Friday, January 27, 2012

What Ails The Knicks?

Well, you knew this subject had to come up one of these days. It's unavoidable. I'll skip the platitudes and spiffy remarks on their play -- it's too depressing for wit -- and just jump right into it. First, the good news: The Knicks have actually improved by leaps and bounds on defense, which I suspected -- predicted, one might say -- would happen the day they signed Tyson Chandler. They are currently 8th in the league in defensive rating, up from 22nd a year ago. Problem is, they've been equally-good at keeping the ball out of the basket on their end of the court, ranking 24th in scoring.

ESPN's John Hollinger took a (stat-based, of course) crack at trying to explain their offensive woes, in the following article:

In short, he concludes that the Knicks are actually distributing the ball well (assisting on 55.4% of the their buckets, as compared to 55.7% for the top-rated Heat offense), but that their shots are, for whatever reason, simply not falling. He quotes a set of numbers to illustrate their blind-man marksmanship, numbers that you've either seen before, or are better off not seeing anyway. To that end, he wonders (or predicts) that Baron Davis may not be the saviour many are expecting him to be.

While his analysis is interesting, it doesn't really delve far enough into the issue. Is it simply that the Knick players are poor shooters? Rarely can things be explained so simply. There are ways of looking at the issue. Specifically, what *types* of shots are the Knicks getting? What is the breakdown of the number of 2s and 3s? I've heard numerous times that the Knicks are among the league leaders in 3-pt attempts. One wonders what you'd see if you further divided the issue into the locations on the court from where those 2-point attempts are coming, whether the shots are under duress, and where in the shot clock the shots are occuring. Those issues all affect the quality of shots taken, and thus the percentage of shots made.

It would hardly surprise me if another too-high percentage of their shots are occuring from 16-22 feet, as opposed to at the rim and from 3-9 feet (three of the four 2-pt shot locations quoted by advanced statisticians). If a bulk of those shots were also coming with defenders close by and late in the shot clock, I'd be equally unshocked to hear it.

And if so, maybe, just maybe, if B-Diddy can work the pick-and-roll, and rediscover some form of youth by getting into the lane, he may be able to raise the *quality* of the shots the Knicks are getting, which should affect their shooting percentages...or earn them a seat on the bench if not.

Perhaps one day I'll be bored enough to dig thru to uncover those stats...or maybe some writer out there may earn his pay by doing so.

Salient points raised by Hollinger, but the analysis could go much deeper into the numbers to uncover the source(s) of the Knicks' struggles to score the ball.

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