive

    Does anyone notice how unprepared and clueless the Knicks’ medical staff looks? They have the “this injury could be worse than we think” look on their faces.

  11. d-mar

    ruruland: Bring it.

    Memphis doing a reverse Knicks – saying a player is out for the season and then playing him (Gasol), as opposed to saying day to day and having the player out for a month (Chandler and others)

  12. maxwell_3g

    JR passing up that 3, then driving and ooping to k-mart brought a tear to my eye…maybe there is progress!!??

  13. massive

    Iman Shumpert’s hot start got Zach Randolph a spot on the bench. That is the type of player we’ll need in the post-season against the Boozer and David West types.

  14. maxwell_3g

    i dont know if there is a more ounchable face than the woodson confused face…..stop looking confused and say something!!!!!

  15. ruruland

    massive:
    Iman Shumpert’s hot start got Zach Randolph a spot on the bench. That is the type of player we’ll need in the post-season against the Boozer and David West types.

    You’re seeing a great burst from him, too. Not just open jumpers.

    If this is the Shumpert we have now, the Knicks need to start Melo at the 4 and force them to match-up.

    While Melo’s numbers are better at the three, this is the advantage if should provide, one that Landry Fields could never take advantage of last season.

  16. massive

    The Knicks need to do a better job of boxing out and keeping guys out of the back door. We’d be up by 20 right now if that was the case. Still, a good 1st quarter for the Knicks.

  17. d-mar

    I am digging this new version of JR, I know we all expect him to revert to taking jumpers one inch inside the 3 point line, but I honestly believe he’s a new man.

  18. massive

    d-mar:
    I am digging this new version of JR, I know we all expect him to revert to taking jumpers one inch inside the 3 point line, but I honestly believe he’s a new man.

    Same. You don’t stop doing something that has been giving you great results.

  19. maxwell_3g

    we need to step up the d. i love the way we are playing but i fear we are going to cool off eventually. call it a hunch

  20. ruruland

    d-mar:
    I am digging this new version of JR, I know we all expect him to revert to taking jumpers one inch inside the 3 point line, but I honestly believe he’s a new man.

    Sometimes guys figure it out. It’s not unprecedented.

  21. Justin Mrwik

    Where’s dogrufus to explain how this isn’t really happening and how the Knicks are mediocre at best?

  22. Garson

    Is it illegal to lock jr in a chair , tape his eyes open for a 48 hour period and play footage from the last 5 -6 games of him driving and shit selection?

  23. AnonymousODG

    Perused the article, I think JR is fine off the bench. He’s beginning to thrive on feeding off the opponents’ second unit. Melo is seemingly automatic from the get-go, but sometimes he needs 4-5 shot attempts to get going and having JR there simultaneously trying to get his groove would compromise that.

    Those two do not feed off of each other unless one or the other has relegated himself to jacking up high-percentage 3s off the open looks created by the other’s penetration/iso play. And let’s face it, every Knicks fan with half a brain does not want the Knicks to gamble the playoffs on being hot from the 3 pt-line.

    Obviously, I am not promoting that they should never be on the floor together, that’s just stupid. Just that JR off the bench is beginning to bear substantial fruit.

  24. maxwell_3g

    i would love to believe that jr gets it now, but there is the previous 8 years of people telling him the same things and him not getting that make me skeptical. plus, who would we have to complain about every game?

  25. dogrufus

    looks like we’re gearing up for a 2nd half collapse…. we’ll probably lose a squeaker

  26. ruruland

    maxwell_3g:
    i would love to believe that jr gets it now, but there is the previous 8 years of people telling him the same things and him not getting that make me skeptical.plus, who would we have to complain about every game?

    If this is comment is supposed to be some statement of summation on JR’s career I think you ‘ought to do a little research.

  27. d-mar

    Well, of course Memphis is missing…no one. They’re on the 2nd night of a back to back….no. They have nothing to play for……no.

    Any other explanations haters can come up with?

  28. maxwell_3g

    sometimes it seems that camby has no control over his arms. they just flail around wildly

  29. ruruland

    dogrufus:
    looks like we’re gearing up for a 2nd half collapse….we’ll probably lose a squeaker

    Self-parody is a step in the right direction.

  30. maxwell_3g

    ruruland: If this is comment is supposed to be some statement of summation on JR’s career I think you ‘ought to do a little research.

    seriously, do you ever have a clue???

  31. ruruland

    maxwell_3g: seriously, do you ever have a clue???

    Dude, you don’t know what you’re talking about re: JR. To say he’s always been told the same thing his whole career and hasn’t responded is simply wrong.

  32. domiknick

    That guy who played Michael Oher in “The Blind Side” is from the Bronx and this is his first time at MSG ever. Based off of our 1st half performance, I say Dolan should pony up and make sure he’s at EVERY Knicks game for now on.

  33. maxwell_3g

    ruruland: Dude, you don’t know what you’re talking about re: JR. To say he’s always been told the same thing his whole career and hasn’t responded is simply wrong.

    ok, Oh Great Enlightened One, what research do I “need” to do to back up my asertion (which everyone but you knows to be true because everyone else is not a contrarian/ cheerleader) that JR has failed to maximize his atletic ability over the years and has spent too much time a) dribbling in place, and b) launching 3 and long 2’s? please, All Knowing One, enlighten us on how JR, despite all of the videotape on him, his coach’s constant frustration, and his shooting percentage, has always been a reliable and efficient player that can be counted on……i’ll wait

  34. Justin Mrwik

    dogrufus: i was serious…

    There’s no way you could be this dumb. It’s just not humanly possible. Why follow a Knicks forum when you just continually root for the Knicks to fail? None of your predictions are even semi accurate Nd are just filled with hate.

  35. ruruland

    maxwell_3g: ok, Oh Great Enlightened One, what research do I “need” to do to back up my asertion (which everyone but you knows to be true because everyone else is not a contrarian/ cheerleader) that JR has failed to maximize his atletic ability over the years and has spent too much time a) dribbling in place, and b) launching 3 and long 2?s?please, All Knowing One, enlighten us on how JR, despite all of the videotape on him, his coach’s constant frustration, and his shooting percentage, has always been a reliable and efficient player that can be counted on……i’ll wait

    Well, for one, you’re saying a lot of things here. None of which really have to do with your original comment.

    First, JR has had extremely efficient seasons where he primarily played off the ball and in straight lines.

    And he actually has responded to new roles over his career, including this one.

    Under George Karl in 2009 they tried to turn JR into a point guard to relieve Chauncey Billups of full-time playmaking duties, which were causing breakdowns.

    JR did what he was asked but really struggled with it at first.

    It’s no coincidence that JR’s efficiency has plummeted since being asked to handle the ball more.

    And what you say about his tendency to dribble without moving and take tough jump shots when driving lanes are available is true, but it’s a relatively new issue when looking at the full scope of his career.

    You know, it took him three season and a trade to really figure out what it meant to be a serious NBA player.

    It may have taken him four seasons and a new team to really figure out how to maximize his abilities as primary ballhandler/shot creator.

    But there’s a dichotomy to JR’s career, one where he played primary off the ball, the other when he played on it. Two different players and sets of responsibilities.

  36. maxwell_3g

    ruruland: Well, for one, you’re saying a lot of things here. None of which really have to do with your original comment.

    First, JR has had extremely efficient seasons where he primarily played off the ball and in straight lines.

    And he actually has responded to new roles over his career, including this one.

    Under George Karl in 2009 they tried to turn JR into a point guard to relieve Chauncey Billups of full-time playmaking duties, which were causing breakdowns.

    JR did what he was asked but really struggled with it at first.

    It’s no coincidence that JR’s efficiency has plummeted since being asked to handle the ball more.

    And what you say about his tendency to dribble without moving and take tough jump shots when driving lanes are available is true, but it’s a relatively new issue when looking at the full scope of his career.

    You know, it took him three season and a trade to really figure out what it meant to be a serious NBA player.

    It may have taken him four seasons and a new team to really figure out how to maximize his abilities as primary ballhandler/shot creator.

    But there’s a dichotomy to JR’s career, one where he played primary off the ball, the other when he played on it. Two different players and sets of responsibilities.

    so it takes JR 3 and 4 years to “fugure things out”? look, i like the guy, but you seem to be grading him like hes a special ed student….hes always been capable, but hes has not put the work in, has not listened to coaches, and has been stubborn. he drove George Karl crazy before melo did. since its apparently taken almost a decade to figure out who he is as a player (at least how he can utilize his immense God given gifts), i’d like to see it for more than 2 weeks before i declare that he is a changed man. he is actually one of my 3 favorite knicks. believe me, im rooting…

  37. maxwell_3g

    and no ruru, that was not “research” that you provided. i would characterize it as asertions and commentary. but its all good. you are entitled to do that on this board. just remember that next time you demand “research” from others

  38. ruruland

    maxwell_3g:
    and no ruru, that was not “research” that you provided.i would characterize it as asertions and commentary.but its all good.you are entitled to do that on this board.just remember that next time you demand “research” from others

    I could provide references and footnotes if you’d like. I’m not making this stuff up. It’s all on the record.

  39. dogrufus

    Justin Mrwik: There’s no way you could be this dumb. It’s just not humanly possible. Why follow a Knicks forum when you just continually root for the Knicks to fail?None of your predictions are even semi accurate Nd are just filled with hate.

    I don’t root for them to fail, I just believe they will after 20 years of observation. I’d like them to win the championship.

    I never said I hated anyone.

  40. Z-man

    dogrufus: I don’t root for them to fail, I just believe they will after 20 years of observation.I’d like them to win the championship.

    I never said I hated anyone.

    No, you’re just a troll with nothing constructive to add to this site. You’re about as relevant as Owen’s nail clippings.

  41. dogrufus

    Z-man: No, you’re just a troll with nothing constructive to add to this site. You’re about as relevant as Owen’s nail clippings.

    And I’m the hateful one?

    My opinion that the Knicks are fatally flawed and have no hope of winning a ring is just as valid as yours. Sorry you don’t like it, but I’m not here to make you happy.

  42. Z-man

    I have no problem with this statement:
    “the Knicks are fatally flawed and have no hope of winning a ring”

    What I have a problem with is your utter lack of intelligent, thought provoking commentary. Again, Owen and THCJ feel the same way that you do, but have many interesting things to say. Your mindless drivel is tedious.

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