They are 20-31, two games behind the Charlotte Bobcats coming into Tuesday night. While the cross-town Brooklyn Nets have found an identity and hold the Eastern Conference's best record since the new year, the Knicks continue trotting out more of the same and hoping for something new.
This, of course, is the definition of insanity. But the schadenfreudian glee some feel while watching these Knicks fall on their face so spectacularly has grown tiresome.
Exposing James Dolan's utter incompetence induces eye rolls. Theorizing whether Carmelo Anthony will have a Dwight Howard level of fortitude and leave this for a less toxic situation is fruitless (he won't). Even the whispers (OK, shouts) about coach Mike Woodson's immediate future barreling in from the New York papers have become shrug-worthy. Woodson is a dead man coaching. It's irrelevant at this point when he gets fired.
The Knicks aren't laughably terrible like the Philadelphia 76ers. They do not have the Lakers' novel-sized injury list. They have not Giannis Antetokounmpo's seemingly limitless potential nor a coaching wunderkind like Brad Stevens nor any semblance of a cogent long-term rebuilding plan (like Orlando, Utah, etc.).
The Knicks are just bad. Boring bad.
Their pace is glacial, and while Anthony continues to be spectacular, you're hard-pressed to find many players above replacement level around him. Anonymous general managers are openly calling the bloated and underperforming Raymond Felton the "worst starting point guard in the NBA." Tyson Chandler is a shell of his Defensive Player of the Year self. Amar'e Stoudemire is a shell of a shell of a shell of his former self.
All that's really left for this season is to hope against hope that general manager Steve Mills can make a deal to at least lock in a playoff berth. ESPN's Marc Stein is reporting Mills is doing just that, re-engaging the Denver Nuggets in talks centered on Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, who were already linked once this season:
The Nuggets have consistently denied Faried is available, but the rumor mill hasn't backed that up. There have been whispers regarding the energetic big man since this season opened, and they've only dissipated because no enticing offers were on the table. As NBA.com's David Aldridge noted earlier this week, where there are strident denials in this league there is often tangible discussion behind closed doors.
Denver coach Brian Shaw has acquiesced his more traditional style to fit with the funky roster, but inertia doesn't seem to be in the cards here. You don't allow Masai Ujiri to walk to Toronto and let go of George Karl if everything is just going to be status quo.
The same would go for the Knicks if they had any assets folks wanted. A quick look at the roster sheet exposes a jarring mix of untradable contracts, dudes they have no interest in trading (Carmelo, basically) and veterans no other franchise had any interest in to begin with.
Shumpert is the lone exception. He's 23, shown promising flashes on both ends of the floor and could be a classic change-of-scenery guy. Teams have also smelled blood particularly this season, as Shumpert had a visible verbal sparring with Anthony and Woodson has had to publicly deny he has personal animosity for his young guard.
It seems only a matter of time before Shumpert is packaged as part of a larger, win-now deal. Faried just isn't that player. Not only would the Nuggets expect New York to package whatever little assets it has left in the coffers to pull the trigger, it would also mean the Knicks are more in love with the perception of who Faried is rather than the reality. The first thing any talent evaluator or even any NBA fan will mention with Faried is his motor. He's constantly moving. He's a live wire. He fights and scraps and hustles and does a whole lot of things not usually seen at Madison Square Garden.
But the reality is Faried wouldn't move the playoff needle much—and certainly would do nothing for the Knicks' nonexistent chance of going beyond the first round.
For all the great, wonderful and entertaining adjectives used to describe Faried, he's still a wildly flawed player with a skill set almost wholly created by his athleticism. Faried has shot a total of 53 times outside the paint this season. Most of his offensive possessions are spent lurking on the short corner, waiting for an open cut when his defender helps or crashing the offensive rebounds for a put-back. (He's very good at both things, for what it's worth.)
Per Synergy Sports (subscription required), only 16.2 percent of Faried's used possessions have come as a pick-and-roll screener and those haven't been pretty. His 0.866 points per possession ranks in just the 29th percentile.
Slight problem: The Knicks already have Chandler. While the 7-footer excels at setting picks and executing rim runs, no coach (Woodson or otherwise) would be able to properly space the floor with Faried and Chandler on the floor. Both players' inability to draw the defense would clog the lane, and smart teams would ignore it entirely if the Knicks attempted stretching one out to 15 feet.
Sure, that's fine. Just stagger their minutes and play Faried at center in smaller lineups. Boom, problem solved, right? Right. Except for the whole part where Faried has been a nightmare his entire career when coaches have made that mistake. Per 82Games.com, traditional centers have destroyed Faried his entire career, taking advantage of his lack of size and strength to grab easy rebounds and score a ton.
Kenneth Faried cannot guard NBA centers. And, frankly, the biggest potential roadblock with a Faried-to-New York move is he doesn't guard anybody all that well.
There is an assumption that "scrappy" players are always good defenders. Ben Wallace would scrap. Reggie Evans would fight you to the death. Faried ain't that.
He's at once overly aggressive and inattentive in certain phases. He's prone to ball-watching and bouts of confusion, and teams have killed him in pick-and-roll since he entered the league. Synergy's database measures that opponents score 0.981 points per possession when attacking Faried, putting him in the 13th percentile overall.
That's bad enough. But it doesn't remotely tell the whole story.
Among the 241 players who have had 250 possessions ending in a personal foul, shot or turnover against them, Faried ranks 229th. Mike Scott of the Atlanta Hawks is the only power forward measured as a worse high-usage defender this regular season.
Granted, Synergy isn't 100 percent infallible. There are always team-defense factors that go into every evaluation, and the Nuggets struggle at times with their help in ways better teams do not. Still, the Nuggets allow four fewer points on a per-100 possessions basis with Faried on the bench. SportVU cameras outfitted in every NBA arena are a little kinder to Faried's reputation as a rim protector, but only insomuch as he's about league average.
It's telling that Faried is arguably the worst of the lot on a team that includes J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye and other minus defenders.
The Knicks might be hurting for professional big men, but they have minus defenders for days. Felton is the world's slowest turnstile. Anthony shoulders so much offensive weight that his lax defensive policies are almost understandable. Pablo Prigioni can tell you what the world was like when Pangea split apart. Even healthy versions of Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani are dumpster fires defensively at this point. J.R. Smith is J.R. Smith.
Notice Shumpert was absent from the bad defender conversation. While Shumpert hasn't developed into the lockdown savant the Knicks hoped he would, he's consistently tasked with defending the opposing team's best player and does an OK job overall. Offensive players shoot just 34.3 percent against Shumpert in isolation, per Synergy.
The Knicks are currently 24th in defensive efficiency. They rank 15th in offensive efficiency. Given what we know about baskethoops, what do you, the smart fan, think adding a bad defender who can't stretch the floor would do to those numbers?
Faried's hustle and athleticism have and certainly do mitigate the established flaws. The Knicks' mediocre offensive rebounding rate would go up, and having Faried's frantic style around might provide some immeasurable motivational help.
From a numbers and pure logic standpoint, though, Shumpert-for-Faried is at best shuffling the deck on the Titanic. These Knicks are sinking fast. And a jolt of energy from Denver wouldn't do much beyond expediting the process.
All stats are via NBA.com unless otherwise cited.
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