One Team, One Stat: Defense still eludes Knicks

NBA.com Global on Sep 30, 2017 04:03 PM
One Team, One Stat: Defense still eludes Knicks
New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6), of Latvia, battles Los Angeles Lakers forward Thomas Robinson (15) and forward Larry Nance Jr. (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com

NBA.com's John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2017-18 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the New York Knicks, who have played a lot of bad defense this century.

THE STAT

The New York Knicks have been a worse-than-average defensive team in 15 of the last 16 seasons.

THE CONTEXT

The lone exception is the lockout-shortened season of 2011-12 (when they ranked fifth defensively and Tyson Chandler won Defensive Player of the Year). The last time the Knicks allowed fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average in a full, 82-game season was in 2000-01, Jeff Van Gundy's last full season as Knicks head coach.

While much of the talk about the Knicks' recent issues has revolved around the Triangle offense, they were worse defensively (ranking 25th and allowing 2.5 points per 100 possessions more than the league average) than they were offensively (ranking 18th and scoring 1.5 points per 100 possessions fewer than the league average) last season. No team scored more efficiently in a loss last season than the Knicks did in a Feb. 10 loss against Denver.

The Knicks allowed their opponents to take 68 percent of their shots from the restricted area and 3-point range, the most efficient places to score. Only Milwaukee (69 percent) allowed a higher rate of shots from those two areas.

The Knicks also ranked last in defensive rebounding percentage, grabbing just 74.1 percent of available defensive boards. And they ranked 25th in regard to forcing turnovers (13.0 per 100 possessions).

They were at their worst defensively, allowing more than 111 points per 100 possessions, with Carmelo Anthony on the floor. But he's not taking all of the team's defensive issues with him to Oklahoma City.

Kristaps Porzingis ranked as one of the league's best rim protectors last season. Opponents shot just 44.2 percent at the rim when he was there to defend it. That was the fourth lowest percentage among 56 players who defended five or more shots at the rim in at least 40 games.

But Willy Hernangomez was, statistically, the worst layup deterrent in the league. With him on the floor, Knicks opponents took 38.2 percent of their shots in the restricted area, the highest rate among the 256 players who were on the floor for at least 2,000 opponent shots.

And of course, neither Enes Kanter nor Doug McDermott are known for their defensive prowess. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek may have to search for a not-so-bad defensive unit.

With Phil Jackson gone, Hornacek could loosen the reigns on the offense and play faster. In his last full season in Phoenix (2014-15), the Suns took 19.8 percent of their shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock. That was easily the highest rate in the league. The Knicks saw an increase in pace in Hornacek's first season in New York, but their 98.6 possessions per 48 minutes were still slightly below the league average (98.7).

The best way to get out on the break is to get stops and rebound. As the Knicks move on without Anthony, progress on both ends of the floor should begin with better defense.

KNICKS NOTES - GENERAL

1. One of three Eastern Conference teams - Orlando and Philadelphia are the others - that hasn't made the playoffs in the last four years. There are five Western Conference teams that haven't.

2. Started last season 16-13, though they were outscored by 65 points over those 29 games. Only Brooklyn (13-41) had a worse record than the Knicks (15-38) thereafter.

3. Went 3-20 against the top six teams in the East (including 0-12 against Cleveland, Toronto and Washington), allowing 112.5 points per 100 possessions in the 23 games. They were 19-10 against the rest of the East, allowing 103.7.

4. One of two teams that ranked in the top five in rebounding percentage on one end of the floor (they ranked fifth in offensive rebounding percentage) and in the bottom five on the other end of the floor (they ranked last in defensive rebounding percentage). Charlotte (27th and second) was the other.

5. One of three teams (the Lakers and Kings were the others) that got better with each quarter, from a minus-7.4 NetRtg in the first to plus-2.6 in the 4th.

KNICKS NOTES - OFFENSE

1. According to SportVU, 36.6 percent of their jumpers, the second highest rate in the league, were contested. Anthony ranked second (behind DeMar DeRozan) in total contested jumpers.

2. Led the league with 2,078 mid-range field goal attempts and were one of seven teams who attempted more mid-range shots than 3-pointers. Anthony ranked second (behind DeRozan again) in mid-range attempts among players.

3. Had an effective field goal percentage of 56.2 percent, the second lowest mark in the league, in the first six seconds of the shot clock. Only Dallas (55.0 percent) shot worse in the first six seconds.

4. Have ranked in the top five in passes per possession each of the last three seasons, but have also ranked in the bottom 10 in assist percentage (AST/FGM) in each of the last two (and 12 of the last 14).

5. Have ranked in the bottom 10 in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in each of the last four seasons. Last season, the only Knick who took at least 300 shots from the field and had a better-than-average free throw rate (the league average was 0.271) was Brandon Jennings, who was traded in February.

6. Their 21.8 drives per game were up from a league-low 15.5 in 2015-16, but were still the second fewest in the league. Derrick Rose accounted for 643 (36 percent) of their 1,788 total drives.

KNICKS NOTES - DEFENSE

1. As noted above, they allowed their opponents to take 68.2 percent of their shots, the second highest rate in the league, from the restricted area or 3-point range. That was up from 60.5 percent (just the 15th highest rate) the season before. That jump of 7.8 percent was the biggest from 2015-16 to '16-17.

2. Allowed a league-high 14.7 second chance points per game.

3. Had the league's worst first-half defense, allowing 111.7 points per 100 possessions before halftime. They ranked 11th defensively in the second half, allowing 105.7.

4. One of four teams that allowed their opponents to get at least 15 percent of their possessions in transition, though they were the best among that group in defending those transition possessions.

5. Drew just 0.23 charges per game, the second lowest rate in the league.

KNICKS NOTES - LINEUPS

1. Only team in the league that didn't have a single player with a positive plus-minus last season. The Knicks' best raw plus-minus belonged to Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who was a minus-1 in 1,016 minutes.

2. Their best five-man unit plus-minus (plus-29) belonged to a lineup that featured Porzingis and four reserves (Jennings, Justin Holiday, Kuzminskas and Hernangomez). It played just 45 minutes together.

3. Scored 110.3 points per 100 possessions (and were a plus-14) in 351 minutes with Anthony and Porzingis playing the four and five (with no true bigs on the floor). Scored 104.0 (and were a minus-122) in 1,023 minutes with the pair on the floor with another big.

4. Recorded assists on 50.8 percent of their baskets with Derrick Rose on the floor and 60.1 percent of their baskets with him off the floor.

5. Allowed 111.6 points per 100 possessions with Anthony, Porzingis and Rose on the floor together. That was the sixth worst DefRtg mark among 92 three-man combinations that played at least 1,000 minutes last season.

KNICKS NOTES - INDIVIDUAL

1. Michael Beasley had an effective field goal percentage of 61.1 percent at home and 49.8 percent on the road with the Bucks last season. That (11.3 percent) was the fifth biggest differential among 205 players that attempted at least 200 shots both at home and on the road.

2. Tim Hardaway Jr. shot 13-for-27 (48.1 percent) on clutch 3-pointers last season, the second best mark among players who attempted at least 25.

3. Willy Hernangomezled all rookies with 11 double-doubles. He grabbed 39.8 percent of his team's rebounds while he was on the floor, the highest rate among rookies who played at least 500 minutes. And his effective field goal percentage of 53.3 percent was the best mark among 24 rookies who attempted at least 250 shots.

4. Enes Kanter was one of eight players who shot better than 50 percent on at least 100 non-restricted-area paint shots. But after shooting 26-for-66 (39 percent) from 3-point range over the previous two seasons, he was 5-for-38 (13 percent) last season. No player shot worse on at least 25 attempts.

5. 41.6 percent of Courtney Lee's 3-point attempts came from the corners. That was the fourth highest rate among 135 players that attempted at least 200 total threes.

6. Over the last four seasons, Lee has shot 46.4 percent from mid-range, the eighth best mark among 83 players who have attempted at least 750 mid-range shots over that time.

7. Doug McDermott had an effective field goal percentage of 62.4 percent in the second quarter, the fifth best mark among 145 players who attempted at least 150 second-quarter shots. He had an effective field goal percentage of 46.2 percent in the other three periods plus overtime.

8. Joakim Noah (16.2 percent, first), Kanter (14.7 percent, fourth), Hernangomez (14.2 percent, sixth), and Kyle O'Quinn (13.8 percent, ninth) all ranked in the top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage among 294 players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 or more games.

9. Kristaps Porzingis shot 38.4 percent from 3-point range before the All-Star break and just 26.4 percent after the break. Among 144 players who attempted at least 100 threes before the break and 50 after, only four saw a bigger drop in 3-point percentage.

10. Kanter and Porzingis assisted on 6.4 percent and 7.4 percent of their possessions, respectively. Those were the third and seventh lowest assist ratios of 102 players who had a usage rate of 20 percent or higher and averaged at least 20 minutes per game.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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