Roundtable: 5 Games, 3 Questions

With the Knicks just 5 games in, here’s 3 quick questions for our staff.

Right now the offense is ranked 10th & the defense 20th. Which number is more surprising?
Kurylo: The offense. Just look at the true shooting percentages of four of their starters: Carmelo Anthony (48.9%), Jose Calderon (37.9%), Kristaps Porzingis (49.2%), and Sasha Vujacic (37.8%). New York is doing well in the non-shooting factors, but unless these guys start hitting shots or get replaced by someone who is, I don’t see that number standing.

Lanza: The offense. How does a team that is middle of the pack in efficiency (18th in TS%) end up in the top-10? They’re getting a ton of extra possessions through fantastic offensive rebounding (3rd in the NBA!), but it’s difficult to look at the individual parts and make sense of it. And it’s not difficult to see a team starting a rookie big man, Sasha Vujacic, and Jose Calderon taking awhile to find its defensive identity.

Cronin: Definitely the offense. I think someone made a fascinating point about Lance Thomas’ early success in the first few games that I think sort of works as a statement on the team’s offense as a whole – he/they really don’t even look like they’re playing well, but somehow they keep finding themselves open under the basket and they score, even though no one can hit an outside shot at the moment.

Fisher-Cohen: Offense, unquestionably. I picked the offense to be better than the defense, but I didn’t expect a huge margin, and had I known Melo was going to look like an old man for four of the first five games, I may have switched my answer. At 51%, the Knicks’ TS% this season is almost identical to last year. The difference has been a reduction in turnovers and a huge increase in offensive rebounding rate. There’s also the fact that as a league, NBA offenses have been bad in the first five games. Last year, the Knicks’ 101.3 offensive efficiency rating would have placed them 23rd in the league.

Smtih: The offense, specifically off the bench. As impressed as I was by the Knicks bench running roughshod over the likes of Jorts, Toure’ Murry and Furkan Aldemir in the preseason, I wasn’t exactly counting on the same level of performance against legitimate NBA competition. Well, five games in, the Knicks’ bench is 2nd in the NBA in minutes played, 3rd in PPG, 3rd in OReb (thanks, Oaq!), 3rd in FG%, 2nd in 3 pt FG% (hi, Gallo), and 4th in made FTs. With all four non-Lopez starters almost exclusively jump shooters (and not particularly good ones right now as stated by Mike above), it’s Corona-on-the-beach refreshing to see the bench come in, be aggressive and get the type of open layups normally reserved for Knicks opponents.

Heather Rose: Offense. Carmelo has struggled with his shooting, Afflalo has yet to play a regular season game, and Calderon, Sasha, and Kristaps have all shot poorly to start. Yet, the Knicks are somehow 10th in the league in offensive rankings. I expected the defense to be much better than the offense, and honestly thought it would be the key to any chance for the Knicks to make the playoffs. Didn’t expect such a significant margin between the two but maybe this will change and translate to more wins.

Myles Ma: I was going to say defense for arguments’ sake, but yes, offense. It’s bananas that the Knicks are top 10 and it probably won’t last but SHUT UP. It’s amazing they’ve placed so high without, you know, actually shooting well, but I’m not surprised this squad this team is rebounding so well. RoLo has always been a good offensive rebounder (in fact he’s a little down so far this year in terms of ORB%), as has Melo for his position. I didn’t expect Kristaps “WORLDSTAR” Porzingis to be such a vacuum, but he makes the whole front line a threat on the glass.

Udwary: For a team full of guys who never really played together, a top 10 offense is way better than I would have even dared to imagine. That’s with Melo struggling, Calderon’s reanimated corpse getting major minutes along with Sasha freakin’ Vujacic. Looking ahead, it is highly unlikely Galloway and Lance Thomas continue scoring at all-NBA efficiency, but you have to expect Melo to pull out of his funk, Vujacic to get benched when Afflalo comes back, and Calderon to either improve, or sit. It’s just 5 games, but I feel pretty confident this team really can rank top 10 in offense by the end of the season.

Which young guard is more impressive: Jerian Grant or Langston Galloway?
Lanza: Galloway’s offensive numbers will regress soon, which is good (some of those layups have to start falling through) and bad (nobody’s a 65% 3PT shooter in 3.5 attempts per game), which will give us a better idea of who he is going forward. Even so, one can’t help but be impressed with his extreme 3&D play thus far. Grant is quietly flashing some strong traditional PG skills, though.

Cronin: It’s a tough question, because the way that the NBA works, a year of professional development and a year of actual age is actually pretty huge, so the fact that Galloway is roughly a year older than Grant (December 1991 birthday for Galloway, October 1922 birthday for Grant) and has a full NBA season on him means a lot. Therefore, I am tenuously saying that Grant’s progression as a rookie impresses me more than Galloway’s strong progression as a sophomore. But that belief is extremely tenuous, as Galloway has certainly been quite great.

Fisher-Cohen: Galloway is just flat out shooting the lights out at a completely unsustainable rate. If we’re talking, “Whose play has made me most optimistic for the future?,” probably Grant, who has shown creativity around the basket and good court vision. If he can develop a jump shot, he’ll be a very good player. Galloway’s lack of quickness with the ball gives him a much lower ceiling.

Smtih: I’ll say Grant only because we knew (hoped?) from last year that Galloway is an NBA-caliber player. At 6’4, Jerian has immediately displayed the poise and skills of an NBA starting point guard with a team-leading 22.9 AST% and a team-leading 36% of his field goal attempts inside 3 feet, including a number of beautifully executed double-clutch layups. Who is the last non Vaseline-eating Knicks point guard who could actually get to the rim and finish?

Heather Rose: Galloway without a doubt. I’ve been begging for him to be inserted into the starting lineup because he takes care of the ball, shoots well from outside, can get to the rim/push the ball in transition, and he’s a very active defender. If Galloway started with Afflalo, Melo, Porzingis, and Lopez, you have shooters at virtually every position around Melo, long defenders, and rebounders all over the floor. Calderon is better off the bench and his minutes can be shared with Sasha. They instantly would fill the role of shooters off the bench, who really don’t get extended minutes.

Myles Ma: Galloway, as I have written. He’s still shooting 65% from three, and that is totally sustainable and will last forever. Even if it doesn’t, he takes care of the ball and has that “poise” thing attributed to every Jets quarterback since Joe Namath. Let’s hope he doesn’t turn out like any of those guys.

Udwary: Galloway, all the way! He’s the team’s best perimeter defender (not saying much, but he is still really good!) and is scoring with ridiculous efficiency. Grant is great at getting penetration and breaking down the defense, but the guy needs to make a layup every once in awhile! Both have definitely been impressive, though. It’s great to watch young players who have upside again!

Kurylo: I’m going to say Grant. Why? Langston’s outside shooting is a bit fluky and propping up his numbers. And you’d expect a little more from Gallo than Grant given this is his second season. Jerian’s ts% is at 54.5%, he’s leading the team with 5.4 ast/36, and he’s third in steals at 1.9/36. I think that puts Grant slightly more ahead on the development curve.

(I know it’s not a question, just go with it.)

Kurylo: The offense and shot is supposed to be shaky at the age of 20. I’ve seen ‘Taps box out, block shots, and show impressive athleticism/instinct on a number of plays. You can’t teach those things, so that he has them already is a great sign. Imagine an NBA flop (I’ve got Eddy Curry in mind) and ask if they had these attributes would they have flamed out?

Lanza: Folk keep throwing out the comps to Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol, but how about a 7’3” Andrei Kirilenko? He’s incredibly athletic, and a surprisingly smart ballhawk. Once he learns to set his feet and stand his ground, he could be special defensively. And the shots may not be falling yet, but his form is so pretty.

Cronin: His form really is so, so pretty. So you just sort of presume that the three-point shot will eventually follow. It does sort of surprise me that it hasn’t happened yet, but again, it is such a good form that it just has to happen, right? Otherwise, he clearly has been told what his weaknesses are and he’s busting his ass to address them, which is sadly a significant improvement over a good chunk of first round draft picks in the NBA. So that’s great and really wonderful to see.

Fisher-Cohen: He’s really exciting. He’s gonna burn himself all season long with rookie mistakes, but long term, he looks like he has a good chance to be an All-Star. The thing that has impressed me most is his smoothness inside 12’. Even when he’s on the move, he is adept at staying balanced and shooting the ball with touch. Of my worries about the team, Porzingis may rank last.

Smtih: KP can flat-out play. As he gets stronger and gets his legs used to the pace of the NBA game, more of those threes will inch over the front rim and into the hoop. He shows heart bodying up in the post on defense and on the boards; I loved the post-tip dunk scream… this kid is no Bargs/Ivan Drago robot. Every young big has foul issues, but I’ll be the one to mention the other serious negative: the kid’s hands remind me of Ted Ginn in overtime. Rebounds bouncing off his hands, loose balls getting snatched from his grasp (did anyone notice that the opening tip-out last night was almost taken right out of his hands?). Hopefully it’s nothing some added strength over time won’t solve, but it’s my one thing to nitpick.

Kurylo: Pumpkins!

Heather Rose: I’ve been very impressed with Porzingis. His effort to rebound the ball is what impresses me the most. He and Lopez go after every rebound, whether offensive or defensive. While he certainly needs to get the foul rate down (6.8/36 minutes!), I love his versatility offensively and he’s virtually always challenging shots at the rim. What concerns me thus far other than the fouls, he tends to be slow getting out to stretch 4’s and 5’s, giving them a clean look at the basket. If he can develop a habit of closing out harder against stretch bigs, he’ll have a greater impact defensively as his foot speed and length allow him to make up ground when bigs put the ball on the floor.

Myles Ma: 1) I did not expect him to be such a disruptive defender. 2) He looks like Ivan Drago. 3) Yelling WORLDSTAR when he dunks is the best thing I’m doing right now. 4) He needs a better nickname. “Zinger” is not good. KP is boring. 5) WORLDSTAAAR

Udwary: He fouled out in the time it took me to finish this sentence. It’s kind of scary that the kid already looks like the best player on the court for long stretches of games, but he has to stay on the court! One last thing, Porzingis TS% after 5 games: 0.492, Wilt Chamberlain TS% as a rookie: 0.493. PORZINGIS WILL BE AS GOOD OR BETTER THAN WILT!!!!!!!!!! Also, I’m with Myles Ma, I’m not sold on any of the nicknames.

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