New York Knicks: Three things to watch in David Fizdale’s first year

MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 11: David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies coaches during an all access practice on April 11, 2017 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 11: David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies coaches during an all access practice on April 11, 2017 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Heading into the 2018-19 season with a team missing their star and lacking the talent to compete for a championship, the success of David Fizdale’s first season with the New York Knicks will be decided by more than just the wins and losses.

The New York Knicks tip off the 2018-19 season on Wednesday, Oct. 17 against the Atlanta Hawks in Madison Square Garden. The team enters the season with a young roster and without their superstar, Kristaps Porzingis.

Thus, the expectations are low and the reality could be even lower for first-year coach David Fizdale‘s team.

With the team entering the year without a real chance to contend for the division, much less an NBA Championship, what should Knicks fans really look for in Year One of the Fizdale Era in New York City?

3. The Consistency of Defensive Effort

One thing that David Fizdale has made clear during his short time as head coach of the Knicks is that the team will be very defensive-minded during his regime. The Knicks were among the bottom third of the League in defensive rating last season, but the potential for improvement is there on the current roster.

Young players such as Frank Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson have the opportunity to earn more minutes based on their defensive performances this coming year.

No matter the team’s success at that end of the floor this upcoming season, fans should pay attention to the individual effort and continuity of the New York defense, as it could serve as an indicator that the roster is “bought in” to Fizdale’s system.

A player to especially watch at the defensive end of the floor is Kevin Knox. His effort at that end was one of the biggest knocks on him entering the draft, but as a 6’9″ forward that moves as well as he does, the physical tools are there to be an effective defender in the NBA.

2. Off-Court Continuity

The Knicks have been in the news for seemingly all the wrong reasons the past few years. From ex-players being arrested during games for altercations with the owner to team presidents calling out the star players, off-court instability has become the status quo.

With a season approaching that is sure to contain its fair share of tough stretches, a lack of off-court issues from top-to-bottom in the organization could be an indicator of stability. There are relatively new people in important positions within the organization, and it is important for not only the players but the entire staff to display the patience necessary to build a great team in New York.

David Fizdale is known to be a “player’s coach,” and his ultimate test could be to keep all players engaged for the entirety of the 82 game schedule.

Knicks fans should feel relieved if the team stays out of the news for anything but the actual games in 2018-19.

1. Offensive Tempo

Another integral part of the system David Fizdale is attempting to implement in New York is the ability to play with pace. The Knicks were 15th in pace last season and should rise even further in that category with their new coach emphasizing positionless, up-tempo basketball.

The team has a surplus of point guards which will give them an ample amount of ball-handlers on the court at all times. Watch for the wings such as Kevin Knox and Tim Hardaway Jr. to attack the basket before the defense can get set as well.

Fizdale’s vision for his team to push the ball is a far cry from the system he established during his short time as coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, where they were 28th in pace at 94.74 possessions per 48 minutes during his only full season there.

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The new head coach’s desire to push the ball and to play with more freedom could allow Knicks fans to get a better look at some of the young players’ offensive potential this coming season.