2015 Preseason Keys: Part 3

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.

In part 1, I spoke about Derek Fisher’s importance to the 2015 season. And in part 2, I looked at Shumpert & Hardaway. In part 3, I want to explore the next big key to 2015: the defense.

I’m sure most Knicks fans will be interested how in the team’s offense fares. With Jackson pulling the strings, New York will run the inscrutable triangle offense. The media won’t be able to stop themselves from publishing every possible article they can which contain the words “triangle” especially if they can stuff the word “‘Melo” in there as well. Readers will hungrily lap up every word of it, fueling the cycle more-so. And while how Carmelo Anthony fits into the complex and share-happy system makes for a better soap opera than opposing points allowed per possession, the latter is far more important to the Knicks success in 2015.

Last year the Knicks finished 11th on offense and the year before the team was 3rd. On the other hand they finished 24th and 18th on defense. Had the ‘Bockers generated moderate results on defense, the Knicks would have been much more successful over the last 2 seasons. Woodson’s Knicks, with the except of the half-season where he relieved D’Antoni, appeared clueless on defense. Players switched assignments far too often, free throws were handed out like t-shirts during whistle breaks, and needlessly aggressive play led to easy baskets near the hoop. Woodson’s defensive schemes were so poor, that even Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler often looked like a shell of his former self*.

Coach Fisher spent the entirety of day one of training camp on defense. But a single day won’t be enough of a commitment to make this squad defensively competent. One positive is that at center, the Knicks have Samuel Dalembert, a player who could in theory fill Chandler’s shoes. Or at least the Chandler that most recently roamed the Knicks’ sidelines. With Dalembert, Knick fans will have to get used to more whistles, as Sam gets tagged with about 50% more fouls (4.7 pf/36 to 3.1 pf/36). Otherwise the blocks, steals, and rebounds are nearly the same.

At power forward, Fisher will likely have to choose between the toothless Amar’e Stoudemire, the clueless Andrea Bargnani, and the limited Travis Outlaw. At small forward will be Carmelo Anthony (pass). As for the Knicks’ new point guard I’ll let W. Scott Davis sum up Jose Calderon:

Calderon, for all his benefits on offense, is statistically on par with Felton on defense. His career defensive rating of 112 (to Felton’s 109) means he’s largely a hole on the other end of the court. This past season, the Mavericks ranked 22nd in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing opponents to post 105.9 points per 100 possessions. With Calderon on the floor, the Mavericks’ defensive rating fell to 108.2, and it jumped to 102.2 with him off the floor. Comparatively, the Knicks’ 106.5 defensive rating fell to 106.9 with Felton on the floor and was 106.1 with him off the floor.

On paper, the Knicks have little to no defensive ability at two positions, and an average defender (at best) at another. It will be an uphill fight for Fisher to make something with so little to work with. But there is a silver lining to this stormy cloud. The Knicks coach has at his disposal a potentially good defender in shooting guard Iman Shumpert. The athletic guard has all but laid blame for his (and the team’s) defensive struggles at the feet of ex-coach Mike Woodson. There’s no doubt that Shumpert could be a very good defender, and if his claims of management incompetency is what has held him back, then Iman’s play under Fisher might be a good litmus test of the Knicks coach’s defensive qualifications.

While getting the most out of Shumpert would be ideal, that’s just one part of Fisher’s job. Building a strong defense often requires all players to act in unison. Something as simple as one player failing to communicate, can result in an easy score. On the other hand, achieving an improvement on defense might be as simple as getting players to speak to each other.

This preseason, I’m looking at a number of indicators. What is the overall defensive scheme? Do the Knicks funnel penetrators to their center? Or are they guarding the paint and 3 point land, while giving up the mid-range shot? How do they handle picks? Can this team communicate and rotate? How do they balance between offensive rebounding and transition defense? How are they rebounding, especially at the smaller positions? Do they commit lots of fouls, and are they purposeful or irresponsible? Finally, how many easy shots are the Knicks giving up?

There’s little chance that the Knicks will have a good defense, but if they can eek out an average mark, that might be indicative of future success under Fisher.

* While some might attribute Chandler’s less than stellar play to injury or age, it’s also likely that Tyson looked less than celestial because of ALWAYSSWITCH!

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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).

41 thoughts to “2015 Preseason Keys: Part 3”

  1. I think the knicks ranked somewhere on the bottom 3 teams in transition defense if im not mistaken. The balance provided by the triangle on offense should help **a little** with that.

    on another note, how bout that new ESPN/Turner – NBA TV Deal. Triple the value of the old one from 930M to almost 3B? Sheesh.

  2. how bout that new ESPN/Turner – NBA TV Deal. Triple the value of the old one from 930M to almost 3B? Sheesh.

    Yet we shit on players for wanting more money.

  3. right. People are talking about the NBA phasing the increase in revenue in, and the one part of me says “why would the players union ever agree with that, since their money is linked to BRI which includes TV deals” ….but the League has so much power that I’m sure they have a way to do it. Just don’t know how.

  4. An article on the Knicks defense without mentioning Cole Aldrich, shot blocker extraordinaire, is like a flawless smile with one missing tooth.

  5. “Yet we shit on players for wanting more money.”
    A lot of us criticized Melo for not taking less money than he took but it’s pretty tough to say, “I realize that the Clippers just sold for $2 billion and the franchise that employs you is probably worth a whole lot more than the Clippers, and I realize that our TV revenue is going to at least double and probably triple in the next few years — and that doesn’t even include the revenue bonanza that we expect to receive from selling NBA paraphernalia worldwide over the next few years — and I realize that, if you had blown out your knee this past year we wouldn’t have hesitated to kick you to the curb, but, hey, you should be a good sport and sacrifice $50 million.”

    “why would the players union ever agree with that, since their money is linked to BRI which includes TV deals”
    I think one of the options under consideration is to phase the increase in the cap in starting a year earlier than the deal kicks in so that the cap doesn’t increase by $18 million in one year. I could see the union agreeing to a lower cap in 2016 in exchange for starting to increase the cap in 2015.

  6. I remember one article on Calderon’s defense when he was on Toronto that said everyone who plays against Calderon is basically playing like Steve Nash. This being written when Nash was in his prime under D’antoni.

  7. “An article on the Knicks defense without mentioning Cole Aldrich, shot blocker extraordinaire, is like a flawless smile with one missing tooth.”

    If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? No, if that tree is 7 feet tall and can defend & rebound, yet looks like a goofball.

  8. 1. New Media $$ means that Carmelo’s contract will not meaningfully restrict Knick’s ability to bid for free agents starting in the summer of 2016, at the latest.

    2. Union might agree to “smoothing” of the impact of the new media $$$ if that means adding to the salary cap for the summer of 2015, so that there is not a huge discontinuity from summer 2015 (projected $66 million cap) to summer 2016 (projected $81 million cap). Might be best for both sides to have:

    2015 – $70 million
    2016 – $77 million
    2017 – $81 million (if there is not a strike/lockout).

  9. do we officially think when Phil said “he cut us little break” (not exact quote but words to that effect re: melo’s deal) , this is what he was talking about? as opposed to the couple bucks he left on the negotiating table for his max? or nah

  10. Carmelo took essentially no raise for the 2015-16 season, which is the only year when the Knicks might feel the pinch from his max salary. He gets max raises for year thereafter, when the new media $$$ raises the ceiling to unprecedented levels.

  11. Yeah, I can easily see a scenario where they gradually raise the salary cap and just put the extra money in an escrow account that they pay to the players at the end of the year every year until they catch up to where the cap should be based on BRI (it’s the same basic set-up for when there ends up being more revenue than expected in a given season – they just put the overage into an escrow account and then divvy it up among all the players).

    I just find it hard to believe that the other owners are prepared to reward the Knicks, Nets and Lakers for their poor cap management by suddenly giving them extra max cap room spaces, particularly the Nets and Lakers (the Knicks at least have sort of planned for this).

    And so long as the players get the extra money somehow (which they would through the escrow account), I don’t see the Player’s Association fighting on the League on it. As someone noted (Zach Lowe?) I don’t think many players who signed extensions recently would be thrilled with the idea of their colleagues suddenly making $10 million more dollars a year than them just because they were free agents at the “right” time, so it should be simple to get the union to agree to it.

  12. Pro tip: When you have a guy in the middle of shooting 23-35, you don’t want that guy passing the basketball. Otherwise, solid enough article.

  13. One other CBA note. The player share of the BRI (basketball related income) will go from 50% to 51% based upon the amount by which revenues are going to exceed projections. That means the players will get an even bigger slice of an even bigger pie.

    In short, unless there is a lockout where the NBA completely routs the NBPA, expect to see $90 million salary cap in the next four years. Carmelo Anthony may (or may not) be a cornerstone player, but his contract is not going to preclude the Knicks from bringing in other stars.

  14. “do we officially think when Phil said “he cut us little break” (not exact quote but words to that effect re: melo’s deal) , this is what he was talking about?”
    There’s another way to look at it that Melo eluded to recently — he could have insisted on a two year deal and become a free agent again when the cap (and max salaries) shoots up like LBJ did.
    “An article on the Knicks defense without mentioning Cole Aldrich, shot blocker extraordinaire, is like a flawless smile with one missing tooth.”
    I like the missing tooth analogy when you are talking about Cole.
    “Pro tip: When you have a guy in the middle of shooting 23-35, you don’t want that guy passing the basketball. Otherwise, solid enough article.”
    I may be misremembering, but wasn’t there one basket near the end of the first half on which Melo should have gotten an assist but got screwed by the scorekeeper? If so, his line should have been 62 points and 1 assist, not 62/0.

  15. its so funny to me that a SF/PF who put up a 62 point 13 rebound game gets criticized for no assists, whereas a guard would have been praised for a 62 point 13 assist 0 rebound game……just weird.

  16. I just find it hard to believe that the other owners are prepared to reward the Knicks, Nets and Lakers for their poor cap management by suddenly giving them extra max cap room spaces, particularly the Nets and Lakers (the Knicks at least have sort of planned for this).

    I would agree, but there are many owners who would be willing to bail out the Knicks if it meant that there overall value of their franchise is going up. Not all of the owners are in it for championships.

  17. Just thank god Dolan has Phil around during this period of salary cap expansion. This could really alter the NBA landscape.

  18. “I just find it hard to believe that the other owners are prepared to reward the Knicks, Nets and Lakers for their poor cap management by suddenly giving them extra max cap room spaces, particularly the Nets and Lakers (the Knicks at least have sort of planned for this). ”

    God forbid the league throw a bone to the teams that consistently spend money to try to win instead of heaping more lavish rewards on the teams that take a shit on our collective chest by tanking and making us watch NBDL quality teams on a nightly basis.

  19. “Carmelo Anthony may (or may not) be a cornerstone player, but his contract is not going to preclude the Knicks from bringing in other stars.”

    This could end up being at least the 3rd time in his career where he has fucked himself in the long term for the sake of getting the most he can get in the short term (the first time being getting a contract longer than LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, thus missing out on the FA bonanza that year; the second, of course, being the time he forced a trade to the Knicks instead of waiting for free agency).

  20. This could end up being at least the 3rd time in his career where he has fucked himself in the long term for the sake of getting the most he can get in the short term (the first time being getting a contract longer than LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, thus missing out on the FA bonanza that year; the second, of course, being the time he forced a trade to the Knicks instead of waiting for free agency).

    Which is truly ironic, because of all the stars/superstars around the league, he probably has one of the biggest reputations (deservedly? undeservedly?) of being “about the money.”

  21. God forbid the league throw a bone to the teams that consistently spend money to try to win instead of heaping more lavish rewards on the teams that take a shit on our collective chest by tanking and making us watch NBDL quality teams on a nightly basis.

    Yeah, it is definitely penny smart/pound foolish of the small market owners, but that’s how they’ve operated for years.

  22. Even more ironic, the one time he actually did look forward (i.e. the time he saw the lockout coming and wanted to lock in his max deal) he made the mistake that will end up defining his career for what turned out to be a negligible financial gain.

  23. I know what you’re saying, BC, and I wasn’t criticizing you for expressing that sentiment, just them for being so devoted to rewarding losing and making sure the big market teams have to operate with one hand tied behind their back.

  24. So teams will have a small window to figure out how to overpay players that much more until they are capped out. I mean, if guys like Parsons, Faried and Hayward can get 8-figure multi-year deals (not to mention Josh Smith, Bargnani, etc.) then what difference will it really make going forward?

  25. It only would make a difference if there’s a sudden leap in the cap. I do agree that once the new cap settles in, it will be business as usual. It’s just whether or not there’s a sudden increase. If there’s a sudden increase, that becomes huge for teams who otherwise have little room to work with, like the Knicks.

    But honestly, here’s a small concern I have with this as far as the Knicks go. Let’s say that it is a sudden increase (I would bet dollars to donuts it isn’t, but I suppose the new head of the Player’s Association might think that this is a great place for her to put her foot down and say, “Fuck off” to the owners if they ask the players for this favor, to show that she won’t be a pushover this time around when the players opt out of this deal in 2017) – the sudden increase wouldn’t be until 2016 at the earliest. That’s one year after the Knicks would have had their initial cap space. So will we see Jackson, in effect, punt on 2015, as well, to get max cap space for 2016 (when Durant is a free agent)? That would worry me a bit, as we’d be losing two years of Melo’s prime in that scenario.

  26. Every possible solution to this problem favors one team or another, or one player or another, so frankly I can’t understand why they don’t just proceed as planned, according to the rules they all agreed upon during that stupid lockout. LeBron, for instance, expected the league to play by the rules, and sacrificed a long term deal to capitalize. He’s supposed to be punished because it might be unfair to Kyrie if he only earns $17 million while Anthony Davis earns $25 million? I mean, any world in which Kyrie is even sniffing Anthony Davis’ salary is one which he should not be complaining about.

  27. “If the rookie scale remains the same, the draft becomes incrementally more valuable — and more painful for teams who blow picks.”

    Or traded three of them for Andrea Bargnani :(

  28. An article on the Knicks defense without mentioning Cole Aldrich, shot blocker extraordinaire, is like a flawless smile with one missing tooth.

    This right here is the line of the season. In fact, we can shut Knickerblogger down because it won’t get any better than that.

    I got a legitimate belly laugh from that one DRed, well done. I agree, of course, but it was funny all the same.

  29. Keep the lottery roughly as it is now. However, make all (or top 10, or whatever) #1 picks restricted free agents with max salaries of, say, $20 million for #1 pick, $18 for #2, and scaled downward, subject to all normal cap restrictions?

    My reasoning is this: the elephant in the room is the LeBrons, Shaqs and Duncans of the world, i.e. no-brainer franchise-altering players. At least make these teams take the cap hit. The killer is that tanking teams get to rebuild with rookie contracts, and then have room for UFAs to boot.

  30. Re: speeding up the game, in my current old man league, the rule is that all 2-shot shooting fouls before the last 2 minutes become a point plus 1 ft. If a player is fouled in the act on a 2 pointer, he gets the basket plus an additional point, no FTs necessary. If a player is fouled on a 3-pointer, he gets 2 points plus a shot. If the 3-pointer is made, he gets 4 points, no FT. In the last 2 minutes, all FTs are taken. Maybe in the NBA they can shoot all FTs for the last 6 minutes or so.

    Since the league average on FTs is over 70%, the impact of this kind of rule would not be as great, and would save a lot of time. All FTs taken before the last 6 minutes (or 5, or 2…) would be “live ball” FTs.

    I also think that for any defensive foul in the last 2 minutes that is a “shooting” foul, the offensive team can choose either to shoot both, or to take the ball out with no FTs. If the “steal” potential is too tempting, make it so that the offensive team can inbound to the backcourt, but defensive teams can’t cross midcourt to press until after the ball is possessed inbounds.

    (probably bad ideas but I’m just trying to kill time before tipoff Wednesday night!)

  31. I’m starting to truly believe KD ends up in New York. That $350 million dollar deal he just signed with Nike makes me believe that Nike would much rather have their huge investment in New York than Oklahoma City, so that’s a possible pressure on him to move, and Oklahoma City had already displayed their frugality by letting James Harden walk. This TV deal might make it harder for small market teams to offer guys those max deals that bigger market teams will be able to afford. I think Phil Jackson and New York will be too much for Kevin Durant to turn down. Well, I hope KD would want New York since he is an East Coast kid, and he’s Kevin Durant.

  32. I think the idea that Nike (or Adidas, for that matter) either cares what market their player is in or can steer a player towards a market is kind of bunk. Sure, it’s great for a marginal guy (I saw Iman Shumpert in a commercial, for instance, and I don’t think he gets that spot if he’s playing for Orlando). But Kevin Durant is never going to lack for exposure. And it didn’t stop Love and LeBron from going to Cleveland.

    And why would he even listen to Nike AFTER they gave him the $350 million? They already cut the check and are locked into cutting it no matter where he plays.

    And that doesn’t even touch on the fact that Melo & Durant are hardly complementary players.

  33. And that doesn’t even touch on the fact that Melo & Durant are hardly complementary players.

    I actually think they are a little bit. Kind of a high low tandem….

  34. Well, I wouldn’t complain if I were watching Durant and Melo together, that’s for sure.

    But I feel like they’d be like Wade & LeBron on offense (i.e. a lot of overlap, leading to inefficient use of talents). Of course, that worked out just fine for Wade & Lebron, but a large part of that is because they were so great and versatile on defense, which neither Melo nor Durant are.

  35. But Kevin Durant is never going to lack for exposure. And it didn’t stop Love and LeBron from going to Cleveland.

    This is exactly right. The idea that KD would lack for exposure just because he plays for OKC is old fashioned. My SO teaches high school in the Bronx – you know which teams her kids love? OKC and Miami. You can bet your bottom dollar that this year it will be OKC and Cleveland. Of course local media attention is a bonus, but it’s clearly no longer a prerequisite. Heck, Nike isn’t paying Durant $350M because he has the potential to be a media giant if he moves to a big market; they’re paying him because he already is that media giant, despite being stuck in OKC to date.

    The whole league is going to be queuing up for Durant (with the skyrocketing cap it might be literally almost the whole league that has a shot at him). Having Phil on our side is a big bonus, but lots of other teams will have their own tempting morsels to put in front of him. Good players, histories of success, his hometown, loyalty and so on and so forth. It’s way too soon to even attempt to try to read the tea leaves on that decision.

  36. More importantly, er, I feel like Durant wouldn’t see Melo as his ideal running mate.

    The team that could be frightening when the cap blows up is Philadelphia. I mean, they might be able to sign 2-3 max guys over two summers to add to MC-W, Embiid, Noels, and whoever the number 1 pick in this draft is.

    Is any team better poised to capitalize on a rising cap than they are? And isn’t that just fucking terrible?

  37. I don’t think Durant is “stuck” in Oklahoma. I think he likes it there, likes the franchise a and the people working there. Some players are comfortable in their own skin, and are happy wherever they are. Duncan. Nowitski. Reggie Miller. Stockton. Malone. These are all highly professional people who are loyal and secure in who they are. Durant seems to fit that mold too. (Same as LeBron, minus his little sabbatical).

    As things stand now, I think the salary cap can be $120 mil and the Knicks would look no more appealing to Kevin Durant. He’ll get that Supermax no matter what, from anyone he wants it from. It’s not ONLY the Knicks that look to have millions of found money that year.

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