Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks are better than their record reflects.
Go all-in on the New York Knicks? Are the Knicks’ good stats a buy and their bad stats a sell?
You wouldn’t think so. They boast one of the worst records and meekest offenses in the NBA.
But things look more promising than you think. If you dig into the numbers, you'll find some promising surprises.
There’s a good team in there waiting for things to come together via a handful of wins, an upgrade in health, some roster moves and wiser shot selection.
Defense? It’s not as bad as you believe, with or without their All-Star center.
Let me go so far as to say that the Knicks even have a shot at a No. 3 seed for the playoffs, and it’s not a long shot, either.
The Knicks are a bargain right now and can turn the corner straight into a top-half postseason seed before it’s all said and done.
The New York Knicks protect the ball.
The 2013-14 New York Knicks turn the ball over less than any other team in the NBA—a scant 12.9 slips per game—and this is a turnover league.
More than half the league coughs it up an average of at least 15 times a game, including the Indiana Pacers (15.8), Miami Heat (16), and Chicago Bulls (16.5), and culminating with the Philadelphia 76ers (18.1) and Houston Rockets (18.3).
Let’s hear it for ball control. It’s Mike Woodson’s thing, as well as the Knicks’ thing.
They led the league last season in fewest turnovers, averaging just 12 a game, and their ball-handlers haven’t changed much. New York lost Jason Kidd, but in his place, Raymond Felton—despite his subpar offensive performance so far—has held onto the ball per his usual, and Pablo Prigioni is improved.
Iman Shumpert, and Tim Hardaway, Jr also protect the ball very well, as do newcomers Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace.
Carmelo Anthony, the major ball-handler outside the backcourt, does lead the team in turnovers, but it’s only 2.7 a game for a guy who plays 40 minutes and gets 70 touches.
Even J.R Smith has enough conservative gamesmanship to outdo his sloppy nights.
This is one statistic that Knicks fans should be able to count on. Maybe the Knicks won't be the best team in the NBA at hanging onto the ball by the end, but they will be up there.
The Tyson Chandler injury has derailed the New York Knicks.
All this losing can’t go on forever, and it won’t when Tyson Chandler returns.
Hopefully sooner rather than later.
The timetable for Chandler’s return has been slow. Paul Willis of ESPN.com characterizes it as “inching closer.”
The Knicks look like they will still lose quite a bit more than the preseason expectations for them, but they have enough talent to win some games before, and after, their essential center returns.
With their 3-13 start, the New York Knicks—once considered postseason shoo-ins—are the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference, which also happens to translate into the second-worst team in the NBA.
The Knicks are playing like shoo-ins for a good 2014 draft pick right now.
It’s a long road to .500, but that will be good enough to get into the playoffs. It also will very likely be good enough to win the Atlantic Division, and thus take the No. 4 seed—and as the standings are now, would even take the No. 3 seed. I kid you not.
Given their circumstances, the Knicks only need to focus on one thing: win enough to win the Atlantic. They’re only three games off the pace.
Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. is the best three-point shooter on the New York Knicks
Four of the New York Knicks’ six most prolific three-point shooters last season per 36 minutes were Rasheed Wallace, Steve Novak, Chris Copeland and Jason Kidd.
Carmelo Anthony is way off his long-distance pace. Only, J.R. Smith, who ranked sixth in 3-point shooters for New York a season ago, has picked up the pace—but his accuracy has collapsed to under 30 percent after shooting 35.6 in 2012-13.
Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert have been equally bad.
So, the Knicks have fallen from being the NBA's top team in both three-point shots made and attempted last season to the middle of the pack this season, and it’s probably going to stay that way.
New York is currently shooting 32 percent from behind the arc—the third worst percentage in the NBA.
If they were shooting better there, like they did last season when they ranked fourth at 37.6 percent, the Knicks might be able to lean on the three to bail them out a few times, but that’s not happening.
The Knicks would do well to fix up their inside game first before working their way back to the perimeter.
In time, thanks to the deft outside shooting of Andrea Bargnani and Tim Hardaway Jr., the Knicks will pad their 3-point numbers, but this won’t be 2012-13 revisited.
Andrea Bargnani is getting there.
Even with the abandonment of the three-pointer, the Knicks—essentially a shooting team—should raise their point output as their primary scorers—Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and now Andrea Bargnani—balance out to their career averages in terms of scoring and accuracy.
Anthony is averaging 26.3 points a game for second-best in the NBA behind Kevin Durant, but he has needed the most minutes played in the NBA per night (40.4) to overcome the worst shooting percentage of his career.
Smith has to rebound from his career-worst shooting percentage to start this season at 42.3 percent from the floor, unless he is done with a bum knee.
Bargnani appears promising, if anything.
The return of Tyson Chandler will also help. His 7.3 scoring average function as a distraction down low, as well as a contribution.
More minutes for Tim Hardaway (15.4 per game) and, hopefully, Beno Udrih (15.9 MPG in 10 games), along with a longer leash on Pablo Prigioni (2.3 field goal attempts per game) will join in upping the Knicks offense.
Now, the Knicks sit at 92.8 points per game, 27th in the NBA. They finished at an even 100 points per game in 2012-13, 11th best.
That might be a hard sell this season, but as New York gets healthy and when the accuracy finds its stride for a while, which it will, they can pop it back up to the high nineties.
Iman Shumpert needs to find his defensive mojo again.
Their first was against the Chicago Bulls, 82-81. They lost by just two to the Denver Nuggets on a last-second miss and only by three to the Houston Rockets.
The Knicks snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in their foolish overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers. Their loss to the Los Angeles Clippers was much closer than the 93-80 final score suggested.
Most of the Knicks’ losses have been decided by a lone blowout quarter—usually the first or third.
This has all been done by holding down opponents' scoring and—other than the Bulls game—without the Knicks' primary defensive player, Tyson Chandler.
New York has the ninth-best defense in the league, yielding 95.7 points per game—a far cry from the 95.7 points that their opponents averaged in 2012-13, but still among the top 10 in the NBA this season.
And it will get better when Chandler returns.
Andrea Bargnani has begun to show some defensive flash, too, like his six blocks against the Pelicans and his nearly-career best 6.2 boards per 36 minutes.
Dare we say it? The Knicks are on the edge of possibility. Much of it, though, hinges on the return of Chandler. Until then, treading water in the Atlantic will suffice.