Four games into the season and the New York Knicks are still undefeated. I have to admit, I’ve never been this excited about a Knicks team. The last time they started this strongly (1993-94), I was seven, so it makes sense. Usually, with teams who seem like they can’t keep up a great start (sorry, but it’s true), the underlying numbers make the case. With the Knicks, however, I’m not so sure. Let’s examine some NBA metrics to try to make a conclusion about this New York team.
Player Efficiency Rating (PER
This statistic, pioneered by ESPN’s John Hollinger, has become the poster-stat for basketball metric fans everywhere. Basically, it explains how effective a certain player is while on the court, taking into account a variety of factors. Currently, New York’s own Carmelo Anthony is ranked fourth in PER, mostly due to a very high Usage Rate (simply, how often he gets the ball on offense – ‘Melo leads the league) and the fact that he plays 36 minutes a game, third most in the top ten (behind Kobe and Kevin Durant).
The worrying part of this equation is Anthony’s poor True Shooting Percentage (TS%, what a player’s percentage would be with free throws and three pointers included, then adjusted). His .546 is by far lowest in the top ten, and the only person lower than him in the top-23 is Brook Lopez (who, in my opinion, kind of sucks). This is partially attributed to his poor free throw shooting early in the year, which should improve. I think Melo’s PER should hover around fifth in the league for most of the year, strictly due to the aforementioned Usage Rate.
Offensive efficiency is another brain-child of Hollinger, and is set in place to explore how well an offense is run. It ranks the number of points a team scores per 100 possessions, currently the Knicks rank second behind the Miami Heat (the Heat have 114, the Knicks have 112; the next closest team – Dallas, has 107). This means they score when they have the ball, period. Their PACE (pace factor – or number of possessions a team has per game) may be painfully low (tied for second worst in the league, at 93), but they are very efficient. This has led to the Knicks opening the season with four 100-point games.
Their high offensive efficiency, combined with low PACE shows that the Knicks have methodical and smart with the ball. This is a long-lasting skill that, if the Knicks can keep up, will serve them greatly in the playoffs.
While offensive efficiency judges points scored per 100 possessions, defensive efficiency does exactly the opposite. The New York leads the league in defensive efficiency, tied with Bulls with a rate of 93 points allowed per 100 possessions. This should come as no surprise, as their defense has been stifling so far this year when they want it to be. This, combined with their offensive efficiency, spells absolute success for the rest of the season. Only time will tell if the Knicks can keep it up.