Will the Knicks make the post season?
Written by Luke Ambrose, follow him on twitter and instagram
The Mecca has been rocking of late with some impressive Knick performances, even the heart breaking come back loss handed to them by Cleveland was great to watch. Porzingis’s down tick in shooting percentage has gone unnoticed with Tim Hardaway Jr coming out party, highlighted by the dagger three at the end of the Utah game on Wednesday, a week after scoring 38 points against Toronto at MSG. Production from other role plays has also been important in jumping out to a good start. Lee, O’Quinn, Jack and Thomas have all been better than expectations at the beginning of the season.
So, what’s next for this gritty new Knicks team? In this unpredictable Eastern conference, it is too easy to fantasize about playoff basketball, and the Knicks will have to continue to improve to make it there.
The triangle is out of sight and out of mind. Horneck has been given full control of the
offense and now the offense is going to run. Unsurprisingly (given the Knicks personnel) they have managed to create an identity as a team that can run in transition, ranking in the top 10 in points added through transition (per 100 possessions). Getting out in transition is one thing but the Knicks have also remained efficient ranking 7th in transition points scored (per 100 transition plays), and 12th at finishing at the rim.
The numbers illustrate how the Knicks are trying to play, however to be successful against the better teams they will need to emphasis transition opportunities more often. We have seen New York resort to iso situations even off a steal, which slows the offense down and lets the opposing defense set up.
Another warning sign that the offense maybe struggling more than it seems is the inability to turn steals into transition points. So far, this year the Knicks rank 27th in transition points added through steals. This combined with the efficiency or lack of the Knicks are showing in transition is a worrying sign for the 10-7 New York squad.
Defensively, the Knicks have been dramatically up and down. Just over a week ago Kyle
Korver highlighted the main blundering point, defending the three-point line. This weakness was also taken advantage of by the tanking Hawks. The Knicks are one of the worst teams in the league at defending the three-point line, especially from the corners. In a three-point shooting league the team will struggle to make it to the post season without improving their close out defense. Otherwise we may start to see even more games get away from the Knicks like we saw against, Toronto (at Air Canada), Cleveland, and Atlanta.
The Knicks can’t rely on Kristaps through 82 games.
Versus both the Clippers and Raptors this week the Knicks have taken some further baby steps towards consistency. Even more encouraging for the blue and orange is Tim Hardaway Jr’s performances. Offensively the shooting guard has grown into his roll, taking less contested 3-pointers and getting to and finishing at the rim. Hardaway Jr’s performances have meant the Knicks have pulled out wins without completely relying on KP. As the season continues Timmy’s offense will become even more important, and he has to stay aggressive in attacking the rim if the Knicks are serious about staying over .500.
Unbelievably, THJ’s defense has also been worth writing about. Defensively, Hardaway has become more like his team mate Courtney Lee instead of 2015-16 James Harden. Once-upon-a- time, the young shooting guard would reach constantly, and become a turn table when confronted with a driving opponent. Nowadays, NY’s number 3 is moving his feet, muscling over screens, and stealing the ball from lackadaisical ball handlers. Hardaway Jr will never transform into Tony Allen, but if he can remain average on the defensive end the Knicks become a much better team.
Nothing illustrated the Knicks defensive improvements more than the third quarter on
Wednesday night vs division rivals Toronto.
However, the defensive effort has to be there for the Knicks 8/10 games if they want to hold on to one of those magical playoff seeds.
So, can the Knicks finally make a playoff run?
That’s to be decided, but they are making progress.