Man, if you thought whiney baseball hall of fame voters had it tough deciding on which players make the increasingly meaningless hall of fame, imagine ranking the top 5 biggest needs on the 15-23 New York Knicks.
For much of this year the Knicks looked like a team that was tanking for a draft pick despite not having a first rounder this year. Then the team put together five in a row though before getting handled by the Bobcats in Charlotte.
So through almost one half of the season here are the 5 biggest needs:
1. Perimeter Defense: The Knicks have turned opposing guards into borderline all stars on a consistent basis this season. Just earlier this week, Goran Dragic and Leandro Barbosa (who literally wasn’t in the NBA a couple of weeks ago) torched the Knicks, specifically Raymond Felton, so badly that it was almost enough to overcome Gerald Green’s ridiculous shot selection.
So far in the season, the opposing point guard position puts up: 23/8/6 (ppg, apg, rpg), an Effective FG% of .480, 24% of their shots are at the rim and a 17.2 PER. Shooting guards combine for 21/6/4 (ppg, rpg, apg), .531 EFG% 23% shots on the inside and a 16.8 PER. You don’t even need to stay at a holiday inn to know that allowing these kinds of numbers game in and game out is not good when you’re attempting to win.
The problem is the Knicks have one good perimeter defender in Iman Shumpert and even his skills may have been slightly overrated after his stellar rookie season on the defensive end.
2. Ball Movement: The Knicks are currently 20th in assists per game as a team with about 20 dimes on average (that worked out nicely). Jr Smith and Carmelo Anthony, 5th and 6th on the team in assists respectively combine for 6.3 assists per 36 minutes, which would be second on the team only behind Beno Udrih (6.6).
Six teams in the top ten in Offensive rating in the NBA are also in the top ten in scoring, with two of the top three, Spurs and Trail Blazers being in the top three in both. Unless the Knicks 18th ranked offense somehow improves on shooting and fast, the ball needs to fly around a whole lot more than it does. Speaking of shooting…
3. Shot Selection and Shooting to Improve: The Knicks this year are not shooting well from anywhere. They are 23rd (43.8%) from the field, 15th from three (35.7%), and 22nd inside the arc (47%).
When separating the court into 14 zones, 5 from three, 5 inside the arc, and 4 inside the paint, as vorped.com does, the Knicks shoot below average in 6 zones and above average in 4 over the last 30 days. The Knicks shoot 37% from midrange, the least efficient area to take shots from yet they’ve shot 127 more midrange jumpers than threes in that time.
4. Crunch Time: The Knicks this year have been horrible in the clutch. Their win over the suns was their first victory when the margin was within three points or less, they are now 1-5 in those games.
The Knicks defensive rotations are comically out of whack late in close games and their offense becomes stagnant. Carmelo Anthony, who Nike is currently trying to trick you into believing is a great option in clutch, is shooting 29% in crunch time (last 5 minutes of a 5 point game) and despite playing in 93% of all crunch time minutes for the Knicks, Anthony has 7 assists in that time.
It’s not just him though, of the five Knicks with the most minutes, Anthony, Shumpert, Felton, Smith, and Andrea Bargnani, just Shumpert shoots above 40% in the clutch (Smith and Anthony both shoot sub 30%), hardly something to be happy with as a team.
5. Big Man Depth: The Knicks four “big men” on the roster that are playable, Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin, and Bargnani haven’t been really enough this year. This problem gets exasperated when Kenyon Martin, the only other down low player besides Tyson Chandler who can defend even a little on the team, has to guard point guards because Ray Felton can’t get out of his own way on defense.
The bottom line is the Knicks can’t really compete well consistently without either Martin or Chandler on the court to babysit the other four players who will undoubtedly make defensive mistakes. Because Chandler has been either injured or sick for parts of the year and Martin is a bit older than most, doing this becomes very difficult for the team.