Also Found @ TheKnicksWall.com: So Where Are We Now?

The Knicks have put together their most legitimate team this millennium, something I did not believe during the emotional tumult that was this summer’s free agency period. In the aftermath of what transpired, I believed we were doomed for another inconsistent 46 win team, refusing to believe in the predictions that this team could win 50 games or more. At the All-Star break, it appears that I was wrong.

Despite last night’s abysmal showing in a winnable division game against Toronto, the Knicks find themselves in a pretty good spot at the all-star break. With a .640% winning percentage through 50 games, the team is in a spot that I surely would have signed up for on Labor Day.

Could this team have done better? Probably, but there were also some games they had no business winning against very good teams that they could have lost. Conversely, there were some losses against poor competition.

There’s also the question of should this team attempt to upgrade its roster. This has been written about by numerous talented writers elsewhere, but not to be repetitive, yes I feel the Knicks should be seeking out deals if it means improving the team for this year and next.  A “final four” or Eastern Conference Finals berth is the goal here. If a deal can be made without further mortgaging the future (as in do not trade away draft picks) that improves the team, it should be made.

All in all, as we look to the home stretch of 32 games, it is the recent 6-4 stretch since Raymond Felton’s return from injury that has me worried and skeptical that the Knicks will continue to win at this rate, or reach 50 win. As a result, let’s take an in-depth look at the schedule and what it would take for the Knicks to finish 18-14, producing the first 50 win season since 2000 and most likely the first Atlantic Division Title since 1994.

Given that there are professionals with algorithms who project future sports results for a living, it’s important to note that Accuscore.com currently has the Knicks at 52-53 wins for the season while John Hollinger’s ESPN predictions show a final record of 51-31.

To wrap up February after the all-star break, the Knicks travel to Indiana, then to Toronto before hosting Philadelphia and the Warriors in the garden. Given the recent play of the Knicks and these opponents, I unfortunately think 2-2 is most likely here.

March comes in for a lion for the Knicks (schedule here: http://www.nba.com/knicks/schedule#3) and hopefully they don’t come out of it looking like a lamb. With 10 games against current playoff teams (and half of them on the road), the team could very well go 3-7 in that stretch. This coupled with a difficult west coast trip, as a fan right now I’m not confident that the Knicks will take care of business in all their winnable March games. Simply put going 9-9 in March would be an impressive feat. 

Luckily, New York can catch its collective breath in the season’s final ten contests. With six road games (two of which I’d call wins right now) and four MSG games that shouldn’t be lost, the Knicks can finish the year 6-4.

Unfortunately, looking at all 32 games together, that would make the team 49-33 for the year. That record combined with how there are six division contests left implies that winning the Atlantic is far from the lock it seemed two weeks ago. Time to settle in, it’s going to a bumpy ride and no coast to the finish line.

 

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For the Knicks, Sharing is Caring

The Knicks recent (or more like 1/2 the season to date really) struggles have been well documented elsewhere by a whole slew of very talented writers. The common theme’s been a lack of perimeter defense and a tendency to revert to a more iso-centric offense. Based upon some assist numbers, it’s certainly a problem.

In the 28 games where the Knicks have recorded at least 19 assists, their record is 23-5. Now, only 10 of those games were against teams that would currently be in the playoffs, but the Knicks are 8-2 in said games. Whether it was the first 10 games of the year or the most recent 10, when the ball moves and assists are recorded, the team wins. Only between games 30 and 40, when they played 5 games with 19+ assists, the team was just slightly above average (3-2 in that stretch).

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When recording less than 19 assists, the Knicks record is just 9-12. In those 21 games, 13 were played against teams who’d be in the playoffs if they started tomorrow (a record of only 4-9 in those games). Since January 1st, the Knicks have had 10 games where they recorded less than 19 assists. In those games, they are 3-7 (2-4 against playoff teams). It should be noted though that in the team’s first 7 games of the season when they went 6-1, 4 of those 6 wins occurred when the team recorded no more than 18 assists. As many remember, that stretch was won with great fourth quarter defense and unselfish play, yet the numbers aren’t supporting the latter memory.

All in all, these numbers beg the following question: Are the better teams stopping the Knick ball movement, or is this a self inflicted wound? It is probably a combination of both. The CAA-3 (Melo, JR Smith and Woodson) quite possibly revert to their old ingrained iso-centric tendencies against better opponents as a result of other action not working.

Nevertheless, if the Knicks don’t start caring about sharing once again, playing games and not golf in June will be a pipe dream.

In the Knick of Time, an Introduction.

For those of you who haven’t seen me espouse opinions in 140 characters or less on twitter over the past 3 years, let me give you a brief introduction into my Knick fandom.

  • I was an ardent supporter of Donnie Walsh & Mike D’Antoni, making me a natural skeptic of Jim Dolan.
  • I was not in favor of the Melo trade, feeling that we overpaid for a player incompatible with our other max guy at the time (MANY more thoughts on this in a future post) and should have held our ground for an elite backcourt asset (also, additional thoughts to come in a future post).
  • I never saw Jeremy Lin play live as a Knick. I don’t believe any rhetoric that the “Lin divide” had anything to do with who saw him live and who did on TV. I was a massive supporter of his, so much so I thought he needed to stay and our current all-star starter needed to go (see here: http://theknicksblog.com/text/guest-post-its-time-to-say-goodbye-to-7/)
  • I’m a huge supporter in the stats, more specifically the advanced ones. Nobody has the time to watch every minute of every single NBA game, so quite honestly it’s a bit easier to reference what those pesky digits are telling you.
  • On top of that, I find the “eye-test” to a lazy cop-out that breeds false narratives and perceptions (e.g. Ray Felton “bulldog defender”), but much more so because it relies on the sample size of what you’ve seen as a sports fan, and rarely is that everything.
  • As of publication, the Knicks are 31-16. For a myriad of reasons, my steadfast support of D’Antoni & Lin, my doubts on Melo, STAT & Tyson playing winning ball together and my full on skepticism of our owner’s plans & decisions all look to be an exercise in incompetency.
  • Yet stick with me, I’ll explain why, how and where these opinions come from. Not just my thoughts on the Knicks, but all our cities’ teams as well. My thoughts might be out there and you’ll agree less frequently than not, but I’ll always find a way to back up my opinion with some semblance of facts & stats. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll think twice about Gotham sports while reading and say to yourself, “hey this guy’s not so bad after all.”