Knicks Not As Good As Their Record (Or Are They?)

The New York Knicks have defied the odds and now sit tied for 3rd in the Eastern Conference. The last time the Knicks finished the season 3rd or higher was in 1913 … err I mean 2013. That New York team lost in the second round to Indiana. For those two young to remember, coach Woodson decided that he would give the Pacers a fair chance to win the series by matching their slow-footed big men with the same. New York could have easily ran the Hoosiers off the court by going small, but then what example would that set for the children about sportsmanship?

While one might be tempted to start parsing the reasons for New York’s awesome start by identifying the players responsible, that puts the cart before the horse. Or as Woodson would say, the cart before three tall plodding mules. We should first ask are the Knicks really this good, or is this a mirage?

The most simple way to determine a team’s true strength is to look at their expected win-loss based on points scored (aka Pythagorean wins). Scientists in a laboratory that resembled their parents’ basement noticed that a team’s Pythagorean wins is the best predictor of team success from season to season. Hence it does a better job of showing a team’s true strength than actual wins. Although expected wins isn’t perfect, it scores much higher than the two other methods tested against it — “this is our year because we’re due” and “that’s what my cousin Lou says and he knows someone on the inside.”

Based on this year’s stats, the Knicks expected win-loss is 10-14, lower than their actual record of 14-10. So how can we explain this discrepancy? The first thing would be to look at a strength of schedule. However New York ranks 16th on that scale, in the middle of the pack. Next would be to look at close games, let’s say 3 points or less. The Knicks have played in 4 of these games, and have won all of them. They beat Detroit and Sacramento by 3, while edging Charlotte and Minnesota by 2. It’s unlikely that the Knicks will repeat their victories in close games at this rate, and is the primary reason Pythagoras is pessimistic on the New York’s current standing.

But to stop there would be incomplete. There is another factor weighing in — Cleveland. The Knicks have played the Cavs twice this year, despite not even being 1/3 the way through their schedule. The reigning champs have beaten New York mercilessly, totaling 243-182. Against non-Cleveland teams, New York’s expected win-loss rebounds to a more healthy 11-11. While this is a cherry-picking-pie-in-the-sky way of looking at things, it does give optimists hope that the Knicks aren’t as bad as their numbers would say.

Knicks Morning News (2016.12.12)

  • [ESPN] Monday’s Knicks News: Rose, Porzingis play big in win over Lakers
    (Monday, December 12, 2016 6:01:33 AM)

    Monday’s Knicks News: Rose, Porzingis play big in win over Lakers

  • [ESPN] Rose has 25 in return; ‘nothing wrong’ with back
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 2:15:01 PM)

    Rose has 25 in return; ‘nothing wrong’ with back

  • [NYDN] Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick Rose help Knicks edge Lakers, 118-112
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 8:54:37 PM)

    Phil Jackson’s greatest move as Knicks president was on full and incredible display at the Staples Center

  • [NYDN] Metta World Peace: Tension between Carmelo, Phil good for Knicks
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 12:20:19 PM)

    Metta World Peace understands Phil Jackson likes to motivate through criticism.

  • [NYDN] Phil Jackson warns Knicks to watch out for Lakers’ Lou Williams
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 11:46:49 AM)

    Phil Jackson gave the Knicks a warning for their game Sunday against the Lakers: watch out for Lou Williams.

  • [NYDN] Derrick Rose says he’ll be ready to go for Knicks vs. Lakers
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 10:39:28 AM)

    As expected, the Knicks will have Derrick Rose for Sunday night’s game against the Lakers in Los Angeles.

  • [NYPost] Porzingis busts out of slump with monstrous swatting display
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 7:07:54 PM)

    LOS ANGELES — Kristaps Porzingis’ star shined brightest in Hollywood on Sunday. In a spectacular two-way tour de force that ended his slump, Porzingis bashed the Lakers for 26 points, a career-high-tying seven blocks and 12 rebounds as the Knicks won their fourth straight road game, a 118-112 Staples Center victory. Team president Phil Jackson…

  • [NYPost] Phil Jackson already advising Lakers coach in possible sign of bolt
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 2:23:10 PM)

    LOS ANGELES — Is Phil Jackson already assuming the role of Lakers consultant? Lakers rookie head coach Luke Walton admits he’s been in contact with Jackson from time to time to get advice — including right after he got the job last spring and as recently as three weeks ago. Walton is one of Jackson’s…

  • [NYPost] Profane Metta World Peace: Carmelo-Phil feud what stuffy Knicks need
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 10:47:37 AM)

    LOS ANGELES – Lakers forward Metta World Peace believes the Carmelo Anthony-Phil Jackson verbal war was great for the Knicks franchise because he feels the Garden culture is “so tense” and needs “controversy.” World Peace said he loved that Anthony never “backed down’’ from the Zen Master. The always mercurial Queensbridge product played one season…

  • [NYTimes] The Bane of the N.B.A. Coach: The In-Game Interview
    (Monday, December 12, 2016 1:07:36 AM)

    The 15 to 20 stolen seconds between quarters is a high-wire act for reporters and a disdained distraction for coaches.

  • [NYTimes] Knicks 118, Lakers 112: With Derrick Rose Back on Court, Knicks Handle Depleted Lakers
    (Monday, December 12, 2016 5:55:57 AM)

    Rose returned after recovering from back spasms, and the Knicks jumped to an early lead and held off a tenacious opponent.

  • [SNY Knicks] Porzingis, Rose lead Knicks to 118-112 victory against Lakers
    (Monday, December 12, 2016 1:33:41 AM)

    Kristaps Porzingis had 26 points and 12 rebounds, Derrick Rose scored 25 in his return from injury and the New York Knicks held off the Los Angeles Lakers 118-112 Sunday night for their sixth win in seven games.

  • [SNY Knicks] Rose available, O’Quinn out for Sunday’s game vs. Lakers
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 8:18:39 PM)

    The Knicks (13-10) are off to their best start since a 54-win campaign in 2012-13 — the last season they made the playoffs. Coach Jeff Hornacek’s team will look to continue that momentum on Sunday when they take on the Lakers in Los Angeles in the second game of a five-game road trip.

  • [SNY Knicks] Jackson, Anthony clear air over differences
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 8:18:56 AM)

    Knicks team president Phil Jackson met with Carmelo Anthony this weekend, days after Jackson claimed Anthony was slowing down the team’s offense.

  • [SNY Knicks] Porzingis dealing with right knee ‘pinch’
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 8:07:45 AM)

    Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has been dealing with an issue in his right knee, which he has labeled as a “pinch.”

  • [NY Newsday] Kristaps Porzingis downplaying ‘pinch’ in knee
    (Monday, December 12, 2016 2:55:55 AM)

    LOS ANGELES — Kristaps Porzingis continues to downplay a right knee issue and said he’s not considering taking any games or practices off at this point.

  • [NY Newsday] Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick Rose lead Knicks over Lakers
    (Monday, December 12, 2016 2:51:04 AM)

    LOS ANGELES — Derrick Rose showed no effects from a back issue that kept him out of the previous two games, and Kristaps Porzingis didn’t play like someone dealing with knee pain. And the Knicks continued to roll.

  • [NY Newsday] Metta World Peace impressed with Carmelo Anthony’s handling of Phil Jackson’s comments
    (Sunday, December 11, 2016 7:59:00 PM)

    Metta World Peace has been keeping a close eye on the Knicks and what’s been going on between Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony.