3. Assists per game
Despite having some solid playmaking talent in both the front and backcourt, the Knicks didn’t have as good of a season assist-wise as you’d think. While having a “true point guard” isn’t exactly a good thing in the modern NBA, it wouldn’t hurt the Knicks to help Jalen Brunson be more of a play initiator.
This isn’t slander for Brunson, as he is already a very solid playmaker, but if he can take the leap from solid to good or even great, New York would benefit.
Last season, the Knicks averaged 22.9 assists per game which ranked 28th in the NBA. Considering that most of the top playoff teams, including those who went far, ranked in the top 15, it’s pretty clear that New York must improve.
How can they do this? It’s actually relatively simple. We all know Tom Thibodeau loves his freelance set offensively or the occasional dribble handoff. However, if he’d run more inclusive plays that feature backdoor cuts, off-ball screens, and just general off-ball movement, we’d see an instant increase in assist numbers. Alongside this, the team’s offense would also be much more reliable.
This especially needs to happen in the playoffs, as the Knicks’ assist per-game numbers dropped to 18.7, ranking last amongst teams in the postseason. Thibodeau’s freelance offense became too predictable and easy to stop. Throw in some off-ball movements or cuts, though, and it will be much harder to contain.
Many of the best teams in the NBA function off this sort of offense. For example, the Warriors and Nuggets have become specialists and are known for their elite off-ball play. New York may not have the talent of either team, but the blueprint is there, and we know the Knicks have a few great shooters that can help make this work.