New York Knicks: Lineup changes are not the solution

New York Knicks

Alec Burks #18 of the New York Knicks in action against the Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

There is a perception around the league that the New York Knicks should insert Alec Burks into their starting lineup. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post stated that the team should start Burks over Evan Fournier, partly due to his better shooting statistics.

Vaccaro feels that Burks’ current three-point percentage of 40 percent will give the team more of an offensive boost than Fournier, who is currently shooting 4.9 percent less than Burks. Although these statistics are correct, the issues with the starting lineup aren’t on the offensive side of the floor.

The starting lineup is currently shooting 42.4 percent from the field on 35.1 shots per game in 19.7 minutes. They have been able to average 41 points per game. The offensive statistics from the starting lineup aren’t far behind the statistics from the bench. The bench is currently shooting 2.6 percent better from the field than the starting lineup, converting 45 percent of their shots on 16.9 attempts per game.

Why Alec Bruks putting New York Knicks starting lineup is not the answer, as they mainly have defensive issues

The real disparity between both groups comes on the defensive side of the floor. The starting lineup is allowing opponents to shoot 49 percent from the field on 36.1 shots per game. Opponents are currently averaging 47.9 points against the starting lineup.

On the surface, it appears that the bench is performing much better than the starters, as they are holding opponents to 34.5 percent shooting on 16.8 shots a game. That field goal percentage has contributed to opponents only averaging 15.4 points against the bench. Unfortunately, those statistics don’t tell the whole story, as both groups have the same issues on the defensive side of the floor.

The team tends to solely focus on the ball when they are defending the opposing team. For instance, Cole Anthony had the ball on the left wing with a little over seven minutes to go in the second quarter of a road game against the New York Knicks.

He remained there until Wendell Carter Jr. came up to set the screen. Anthony went over the screen and began to attack the basket, but he realized that Julius Randle was watching him instead of his defensive assignment, Franz Wagner. Consequently, Cole Anthony passed the ball to Franz Wagner for a wide-open three, which he made.

New York’s tendency to watch the ball on defense has really hurt the starting lineup in the third quarter. Opponents currently shoot 49.3 percent from the field on 11.2 shots per game in the 6.1 minutes that the starting lineup plays.

This field goal percentage has contributed to opponents outscoring the starting lineup by 3.6 points per game, as they average 15.1 points. The starting lineup’s defensive issues are related to them giving up six uncontested shots per game in the third quarter. Opponents have been very efficient with those open shots, making 46.3 percent of their attempts.

The defensive flaws aren’t only a starting lineup issue. The bench unit currently plays 4 minutes in the second quarter. New York has given up 6.8 uncontested shots per game in those minutes – two percent more than what the starters gave up in the third quarter.

The main difference is that opponents are less efficient with those uncontested shots in the fourth quarter, making 38.1 percent of those attempts. The lower efficiency has resulted in opponents shooting 32.5 percent from the field on 7.7 shots when the bench is on the floor. Opponents have only averaged 5.8 points per game when the bench plays during the second quarter.

Therefore, New York should put greater emphasis on the defensive side of the floor rather than making lineup changes to increase their offensive firepower.