Despite an atrocious start to their 2013-2014 NBA campaign, the New York Knicks are still very capable of turning things around and doing damage in the Eastern Conference.
With a few teaks here and there, the Knicks will be able to weather the early part of this season and turn things around down the stretch.
Win the Battle on the Boards
Losing Tyson Chandler is a big loss. His presence in the middle on both sides of the basket cannot be replaced by anyone on New York’s roster. However, they’ve suffered on the boards all-season.
The Bobcats beat the Knicks on the glass in both match-ups with and without Chandler. Not to mention the Spurs abused New York last weekend by an 18 rebound margin.
Currently the Knicks rank 29th as a team in rebounds per game, 29th in defensive rebounds, and 28th in rebounding efficiency. They literally haven’t out-rebounded an opponent since November 5th against the Timberwolves.
Luckily rebounding can be a simple fix. Dedicating themselves to boxing-out and getting physical in the paint should pay dividends. Winning the battle on the boards will help the Knicks enforce their tempo, find better shots and get to the free-throw line; three weaknesses for the Knicks this season.
Tyson Chandler is gone for at least a month so the entire team needs to re-focus themselves on the glass. Getting out-hustled by the Bobcats is inexcusable and if the Knicks are hell-bent on a Title everyone needs to chip-in.
Bargnani needs to be more physical in the paint, Cole Aldrich has to step up and give the Knicks quality minutes, and Amare’ Stoudemire can’t be an afterthought this season.
“We’ve just got to stay together,” said JR Smith following the Knicks’ blowout loss to the Spurs on Saturday. “We can’t get down on one another.”
It’ll take a team effort on the glass to turn the Knicks around.
Not impossible, but easier said than done.
The Knicks are taking and missing a lot of outside shots. For a squad that’s 18th in the league in the three-point percentage, New York is 4th in three-point attempts per game.
They’re taking a three 33% of the time on offense and consequently sinking their offensive efficiency at the same time. Teams like the Golden State Warriors might thrive on a three-point based offense, but right now the Knicks can’t shoot.
Small ball lineups have helped the Knicks free up space for jumpers and shoot better in the past. Brian Windhorst of ESPN’s Daily Dime says these lineups “enabled Anthony to have one of the best seasons of his career a year ago and the team posted its best numbers in this setting because it filled the floor with shooters and the Knicks shattered 3-point shooting totals.”
Snagging Andrea Bargnani was supposed to expand this small-ball offense, but he’s only had one good game offensively.
Reevaluating their three-point dependency and finding ways to get closer to the basket are pivotal for turning New York’s season around.
The Knicks rank 23rd in attempts within 5 feet or less and 28th in attempts within 5-9 feet. Also, they rank in the bottom-5 in free throw attempts.
Hint, someone needs to attack the rim and stop settling for jumpers.
Poor shot selection directly relates to their 22nd best, 94.9 points per game. More patience, extra passes and better execution on offense should get them higher-percentage looks and consequently more field goals.
Expecting JR Smith’s return to rectify their shot selection isn’t going to work.
Be Ready to Play
The Knicks are terrible in the first quarter.
They don’t shoot the ball well and struggle to get buckets. Before this week they were averaging 22 points on 29% shooting which made it very hard for New York to establish any kind of offensive identity, and they’re stuck playing catch-up for the majority of the game.
Yes, the Knicks can get away with slow starts against some teams, but contenders like the Spurs will take advantage of them (and they did).
It would be one thing if New York just couldn’t score in the first, but they can’t defend either.
Right now the Knicks are allowing 28 points per game on 52.9% shooting in the first quarter.
In two home games a few weeks ago, they gave up 31 points to the Bobcats and 40 points to the Timberwolves in the first quarter.
That’s just plain embarrassing.
What’s strange is that it’s not like the Knicks lack solid defenders. Shumpert, Prigioni, World Peace, Felton, Martin and even Anthony can play hard-nosed, physical defense. Bargnani is another story, but defense is about determination and Mike Woodson is known for being a defensive specialist right?
Specialist or not, Woodson and the Knicks need to establish their defense early on in the game. Getting physical in the paint, clogging passing lanes and communicating better will prevent open lay-ups, easy put-backs and untouched shooters.
How many times will the Knicks confusingly stare at each other after giving up a wide open lay-up?
Better focus on defense will make or break this team.
Changes are inevitable if New York doesn’t turn things around quickly.
Carmelo Anthony put it best, “The city and this organization is not known for being patient.”
The clock is ticking.