Dec 8, 2013; New York, NY, USA; The New York Knicks bench looks on against the Boston Celtics during the second half at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics won the game 114-73. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Anatomy of the Knicks Struggles

Nov 14, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (7) drives to the basket between New York Knicks shooting guard Iman Shumpert (21) and Knicks small forward Metta World Peace (51) during the second quarter of a game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

 

The New York Knicks have been struggling mightily this year to the point that Head Coach Mike Woodson might not survive 2013 and rumblings of trading Carmelo Anthony and blowing things up have started earlier than even the most pessimistic fan could have expected.

Luckily for the Knicks they play in the Eastern Conference where the third seeded Atlanta Hawks are closer to last place than first place so everyone is still in it.

There have been several issues with the Knicks this year, some are new and some old but all of them are troubling.

Shooting and Passing

This one seems obvious, shooting and passing are two of the most fundamental things one does on a basketball court. The thing is, while even last year the Knicks were dead last in assists per game (19.25) they took and made an absurd amount of threes to counteract that. Last year the Knicks set the record for threes attempted and made, shooting 2371 three pointers at an excellent 37.6% clip, good enough for fourth in the NBA, which helped them get the third ranked offense in all of basketball.

This year they are 24th in APG with 19.68 so more of a league decline in the area rather than improvement, but are not shooting nearly as well from three. This year they are taking 25 threes a game (third most behind Houston and the Lakers and three less than last year’s Knicks) and making a below league average 35%, which places them as the 17th best three point shooting team.

Obviously this is a huge problem for a team whose main offensive plan, especially without Tyson Chandler, is isolations and three pointers. If the Knicks aren’t going to making a historic amount of threes again they may have to revamp their offensive playbook to compensate.

The other shooting issues are shot selection and percentage inside the arc. The Knicks last year made 48.7% of 2P shots as opposed to 46.5% this year. Part of this is the fact that Tyson Chandler isn’t there to shoot over 60% but the disparity can’t be written off that easily.

According to 82games.com, 73% of the Knicks shots taken this year are jumpers, on par with what they did this year but combine that with the lower shooting percentage and the fact that they’re taking three less three point shots a game this year means they’re settling for more of the tougher and less rewarding midrange and long two point jumpers. This becomes clear when looking at their Effective Field Goal %, which takes into account that threes are worth more than twos, is 5% lower from last year, falling from 48.8% to 43.4%.

The Knicks Center position has also been killing them with not taking easy shots. Only 36% of shots by the Center this year have come around the basket, as opposed to 49% last year. Certainly this puts a strain on the offenses ability to score and score easily.

All of this has resulted in a precipitous drop from 3rd to 19th in offensive efficiency so far. To put that in perspective, the Knicks are looking up at teams like the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors in this category.

Free Throws

Last season, the Knicks had a rough time with free throws, giving up 92 more free throws than they took, or a little over one a game (22.2-21.1). This year however the problem has grown tenfold. The Knicks have been out shot at the free throw line by 198 and we are only 20 games into the season, per basketball reference. They’re 29th in both free throws taken per game (17.3) and given up (27.2). Even if the opponent shoots just 70% from the line on those extra ten free throws (which would be 28th in the NBA) that is seven points a game that they get that the Knicks don’t. That’s a huge disadvantage for a team with a good defense, never mind a bad one.

Defense

Speaking of defense, actually it appears no one has been doing that on the Knicks this season. They are ranked 28th in defense efficiency, only ahead of the Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets. I touched on Andrea Bargnani and Carmelo Anthony’s woes defensively last week but as a total unit the Knicks aren’t much better. Teams have an efg% of 50.1% against the Knicks this year, only nine teams can’t do better.

One huge reason for the horrid defense is the complete lack of rim protection. Opponents have a 60.7% efg% against the Knicks on close shots, 1.000% on dunk attempts and 53.3% on tips. It should be noted that while these areas comprise 27% of all Knicks field goal attempts, opponents are shooting close to the rim 33% of the time.

Perimeter players are torching the Knicks this year, especially point guards. Those players have an 18.8 Player Efficiency Rating while averaging 25.5 ppg, 7.8 apg, 4.5 rpg, and 7.8 fta on an efg% of 46.4%. It’s almost impossible to remotely stifle a team defensively when the opposing point guard puts up Russell Westbrook’s stat line every game.

Rebounding

The Knicks are getting killed on the boards. So far this year they rank 29th (only ahead of the Heat) with 39.42. No one on the team averages 10 rebounds per game, only Cole Aldrich and Tyson Chandler (and neither really count when analyzing the roster at this point) average better than 10 rebounds per 36 minutes, and only those two have a total rebounding rate better than 15% per basketball-reference.com.

The Knicks currently are out rebounded in three positions, point guard, shooting guard, and center (both shooting guard and center by 2.6) and their margins in small forward and power forward are 1.5 and .5 per 48 minutes.

A lot of teams, famously the Doc Rivers, Pierce, and KG Celtics sacrificed rebounding, specifically offense rebounding to get back on defense. Considering the Knicks defense is horrible that does not appear to be the case. They just can’t rebound. In fact, of Knicks players who have played at least 100 minutes, four of them have a TRB above 10% and the same four are the only players averaging better than 6 rebounds per 36 minutes.

It would be nice for the Knicks if it was as simple as getting Tyson Chandler back would fix all of their problems but this team is knee deep in issues and it’s very difficult to see them become a good team any time soon.

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