Which preseason numbers tell us something about the New York Knicks?
I’ll start with the obligatory caveat that the New York Knicks played only four preseason games against two of the worst teams in the NBA. OK, now that that’s out of the way, can we talk about basketball?
It’s tempting to dismiss the past couple weeks as irrelevant, and there are certainly some stats that don’t hold water (e.g. Kevin Knox leading the team in defensive rating). But, if you look in the right places, there were actually some useful nuggets that may help us think about the season to come. To that end, here are five stats from the Knicks preseason to which you should actually pay attention.
1) Julius Randle’s Usage Rate
Last season, Julius Randle used a LOT of Knicks possessions: 27.1% of them according to NBA.com, which ranked first on the team by a substantial margin. In the Knicks’ four preseason games, however, Randle used 23.2% of the team’s possessions. That’s still a sizable number, but more importantly, that figure is below RJ Barrett’s preseason usage rate of 24.8%. This is a stat-nerdy way of saying: last year the Knicks were unquestionably Julius Randle’s team; this season it looks like RJ Barrett may be ready to take the reins.
It’s hard to say whether Randle, in what is functionally a contract year for him, will willingly cede his role as the primary option. But, it’s notable that the player we saw in preseason looked to be a more willing passer. Not only did he lead the team with 5.5 assists per game, but there were fewer times when his selfish play forced me to grab my night guard to keep me from grinding my teeth.
In some ways, Randle’s usage rate will be a bellwether for this team’s priorities and trajectory. Will this be a disappointing repeat of 2019-20? Or, will Randle step aside (even just a little) to let Barrett take his place as the team’s first option? If the preseason is indicative of anything, it’s that Randle may be ready to embrace his role as the secondary option.