If only one word could be used to describe the New York Knicks‘ 2013-14 NBA regular season, it’d be dismal. Or disarray. Or disastrous. Or dreadful. Regardless of which word you use, all you need to know is that the Knicks are playing terrible basketball and have countless off-court distractions.
The question is, what are the most significant areas of weakness for this struggling squad? What are the sources of New York’s disappointing season?
Let’s find out.
The most significant area of weakness for this year’s Knicks squad is the dreadful perimeter defense. The loss of Jason Kidd hurts, but the non-statistically-measurable damage can be found in the loss of defensive effort from the mercurial offensive stars who had previously applied the necessary level of focus to make things work in New York.
Unfortunately, nothing but a trade or free agent signing will help this team improve.
As it presently stands, the Knicks are allowing teams to shoot 36.0 percent from three-point range, which ranks 15th in the NBA. The Knicks also place 17th by allowing opponents to shoot 40.3 percent from 15-to-19 feet and 24th by allowing opponents to shoot 39.6 percent from 20 to 24 feet, per NBA.com.
The personnel explains this level of inefficiency. Pablo Prigioni and Metta World Peace are capable defenders, but both are older than 34. Iman Shumpert, 23, is a defensive specialist, but he’s regressed offensively and has been battling injuries early in the year.
Until the Knicks can provide Shumpert with a stronger supporting cast from a perimeter defense perspective, New York will continue to struggle.
The one beacon of hope is that the Knicks rank No. 7 in steals per game, No. 8 in turnovers forced and No. 1 in the NBA in turnover differential. Shockingly, the Knicks have been unable to turn the best turnover differential in the league into a record better than .500.
Fortunately, taking care of the basketball is the first step towards a turnaround, and the Knicks average the lowest amount of turnovers committed per game.
The Knicks suffered a devastating blow when star center and 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler went down with a fractured right fibula. Things got worse when Kenyon Martin was bit by the injury bug, thus running the Knicks’ defensive interior thin.
The statistics have displayed the that inefficiency.
As it presently stands, the two most consistently utilized big men on the roster are the offensively strong and defensively weak Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire. Bargnani, the current center, is averaging his highest block per game average since 2009-10, 1.3, but that doesn’t tell the entire story.
Not in the slightest.
According to NBA.com, opponents are scoring on 48.2 percent of their field goal attempts against Bargnani when shooting at the rim. That’s especially concerning considering opposing teams are averaging 5.0 field goal attempts per game against Bargnani at the rim, which is a number that’s likely to continue increasing.
With its rim protector injured and its perimeter defense weak when not forcing turnovers, New York is in trouble down low. Until Chandler and Martin are able to reach full strength and begin contributing on defense, the Knicks will continue to rely upon their offensive-minded bigs.
This is an uncomfortable position for New York to be in, but it’s the cards that have been dealt.
Weak on the Boards
One of the most crippling areas of weakness for the Knicks is their work on the offensive and defensive glass. Not only is New York struggling to grab rebounds, but it’s failing in its attempts to win battles on the boards.
Much like its other deficiencies, it all starts with lackluster personnel.
As it presently stands, the Knicks rank 29th in rebounds per game at 38.7. More specifically, the Knicks are 18th in offensive rebounds per game and 27th in rebound differential. New York is No. 1 in offensive rebounds allowed, but that isn’t the story here.
The Knicks issue is creating opportunities, not limiting them.
The Knicks’ leading big man at this juncture is Bargnani. According to NBA.com, Bargnani is grabbing just 63.3 percent of the rebounds that he has a chance at taking in. Worst of all, he’s hauling in 36.1 percent of the rebounds that he has a chance at while being contested by another player.
With a total average of 5.2 rebounds per game, that’s purely unacceptable for a team’s starting center.
This isn’t an attempt at picking on the Italian star, but he is the player who New York traded for this summer. With Chandler and Martin down, he’s also the big man who is seeing the most consistent playing time, and that makes him the focus of New York’s interior.
Until Chandler, Martin and Stoudemire reach full strength and see more consistent playing time, the Knicks will continue to rely on Anthony and Bargnani as their primary big men. That’s a parimary reason why the team is currently unsuccessful.