Our old friend, Chris Herring, is at SI.com now, and he has a nice piece up about the Knicks that, well, I dunno, man, I just needed something for a new thread since the Knicks don’t play again until Sunday.
What’s the next step for the formidable Knicks, both now and beyond this year?
For now just about everything starts with forward Julius Randle. He was a tornadic turnover machine last season, coughing up more miscues in one-on-one situations than any other volume scorer in the league. Yet after a tireless offseason, Randle’s been a completely different, All-NBA type player this year, averaging 32.2 points, 8.5 boards and 5.2 assists on 50.7% from three the past two and a half weeks.
The challenge here is that opposing teams likely won’t let him wreak havoc that way in a playoff series.
Yes, at times Randle calls his own number in the middle floor, where it’s tougher to double-team him. But clubs like the Celtics and Heat will send aggressive traps at him when he’s serving as a pick-and-roll ballhandler. Similarly, when Randle’s acting as the roll man, defenses will sell out on him and simply dare guard Elfrid Payton to shoot floaters, which he connects on just 38% of the time, according to Synergy.
Derrick Rose, who’s knocked down his wildly flat midrange jumpers at a career-best rate this year and created a bevy of “Kobe Assists,” presents one obvious way to get around the Payton problem.
More than anything, though, Randle—equal parts freight train and maestro—will have to let the game come to him if and when teams seek to force the ball out of his hands. That means trusting his teammates in the corner, where the Knicks have launched a greater share of triples than any other NBA team thus far.
“Knocking those down is crucial, because it makes the defense change what it’s doing. It’s a huge help to [Randle] and our team,” says second-year wing RJ Barrett, who’s enjoying a breakout season of his own.
New York was dead-last in the NBA, at 32.8% from three, when left wide open in January. The club ranked fourth in February at 42.9% on those shots. Then ranked eighth in March at 41.9%. No one’s been better than the Knicks in April, a month when they’ve hit 48.4% of their wide-open treys.
Lots more good stuff at the link. Go read it. Herring is great. And I adore that he used the term “Kobe assists.”
My one criticism is that he does one of those sort of, “I’m not saying, I’m just saying” bits at the end where he doesn’t really actually answer his own headline question as to what he thinks is next for the Knicks. It’s obviously one of the questions that has been dominating our mindspace for some time now, even as much as we’ve been enjoying the winning streak, “What comes next?” is an important question and it’s fascinating just how open-ended everything is. In a good way, I’d say, but I think there are some obvious pitfalls out there, and that’s what I would have liked to have seen Herring address a bit more. Still, it’s a good piece and it’s always nice to see the Knicks get praised in places like SI.com.