Episode 328: Catching up with John Henson

Today Jay and John Henson from ABC’s Wipeout talk about the development of Porzingis, the Knicks strategy for the summer, the guard situation, being a Knicks fan in LA, Blake Griffin, the mess that is the Houston Rockets, Derrick Rose, and more.  After that Marc jumps in for listener questions and a mini rant about the Raptors game.

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Episode 327: Mid Season Grades

Marc and Jay give their mid season grades for each player, Fisher loves other players girls, trade deadline rumors, all star weekend, and more

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Why The New York Knicks Suck: it’s 2016 not 2006

Why do the Knicks blow so badly?

The Knicks suck terribly this year

Why this team is complete and utter garbage, and is worse than it should be

Nobody really expected much out of the New York Knicks this season. Why would they? The team tanked its way to 17 wins last season in a bid to rival the Washington Generals and couldn’t even do that right. What was supposed to be an awful season en route to having the best chance at getting the #1 pick turned into a terrible season inexplicably improved by meaningless wins at the end that dropped us to the #4 slot.

All’s well that ends well, though. With the drafting of future GOAT Kristaps Porzingis, and the addition of actual NBA-caliber players like Robin Lopez and Aaron Afflalo plus varsity team-caliber players like Derrick Williams and Kyle O’quinn, the Knicks looked poised to be fighting for a .400 record(hurray!).

The Knicks got out to a solid record considering their lack of talent, coaching, and experience together, flirting ever so teasingly with .500 several different times. When the team is clicking, they’ve played tough against the best in the league(without Melo even. Sign of something?), but the reality of the season has been that the Knicks have beaten a few solid teams and have usually lost to anyone who is actually good(and plenty who aren’t).

Despite some improvements, the Knicks still suck. But why? Why is it that fringe, formerly-unemployed NBA dreck feast against us night in and night out? Why do teams come to MSG expecting to get an easy win? Why is it that basic in-game adjustments from the other side kill us and there’s nothing we can do about it?

While talent, coaching, and lack of a good South American player(everyone knows that you need to have at least 1)  have something to do with it, that doesn’t explain it all, and firing Fisher isn’t going to change much.

The Knicks suck because it’s 2016 and not 2006. Better yet, they suck because it’s 2016 and not 1996. In a league that relies on versatility, controlled pace, spacing, and penetration, the Knicks are posting and joking, plodding and waddling, switching and bitching their way to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Let’s tear into it a little bit more…

Outdated strategy

New York Knicks suck

The Knicks own version of the Bermuda Triangle does its best to swallow the talent of our best players. Modern analytics and technology be damned.

The NBA that your parents grew up watching was a slower, choppier, more physical game played around the rim from the inside out. It was a big man’s league. The rules and spirit of the game at the time made it a hell of alot easier to play from the block. Perimeter-oriented teams were rare. That’s not the case anymore. The Modern NBA is dominated by free flowing, quasi-positionless, versatile teams that attack from the perimeter, and make you pick your poison. You either let the wings take it to the rim, or you give up an open 3 ball. The Knicks are on pace for closer to the 2006 average in 3’s than they are the 2015.

The Knicks run the triangle. And in defense of this system, it doesn’t matter if we were running the square, the circle or the trapezoid either, the talent on this team just doesn’t live up to a top-tier squad. Still, while nearly all great teams in the league initiate their offense via penetration from wings, ours starts with the slowest player catching the ball 17 feet from the basket. The triangle maximizes mid-range jump shot opportunities and often puts the ball in the hands of the one guy on the court whose job is physical defense and rebounding(Lopez). Take these stats to heart:

  • The Knicks take the 5th most 2 point field goals in the league
  • The Knicks rank 27th in 2 point %………
  • The Knicks take the 23rd most 3’s, and rank 22nd in 3 point fg%
  • The Knicks are 22nd in assists
  • The Knicks are 25th in pace

So the Knicks run an offensive system geared at getting shots that they can’t make. Is there anything more Knicks than that? To top it off, they can’t balance it out with 3’s or free throws(even though the Knicks have the highest ft% in the league, they are only average at getting there). What makes it worse is that they iso the crap out of the ball, ranking 22nd in the league in assists and on pace for about the league average in the mid 00’s. Playing at the 5th slowest pace isn’t helping either. Not when the talent doesn’t match. Great teams like the 90’s Bulls, and recent Lakers and Celtics championship teams played slowly, but they had the talent to match. New York is playing Robin Lopez and Derrick Williams.

Fit

One thing that the Knicks can say about the team this year is that they actually have NBA-caliber players. Melo, Porzingis, Lopez, Afflalo, Thomas, and Galloway, and maybe Derrick Williams and Jose Calderon all belong in the league in some capacity, even if just as back ups in some cases.

The problem is that they are more of a hodgepodge than a cohesive unit. The leftovers of a swing and a miss in free agency. The best teams in the league field units that are not only talented, but that fit like gloves. They are mixes of shooters, defenders, penetrators, finishers, and post threats. To see how the Knicks are the opposite of that, let’s look at the starting lineup:

Jose Calderon New York Knicks

CalderonJose is the worst Spanish thing since the Spanish Flu. Not only is he inept defensively, he can’t do anything offensively aside from shoot. To make it worse, he can’t beat his man to get his shot off. So he is only a spot up shooter at this point, but the Knicks are playing him major minutes.

Afflalo- AA is off and on like a high school couple, and can’t play defense like he could in his day. He’s a net negative on D in terms of +/- and is barely posting in the positive for defensive win shares. The real issue is, though, that he doesn’t bring versatility to our attack. AA makes his living either posting up or shooting from mid range. And what’s worse is that the majority of those 2 point field goals are not assisted. That means he is someone who we iso from mid range or on the block. Sounds exactly like someone else in the starting lineup…..

MeloMelo is still a star player, but something just isn’t right with him this season. The biggest issue is how he is being used. Melo is 13th in usage % at 29.5%, and has decreased his % of shots around the rim. He ranks second in isolation plays, and those plays produce less than 1 point per possession. He also has an assist % nearly identical to our point guard. It’s great to see Melo moving the ball, but should our star scorer really be our primary playmaker, especially when he is over 30? The players surrounding Melo don’t make up for his shortcomings, and don’t emphasize his strengths. There is no elite wing defender, no elite gunner or slasher to punish doubles, and no playmaker to make his life easier. He is at his best when finishing possessions created by a point guard or bullying smaller defenders in the post. Not isoing, turning and fading, or creating off the dribble.

Porzingisthe second coming is still in his infancy, but it’s clear that he has the skills to be dominant in the modern NBA. The problem is that the system isn’t emphasizing his strengths, either. The slower the team plays, the harder it is for Porzingis to use his natural advantages. How many impressive alley-oops and putbacks have we seen from him? How many times has he beaten slower bigs in transition, and how many times have we seen this Latvian beast trail for a wide open 3? Yet, he posts up(15% of possessions) more than he plays as the roll man(13.5%) despite being wildly more efficient at the latter and in the bottom third of the league at the former. His most efficient offensive possessions are when he cuts to the rim, yet he does that less than pretty much everything else. Partly a spacing issue, and partly a system issue. Also, when he does get doubled in the post, spacing issues make him more turnover prone and there isn’t enough shooting to punish double teams.

Lopez Knicks

LopezRobin plays gritty, tough, hard nosed basketball. Exactly the kind of guy that Phil would have loved back in the old NBA. The problem is that the game has changed. Lopez is putting up great numbers close to the basket defensively (opponents are shooting 12% worse against him around the rim), but he is fairly one-dimensional. He struggles to keep up with quicker bigs, and doesn’t offer much versatility in the form of switching. On offense, he struggles to contribute much outside of post up hooks. So instead of having a mobile big that creates space, finishes off of cuts to the rim, and plays a modern style, the Knicks play a slow bruiser that muddies up the middle and takes away valuable space for the team’s two best offensive players.

What this boils down to is that the Knicks play players who don’t compliment each other’s strengths. If a player isn’t doing exactly what he is good at, then he can’t really contribute much else while on the floor.

Versatility

The modern NBA is full of teams who play positionless basketball, especially on the defensive end. The Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, and to a lesser extent the Cavaliers have versatile personnel capable of at least keeping you honest on offense, and capable of defending multiple positions on defense or vice versa. The Knicks, on the other hand, attempt to keep the score low by playing as slow as possible, and not actually trying to stop their opponents from scoring. Players like Calderon, Afflalo, Williams, and Seraphin struggle on defense and aren’t anything special offensively. Players like Lopez and Galloway bring it defensively every night, but aren’t versatile offensively.

Carmelo Anthony

Sorry, Carmelo. We want you out there for your defense. Don’t worry, we’ve got Sasha to pick up the slack on O.

It’s sad to think that Carmelo Anthony might be the best two-way player on the team, and he is the guy we want saving his energy for offense. Lance Thomas, at 6-8, 235 should be that guy, but his defense isn’t as good as has been heralded, and he only scores 8.5 per game.

Having players that can’t play both sides of the ball in a versatile manner, either by being able to guard multiple positions and hit the long ball or by being talented offensively and at least passable defensively means that this team is not only predictable night in and night out, but is also incapable of adjusting. While teams of bygone eras past had rigid position definitions and specialists that filled pre-determined roles, modern NBA teams thrive on fluidity and versatility.  Compare the starting lineups of the 2006 NBA finals between the Heat and Mavericks to the 2015 NBA finals between the Cavaliers and Warriors to see exactly what I am talking about. The Knicks just haven’t gotten the memo.

In an NBA where the best teams play in space while maximizing 3’s, free throws, and layups, the Knicks take long, inefficient 2’s. In an NBA where the best teams push the pace to make it easier on offense for their best players, the Knicks slow it down and pound the ball in, assuring everyone gets hurt and tired. In an NBA where the best teams play units that maximize each other’s strength and hide weaknesses, the Knicks either play redundant players and specialists, or misuse the talent that they do have. In an NBA where the best teams play versatile players capable of wearing multiple hats on either end, the Knicks play Jose Calderon and Robin Lopez. This team would have probably kicked some serious ass in 2006. Too bad that was ten years ago. The good news is that this squad is sure to provide plenty of fodder for the NewYorkKnicks Podcast, so stay tuned!

2015/16 Knicks Roster Power Rankings – Week 16

The Knicks lost every game this week, no one is playing particularly well, and now coach Fisher has been fired.  Greek Salad hasn’t been resigned yet so we’re back down to 14 players on the roster.
Rank Player Comments Last weeks Rank
1 Lopez, Robin Lopez started off the week with a great game agains the Celtics and a Monster game against the Pistons.  He also played 30 minutes or more in every game this week.  He didn’t do anything against the Nuggets, but no one strung together 4 good games this week and that 26 and 16 game against Detroit was most impressive.  Good enough for Lopez first #1 ranking of the season. 3
2 Porzingis, Kristaps Porzingis did the opposite of Lopez, played poorly against Boston and Detroit and then looked amazing against Memphis and Denver.  Imagine one day all our guys played well at the same time? 4
3 Afflalo, Arron This is representative of how bad the Knicks have been.  Afflalo didn’t have a very good week and moved up 2 spots. 5
4 Anthony, Carmelo Oh my lord did Melo shoot bad this week.  He said it’s because his knee is hurting which is just great.  Years 1 and 2 of his max contract have been disasters.  Good thing Melo got to the line, rebounded, and passed to make up for his shooting, but now he’s starting to miss a bunch of games so I’m getting pretty nervos. 1
5 Galloway, Langston Galloway had a nice showing against Detroit, but was absolute trash in the games he started this week. Continue reading

Episode 326: Goodbye Derek Fisher

Jay, Martin, and Stats Guy III talk about the firing of Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis taking over, potential moves, the last 4 games the Knicks played, predictions for the next 6 games and much more

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2015/16 Knicks Roster Power Rankings – Week 15

This is the first week this season in which the Knicks have a full roster of 15, after signing Thanasis Antetokounmpo.  Other than that, this week was pretty much what you’d expect; losses to Toronto and OKC and a win against the wretched Suns.  This is a hard week to rank and no one really played particularly well in the two losses.
Rank Player Comments Last weeks Rank
1 Anthony, Carmelo After sitting out against Toronto, Melo came back with back to back double doubles, and was 2 assists shy of a triple double against the Suns. 1
2 Galloway, Langston Solid week for Langston in Calderons absense. Shooting is erratic, but defense and ball movement have been decent. 8
3 Lopez, Robin Consistently one of the best +/- on the team.  Odd that he only plays 24mpg. 3
4 Porzingis, Kristaps We learned this week that Porzingis is a lot slower than Dramond Green.  A LOT. 2
5 Afflalo, Arron How can Afflalo look so good some games and so completely terrible in others? Continue reading

Episode 325: Mike Woodson and Derek Fisher

Marc and Jay are joined by Mike Woodson and Derek Fisher to talk about the last 4 games, coaching, how to properly answer questions, sleeping with players wives, and much more

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2015/16 Knicks Roster Power Rankings – Week 14

Once again the Knicks hit .500 and once again go on a losing streak.  Melo played hurt and then didn’t play.  Lance missed some games and we realized how much he means to the team.  The rankings look pretty different this week due to injuries and some up and down play.  The OKC game is included in these rankings because I’m doing this a day late this week.

Rank Player Comments Last weeks Rank
1 Williams, Derrick Yeah I went there. Who else had a better week than Williams? Back to back double doubles with 19 and 21 points, yes please. 4
2 Lopez, Robin Monster game against the Jazz, and respectable showings the rest of the week. 5
3 Galloway, Langston Galloway almost saved the day in OKC. Watch him finally get his groove and get thrown into a Jeff Teague trade. 6
4 Porzingis, Kristaps Shot is still sporadic, but pretty much every game he does something that makes me giddy. 2
5 Anthony, Carmelo Melo started off the week hot but was progressively more hobbled each game, culminating in a DNP against OKC. If the Knicks are going to make a playoff push Melo has to get healthy fast. Continue reading

Episode 324: Nothing Without Lance

Marc, Jay, and Will talk about the last 3 games, the Cavs firing Blatt, Lance the glue guy, taking back our Melo comment from last episode, revisiting the offseason moves, and much more

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2015/16 Knicks Roster Power Rankings – Week 13

The Knicks went 2-2 this week.  That’s OK, but losing to Brooklyn and needing double overtime to beat the ’76ers isn’t good.  I guess it could have been worse, and there were some nice performances in Melo’s 2 game absence.

Rank Player Comments Last weeks Rank
1 Afflalo, Arron 3 really nice games for Arron this week. We’ll ignore the Grizzlies game. The Knicks win almost every time Arron scores over 20 points. 2
2 Porzingis, Kristaps Porzingis has had good shooting nights more often than not lately. It looks like stamina is the only thing holding him back, which is understandable since he has already played more minutes than all of last season. 3
3 Anthony, Carmelo If anyone was wondering just how important Melo is to this team, the Nets game should be a good indication. The Knicks can’t even beat the dregs of the league without Melo. 1
4 Williams, Derrick Williams was one of the only guys who showed against Brooklyn. Not sure why his minutes fluctuate so much (defense? Shot selection?) but he puts up great numbers when he plays more than 20. 5
5 Lopez, Robin I still can’t figure out why sometimes Robin looks like he has some offense and sometimes he looks like Dennis Rodman on offense. Continue reading