New York Knicks: The Turnover Problem

Jan 11, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams (1) blocks a shot by New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton (2) during the game at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks haven’t much resembled the 2012-13 Knicks that won 54 games. Their three-point shooting has returned to earth, their offense and defense has regressed, their chemistry is basically non-existent, and the team has nearly lost all of its identity from last season.

However, if there was one thing the Knicks could hang their hats on this season, it was their ability to take care of the ball. Turnovers can sometimes be overlooked, but for a team with an average offense and a mediocre defense, maximizing possessions is very important. For the season, the Knicks are second in the league in turnovers per game, averaging just 12.9 per outing. In recent games, however, turning the ball over has become a problem.

The Knicks began the new year on a positive note, winning six of their first seven games and five in a row. Since then, New York has lost four straight, practically undoing all of their good work to begin 2014. In this current four-game slide, the Knicks are averaging 17.5 turnovers per game, nearly five more per night than their season average. Again, considering the Knicks currently rank 20th in offensive rating, 26th in defensive rating, and 29th in pace (92.6 possessions per game), giving up nearly 18 possessions each game won’t do them any good.

During this four-game losing streak, too, the Knicks’ offensive rating is just 95.8, which puts them 28th in the league during this stretch. Clearly, the turnovers are a part of that.

But why the sudden increase? Part of the issue has been healthy. With the abundance of injuries the Knicks have endured, the lineups have been inconsistent, therefore players haven’t been establishing rhythm or chemistry. For the season, Toure’ Murry and Tim Hardaway Jr. rank among the highest Knicks in allowing turnovers and both have seen fairly regular playing time this month, filling in for injuries or benched players. Another example could be found in the dual-point-guard lineup Mike Woodson utilized yesterday with Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton. The two players have hardly shared court time this season, and as a result, in one game together, they averaged 15 turnovers per 48 minutes. Last season, that same pairing made the Knicks one of the stingiest teams with the ball.

Another answer can be found in Mike Woodson’s general misunderstanding of the Knicks’ best lineups. The lineup of Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, and Tyson Chandler is the Knicks’ third most utilized five-man lineup this season. The lineup, however, is highly ineffective, coming into date with a -22.6 net rating on the season, averaging an offensive rating of 98.5 and defensive rating of 121.2. As of late, that lineup has hurt the Knicks especially, as its been the Knicks’ most played lineup over this four-game losing streak. Together, they’re averaging 20.6 turnovers per 48 minutes in this losing streak.

The New York Knicks are quickly running out of time to turn their season around. They’re only two games out of the eighth-place playoff seed, but the team is still facing injuries, locker room unrest (Beno Udrih requested a trade), and a fast-approaching trade deadline which could significantly impact their near future. The Knicks are merely a mediocre team, but they could certainly help themselves win more games by taking better care of the ball.