2015 Preseason Keys: Part 1

Although the NBA preseason games are officially meaningless, they contain indicators that may reveal what the regular season will be like. With the Knicks’ first game coming soon (October 8th), the good folks here at KnickerBlogger have put together a guide for the keys to watch for.

The Knicks offseason contained a number of impactful moves. Perhaps swapping defensive robot Tyson Chandler for bombardero extraordinario Jose Calderon will have the biggest impact on the court. Perhaps one of the bevvy of 20ish Knicks like Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., Cleanthony Early, Shane Larkin, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, or Cole Aldrich (he’s still only 25!) might become an impact player in ’15. However I think the biggest change won’t occur from the roster, but rather the bench.

Derek Fisher accepted the Knicks job this summer, albeit he was not the Knicks’ first choice. After Steve Kerr apparently declined the offer — because the Knicks — Jackson settled on the next available reliable former guard. With either choice the Knicks would have been depending on an unknown quantity to lead their team. While Kerr has been a television analyst and former general manager, Fisher is a bit less experienced wearing a suit. He spent last year in a Thunder jersey.

Unlike hiring a seasoned commander, no one knows what Fisher’s tendencies are. The previous two Knick coaches, D’Antoni and Woodson, each had their own style and it was predictable what the team would look like under them. So to figure out exactly who Derek Fisher is, there are a few things to key in on.

The first is what style does he play? While it’s unlikely the Knicks will take the warmup games too seriously & some veterans will see more bench time than usual, there are other aspects to judge. One aspect I’ll be looking at his pace and lineup formations. D’Antoni was noted for his small lineups and quick shots, while Woodson loved putting in as many 6-9 or taller players because bigger is always better (BIG EAST!). So does Fisher let his guys run, or does he prefer to hold the ball and look for the open shot? Will he play big or small? What kind of combinations does he like? Will he put out offensive or defensive heavy combinations?

The second thing to keep an eye out for is his play design. Under the last 2 coaches, the Knicks struggled to convert after timeouts (ATOs). Is Coach Fisher capable with the Sharpie and Dry Erase? What kind of plays does he use? Is he creative or does he play it straight? Most importantly, are the players getting open shots?

Third, what is Fisher’s demeanor during games? Is he demonstrative? Does he hold players accountable? If a player takes poor shots (*cough* J.R. Smith *cough*) or makes boneheaded defensive plays (*cough* Bargnani *cough*) does he light a fire under their seats? Does he try to control the game with timeouts during runs, or does he adopt Jackson’s Zen-like attitude of “the universe will work itself out, man”?

Finally, how does the new Knick coach handle the pressure of decision making in the final minutes? Does he keep track of his timeouts and use them wisely? Does he do proper offensive and defensive substitutions?

My philosophy on NBA coaches is that the great ones who can add a few to the win column are few and far in between. It’s far more likely to have a coach that will cost a team a few wins through his own inept bumbling. The rest are average who bring the same number of strengths and weaknesses to the table. If Fisher lands in the second group, the 2015 Knicks’ season is going to be a long one.

Liked it? Take a second to support Mike Kurylo on Patreon!

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).

43 thoughts to “2015 Preseason Keys: Part 1”

  1. On the optimistic side, coach Fish can significantly improve the Knicks win total by just not being an inept bumbler.

  2. The knicks best off season move was acquiring a guy I always disliked – Derek Fisher.
    Getting rid of one the games better big men that was exasperated with Woodson’s idiotic schemes mired in a losing culture, and acquiring a good second string PG that they’re going to start, are not going to ad any W’s. But, firing Woodson is good for about ten games.
    Steve Kerr’s rejection was a blessing. I could see him having serious relationship and communication issues with this team, especially with Carmelo when they had opposing ideas.
    But, in spite of his dearth of coaching experience, I got a gut feeling Derek Fisher is the perfect guy for the job. Great people person, positive energy, smart, experienced baller, rings, knows the triangle, and a PJ insider.
    Can’t wait for this season to start.

  3. It’s going to be a conflicted season. We actually have our draft pick this year, so getting into the lottery wouldn’t be a bad thing, but it would be nice to see improvement from last year’s dumpster fire, which would likely mean playoffs. I guess I’ll just sit back and enjoy, and be happy with either result, and look forward to the end of the Bargnani era.

  4. It would be interesting to have advanced stats for coaches. Perhaps there could be close game ability, which might be actual wins minus pythagorean wins. And there could be a calculation of the actual number of wins for a season compared to preseason projections by systems like SCHOENE and Wages of Wins. Or you could compare actual player production to previous trend lines for that player. For example, team true shooting percentage compared to the weighted average of each player’s previous year’s value. Any other suggestions?

  5. Here’s a decent article from a while back from the WOW folk. Phil Jackson is one of the few coaches to both positively impact players production, and is consistent in giving the most minutes to his best players. It remains to be seen if this carries over to his current role, but it can’t hurt, right?

  6. It is a good article. Thanks for pointing it out. It’s interesting that Isiah had a both a positive impact on players by coming to the team and a positive impact by leaving the team. I think he started well, but maybe the scandal meant he really lost the team and it needed a change.

    The graphs and such below the player improvement section confuse me. I think he’s basically suggesting that coaches who don’t give out minutes in proportion to their WP stat are bad coaches. But we all have seen situations where players with great WP have limited roles and probably should have limited roles, for example, Landry Fields. One has to believe 100% in WP as the only statistic to trust this analysis. I’d like to see something better. For example, two seasons ago, I felt it completely unreasonable that Ujiri got GM of the year and Karl got coach of the year for the same team in the same season. Either the players were better than expected, in which case perhaps Ujiri deserved the award, or Karl made silk out of a sow’s ear, in which the Karl deserved the award. It’s hard to believe both were true. Without advanced coaching stats, it’s hard to tell which was the case.

    What I do believe about the first part of the analysis is that there are few coaches who long term are anything but replacement level coaches. They get results roughly in line with the players they have. I’m hoping Fisher is better (or Jackson’s ability makes Fisher better), but I am not expecting it.

  7. An interesting comparison would be to see how Riley influenced Spoelstra. Did he turn out to be better than average as a coach?

    I think Fisher will have an overall positive impact though certainly not on the level of Jackson Riley Pop.

  8. It’s very hard to suss out coaching from the actual ability of the players on the floor. Say last year the Knicks have a close game, and at the very end Mike Woodson goes bonkers, draws up an actual play that’s not you 4 stand over here and give the ball to Melo over there, and the Knicks execute it correctly and win the game at the buzzer. All props due to MW? But what if Woodson played Bargnani 37 minutes in that game, despite having significantly better options sitting on the bench? A good coach might have played different guys and won comfortably.

  9. It appears from early training camp readings that Fisher is focusing on defense, therefore the questions might be who works best in the middle and does he potentially sacrifice “O” for “D”. I think a starting line-up of Jose, Shump, ‘Melo, Smith and Aldrich might be the best combo. Aldrich is a nice “off the ball” defender and can protect the rim, while providing decent around the basket “put back” offense. Jose, Melo and Smith can work outside in the triangle and Shump is the “lock down” defender. Of course, that puts Amare, Bargs, JR and TJH on the 2nd team and that could be scary, although offensively they may be off the charts. A question might be does he “feature” Amare or Bargs early as a trading chip possibility, particularly if Amare proves to be healthy. This will be a watchable season no matter which way it breaks.

  10. Featuring Bargs or Amare early in an effort to inflate their trade value would be an interesting indication that they’re punting on this season.

  11. Fisher has his work cut out for him.

    I think we all know the 15 players going into the season. Who are the 10 in the rotation and who gets left out? The attitude of the 5 that ride the pine and how he deals with them is the first big issue he has to deal with. NBA players value their self-worth by minutes played.

    He can’t be a worse coach than Woodson (DRed, props on the best description of a Woodson offense: Melo plus 4). The question I have is how does he handle the media and the pressure after a loss?

    There’s no doubt in my mind that Bargs and Amare are getting lots of minutes. I want to see how he influences their game at both ends of the floor. I hope that Aldrich gets minutes but I sense he’s on the bubble to be in the rotation.

  12. Now that we’ve all agreed that our max player needs to have his stats inflated so we can unload him as an expiring contract, my 2010 prophecy has come to fruition.

    Amar’e was a bad signing. Bad.

    As usual — QED.

  13. @10 – We closed out last year 16-6 with Amare starting and playing 25 to 30 minutes a night. So how does featuring him indicate that we’re punting the season?

  14. @13

    We actually closed out the year 18-18 once Amar’e stopped being injured. Is there’s a reason you left out the 2-11 stretch before the final 22 games? Because he played those games too.

    j/c

  15. Steve Kerr’s rejection was a blessing. I could see him having serious relationship and communication issues with this team, especially with Carmelo when they had opposing ideas.
    But, in spite of his dearth of coaching experience, I got a gut feeling Derek Fisher is the perfect guy for the job. Great people person, positive energy, smart, experienced baller, rings, knows the triangle, and a PJ insider.

    I’m curious, what trait does Fisher have that Kerr lacks so much that it would lead you to believe Fisher can communicate better with the team and Carmelo in particular? Because they both share all the ones you stated in bold.

  16. It’s going to be a conflicted season. We actually have our draft pick this year, so getting into the lottery wouldn’t be a bad thing, but it would be nice to see improvement from last year’s dumpster fire, which would likely mean playoffs. I guess I’ll just sit back and enjoy, and be happy with either result, and look forward to the end of the Bargnani era.

    In all seriousness, the best thing that can happen to us this year is Melo suffers a long but not career-threatening injury, like David Robinson suffered in 1997. If he broke his pinky toe, for instance, and needed to rest it 6 months, that would be perfect. It would save him the wear and tear of a season in which we have no chance of winning anything (which hopefully enhances his chances of being better in later years of this contract). It would give plenty of time to the young players. It would take all the pressure off Fisher (not that there’s a lot on him, but still). And it would ensure a quality pick in this year’s draft.

    That’s the dream. Exciting.

  17. We actually closed out the year 18-18 once Amar’e stopped being injured. Is there’s a reason you left out the 2-11 stretch before the final 22 games? Because he played those games too.

    It’s even worse since Amar’e skipped 4 of those games; the Knicks were 3-1 in them. So it was actually 15-17 post injury. Overall the Knicks were almost -7 pts per 100 poss when he was on the court last year. That’s about a 20 win team. I am very optimistic about the Fisher-Woodson gap, but you’ll probably have to squint to see it this year. I don’t think there’s a coach in history capable of turning this roster into a decent defensive team.

  18. Amare, during the stretches where he’s healthy and in the swing of things is still a tremendous offensive player. But what he giveth on offense, he taketh away on defense, especially on a team like the Knicks, where more often then not most of the other guys on the floor with him are also bad defenders. On a good defensive team you could certainly hide Amare in stretches and benefit from his offense, but it’s not easy for us to do that. So if we’re playing lots of Amare, and even more especially lots of Bargnani, we’re not going to win a lot.

  19. “…Kerr lacks so much that it would lead you to believe Fisher can communicate better with the team and Carmelo in particular.”

    Skin pigment.

    On the record topic, the Knicks have been below their pythagorean every year since 2008.

  20. Say what you will about Zeke, but when built a 23 win talent team, by golly he won 23 games with it.

  21. Say what you will about Zeke, but when built a 23 win talent team, by golly he won 23 games with it.

    Lmao

    I do think that Fisher is probably better suited to handling the scrutiny and pressure of the New York media than Kerr. That’s a complete judgment call, but I think Fisher is more prepared for handling that part of the Knicks’ head coaching job than Kerr would have been.

  22. @ 22. I agree. Something about Kerr reminds me of Dantoni in the sense that I could see him getting really frustrated and annoyed at players or with the media and Fisher just seems to carry himself with a calm vibe. Of course so far its been all been pretty easy stuff for him so we’ll see how he reacts when the Knicks lose 4 or 5 in a row and he’s getting blasted in the papers every morning.

  23. Kerr has been a General Manager. And a national broadcaster. What has Fisher done to make you think that he’d be better under the pressure of the NY media?

    As weird as it feels to agree with Ruruland, it does seem to me that the Fisher/Kerr comparisons going around here are, at root, based on race above all else…

  24. it does seem to me that the Fisher/Kerr comparisons going around here are, at root, based on race above all else…

    I tend to think it has more to do with one spurning us, so therefore we convince ourselves that he wouldn’t be very good (even though many of us, myself included, bought into the hype when we thought he would be the new coach), and the other is the one who became the coach so we want to believe he’ll be better because most Knick fans are eternal optimists.

    You kinda have to be to root for this team. Either that or a glutton for punishment/masochist.

  25. “Kerr has been a General Manager. And a national broadcaster. What has Fisher done to make you think that he’d be better under the pressure of the NY media?”

    At this stage it’s pretty speculative as to whether Fisher would handle the NY media pressure better than Kerr. However, what I think is a good indication as to Fishers potential ability to handle it would be his time as President of the Players Association. Held himself real well and presented well during the lock out. I know that doesn’t unequivocally endorse him to hold his own against the NY media, but I think he’s got the personality and temperament to handle. That said, Kerr is a very experienced media personality, so there’s probably an argument that he would do well too.

  26. “I’m curious, what trait does Fisher have that Kerr lacks so much that it would lead you to believe Fisher can communicate better with the team and Carmelo in particular? Because they both share all the ones you stated in bold.”
    The #1 trait I listed for Fisher! Kerr is not a “Great people person.” His personality is more stoic and abrasive than Fishers. And he’s not a ‘brother”.

    “Kerr has been a General Manager. And a national broadcaster.”
    What has that got to do with coaching?

    I never bought into the Kerr-sanity after the knicks made him an offer.

    “As weird as it feels to agree with Ruruland, it does seem to me that the Fisher/Kerr comparisons going around here are, at root, based on race above all else…”
    That doesn’t mean that those player biases don’t really exist. But anyway, it’s more than that.

  27. I can’t say I had a strong preference for either Kerr or Fisher. Kerr sounded decent in interviews, but his (alleged) drive to keep Klay for KLove doesn’t fill me with confidence that he knows what he’s doing. So maybe Fisher will be a pleasant surprise. Whichever one we wound up with, they were going to have one of the greatest coaches of all time watching over their shoulder, and given what we had last year that’s improvement enough for me this season.

  28. Is it just the popular thing to say, or do people here really believe Cole is a friggin beast and Amare is some loser that doesn’t deserve to be in the NBA?

    Based on the comments here, if you turned on a knicks game for the first time and they weren’t wearing names on their uniforms, you’d think Amare was Cole, and Cole was Amare.
    Amare was a beast down the stretch last year. He works as hard as anyone and continually modifies his game to adjust to the team (Melo). I’d be surprised if he didn’t pick up where he left off last year and shocked if he’s not in the starting lineup.

  29. Kerr has been a General Manager. And a national broadcaster. What has Fisher done to make you think that he’d be better under the pressure of the NY media?

    Being a GM in Phoenix and a national broadcaster for TNT isn’t remotely similar to being the head coach of the Knicks. If the Knicks traded a prime Marion for aging Shaq I’d love to see GM Steve Kerr answer those questions. GM’s also don’t have to talk to the press every single day like a head coach does in season.

    Being a national broadcaster isn’t really comparable to dealing with the media as a head coach. Kerr basically provided analysis of the games he was covering, while a head coach will be asked numerous questions about his strategy, players, substitution patterns, locker room conflict, player arrests, etc.

    However, what I think is a good indication as to Fishers potential ability to handle it would be his time as President of the Players Association. Held himself real well and presented well during the lock out

    This is exactly what I was thinking. His ability as president may be in question, but he was able to effectively handle the press.

    As weird as it feels to agree with Ruruland, it does seem to me that the Fisher/Kerr comparisons going around here are, at root, based on race above all else…

    Thinking that Fisher may be better than Kerr at handling the media has nothing to do with their race.

  30. I really do believe Cole is a more effective NBA player than Amare. If I had any faith in Amare’s ability to stay healthy and effective it would be a lot closer, but he just can’t seem to consistently play at a high level anymore. Amare was a beast on offense down the stretch last year, but the NBA season isn’t just down the stretch. Amare was a beast for like 20 games the season before that. Which was great, except for the other 62 games when he was useless or ineffective. If he’s not the worst defensive power forward in the NBA, it’s only because of Andrea Bargnani, he doesn’t pass, he is a mediocre rebounder and he doesn’t block shots or get steals. A guy who is great at one phase of the game for 20 games a season isn’t super valuable.

  31. I won’t address Cole in depth, because I may be the world’s biggest non-Aldrich Cole fan, but at a minimum, he’s a legit NBA rotation player who can be counted on to play a lot more minutes than Amare.

  32. “Anthony said at one point, centers Cole Aldrich and Samuel Dalembert were on the wings. “When you see that, you’re like, ‘What the hell are we doing?’ ” Anthony said.

    Carmelo says a lot of stupid shit, but I can’t say that he’s wrong this time.

  33. Is “the NY media pressure” still a live narrative? Is Mike Francesa really breathing down these guys necks??

  34. “Anthony said at one point, centers Cole Aldrich and Samuel Dalembert were on the wings. “When you see that, you’re like, ‘What the hell are we doing?’ ” Anthony said.

    Carmelo says a lot of stupid shit, but I can’t say that he’s wrong this time.

    DRed, where did this come from? Is this what Fisher is doing in practice or something?

  35. To be fair, Carmelo would say, “What the hell are we doing?” to anything that doesn’t involve him chucking a 20-footer while being double-teamed with 17 seconds left on the shotclock.

  36. It was Carmelo’s way of joking about the crazy player movement in the triangle. He went on to praise the offense. I just thought it was a good line.

  37. Yeah, it’s about how Fisher says that a lot of players’ roles are interchangeable in the offense, in the sense that it just requires, say, two big men period and not necessarily a power forward and a center, so you theoretically could see both Aldrich and Dalembart out there.

  38. Theoretically I’d like to see Cole and three of his identical quadruplets out there, plus a point guard to keep things balanced.

  39. Yeah, it’s about how Fisher says that a lot of players’ roles are interchangeable in the offense, in the sense that it just requires, say, two big men period and not necessarily a power forward and a center, so you theoretically could see both Aldrich and Dalembart out there.

    But hopefully never Amar’e and Bargnani.

  40. “Theoretically I’d like to see Cole and three of his identical quadruplets out there, plus a point guard to keep things balanced.”

    Stopp trippin’ yo.

Comments are closed.