2017-18 Game Thread: Knicks vs. Hornets

Man, this is a really long homestand. I like homestands, but when they’re this long this early, it just makes you think, “Crap, they’re going to have some crazy stretches later in the year, aren’t they?”

Anyhow, the Knicks host the Charlotte Hornets in a big matchup in terms of figuring out how good this particular Knicks team is, or perhaps, most importantly, just how good is Frank Ntilikina on defense? We know he’s good and even if he does poorly tonight, he’ll likely continue to be good, but if he dominates Kemba Walker tonight? Then holy crap, that would be some amazing news.

The Knicks actually have a better SRS than the Hornets (they’re both negative, but a good win by the Knicks tonight would likely get them into positive SRS territory for the first time in…..well, quite a while), so this should hopefully be a win, but I’m more interested in seeing how Frank handles things tonight. Hopefully he kicks some ass.

Plus, of course, we saw KP get to 40, let’s see him hit 50. 😉

Let’s go, Knicks!

Knicks Improvement Due to Defense

This year the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis has been greeted by his adoring fans with chants of “MVP!” It’s not entirely without merit as Porzingis is second in the league’s most important MVP category — points per game. Realistically there’s little chance he’ll be among the top 5 this year, as LeBron James, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Russell Westbrook will likely surpass the Latvian in votes.

With 5 wins and 4 losses, the Knicks are out-performing all but the most optimistic expectations thus far. The common reason to explain the team’s improvement is the Unicorn’s scoring increase. Porzingis has managed to score 30 or more points in 7 of 9 games, and there’s no doubt that he’s filling the void left by Carmelo Anthony, and then some. And then some more. However, it’s not the offense that is propelling the Knicks, it’s the defense.

Last year New York was 18th on offense and 26th on defense. This year the team ranks 13th and 18th respectively. In other words the Knicks’ offense has seen a minor increase, while the defense has gone from awful to average. This begs the question: in what areas has the New York defense improved? To answer, we look at the four factors.

RAW eFG% TOV% DRB% FT/FGA
2018 0.507 13 77.7 0.228
2017 0.511 11.7 74.1 0.214
RANK eFG% TOV% DRB% FT/FGA
2018 14 24 14 22
2017 14 26 30 18

The Knicks are identical with regards to opposition shooting efficiency, and nearly identical in forcing turnovers and committing fouls. The big change is in defensive rebounding where they’ve gone from the league’s worst team to average. It seems odd that a single category is responsible for the turnaround, but the stats are crystal clear on the matter.

Assigning credit to an individual in a team endeavor is where the science breaks down. One could argue that Enes Kanter is the sole reason for the turnaround. He leads the team with 9.7 dreb/36, which is nearly a rebound more than last year’s leader (Hernangomez 9.0 dreb/36). With Kanter’s strong rebounding and his high minute count (he’s 4th on the team, where Hernangomez was 7th), it’s hard to argue with that logic.


via GIPHY

However Kanter isn’t the only improvement over last year. More than one Knick has improved on their rebounding rate, including Kyle O’Quinn (8.3 to 9.2 dreb/36), Lance Thomas (4.2 to 5.4 dreb/36), and Porzingis himself (6.1 to 6.9 dreb/36). So perhaps the credit belongs to the coaching staff for putting emphasis on preventing the other team from recouping their misses?

In any case while the 38 and 40 point outbursts are exciting, the Knicks wins are just as reliant on the often overlooked defensive rebound.

Knicks Morning News (2017.11.07)

  • [SNY Knicks] Kristaps Porzingis named Eastern Conference Player of the Week
    (Monday, November 06, 2017 3:46:15 PM)

    The 22-year-old scored a career-high 40 points while swatting six shots in the Knicks’ comeback win over the Pacers on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.

  • [SNY Knicks] Ntilikina shows glimpse to future in clutch performance against Pacers
    (Monday, November 06, 2017 10:30:50 AM)

    Knicks PG Frank Ntilikina saw his first clutch performance with the team, and he delivered in the 108-101 win over the Pacers.

  • [SNY Knicks] Porzingis comfortable being ‘that guy’ in career night against Pacers
    (Monday, November 06, 2017 9:50:35 AM)

    Knicks star F Kristaps Porzingis dropped a career-high 40 points in last night’s comeback win over the Pacers, 108-101.

  • [NYPost] The Knicks’ young studs are done waiting for the future
    (Monday, November 06, 2017 1:52:44 PM)

    The future may loom brighter than the sun. But the Knicks don’t seem to care. They are more right-here, right-now kind of guys. Why not? With 22-year-old, 7-foot-3 unicorn Kristaps Porzingis, 19-year-old Frank Ntilikina with his wingspan that rivals crosstown streets plus a couple of steadily improving 25-year-olds, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter, the…

  • [NYPost] The Knicks were dead — and they knew the spark they needed
    (Monday, November 06, 2017 11:19:14 AM)

    Lance Thomas saw it. He couldn’t miss it. No one could. The Knicks’ body language was somewhere between that of the title characters of “The Walking Dead” and the Knicks of recent seasons. So Thomas knew he needed to bring energy. He knew the place to start was on the defensive end. He approached Kristaps…

  • [NYDN] Kristaps Porzingis enjoying breakout season with Knicks
    (Monday, November 06, 2017 12:18:38 PM)

    A few hours after Kristaps Porzingis was again establishing himself as a go-to scorer, Carmelo Anthony was being thrown out of a game.

  • [NY Newsday] Kristaps Porzingis: ‘I’m just playing ball . . . and having fun’
    (Monday, November 06, 2017 8:41:47 PM)

    Kristaps Porzingis’ preseason goals of leading the Knicks to the playoffs, becoming an All-Star and winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards don’t seem as far-fetched now.

  • [NYTimes] On Pro Basketball: From the N.B.A., a Cautionary Tale on National Anthem Protests
    (Tuesday, November 07, 2017 2:43:01 AM)

    The highly visible players in the socially conscious league don’t need to kneel to get their message across. But would the league act if they did?

  • [NYTimes] Keeping Score: James Harden and Kristaps Porzingis Have Career Nights
    (Monday, November 06, 2017 4:36:36 PM)

    Harden scored 56 points and Porzingis had 40 on a weekend that began with a 57-point night by LeBron James.