The lockout has hurt offenses. The league-wide offensive rating is at 99.7 points per 100 possessions. Teams are struggling to score.
No team may resemble these struggles more than Mike D’Antoni and his New York Knicks. D’Antoni, the innovator of the Seven Seconds or Less offense and some of the most prolific offenses of the past decade, is struggling to get the Knicks going.
It leads to one inevitable conclusion, which D’Antoni expressed to Al Iannazzone of Newsday:
“We’re just playing awful. We just can’t make a shot. It’s not real good.”
And this is not just a problem of Carmelo Anthony being absent from the lineup. The Knicks are amazingly 25th in the league in offensive rating, scoring 95.8 points per 100 possessions. Worse still, New York is shooting 41.4 percent from the floor, good for 29th in the league, and a 45.9 percent effective field goal percentage, 24th in the league.
The only saving grace for the Knicks, is a high free throw rate and the copious amounts of fouls that Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are able to draw. What is not going to help though with how poor the Knicks play offensively is that they still keep the relatively fast pace of 96.8 possessions per game, second in the league.
This Knicks team is in trouble. While the defense has improved greatly with the addition of Tyson Chandler, this is not the same offensive team. And D’Antoni is starting to feel the pressure.
Welcome to life in the Big Apple.
This is a very different team than the one last year that scored 106.5 points per game, posted a 108.3 offensive rating and shot 45.7 percent from the floor. The scoring numbers were both in the top five in the league, making up for below average shooting numbers. New York was good at putting the ball in the basket, especially before the Carmelo Anthony trade.
This year, that has not been the case.
The Knicks are without the true point guard that the D’Antoni system usually thrives with. But Steve Nash also makes most offenses look good too. Maybe adding in Baron Davis, who posted a 41.2 percent assist rate in splitting time with the Clippers and Cavaliers last year, will help get the offense moving. Not to mention the fact that Davis is another scorer who can create shots for himself and get makes from the perimeter.
More weapons are always a good thing, but Davis is also another high-usage player who relies on one-on-one play to generate his offense. This seems to be the Knicks biggest problem. They have guys who do not work well off each other, but rather need the ball repeatedly to score. Stoudemire is about theo nly guy who can do something other than dribble to get his own shot, and that is dependent on Anthony running pick and rolls with him.
New York also does not have the floor-spacing shooters that made last year’s offense so deadly and this year’s offense not as deadly. Instead of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton helping to spread the floor, this year’s team is relying on Toney Douglas, Landry Fields and Bill Walker to do that. While Walker and those other players can get on a hot streak and keep the Knicks in a game, they are hardly consistent enough from long range to keep defenders honest. Not that Anthony or Stoudemire are much in the way of passing to getting it to them.
The Knicks on paper have an extremely talented offensive arsenal. The problem is the game is not played on paper. At 7-13 and outside the playoff picture unexpectedly, D’Antoni can sense the impatience of the New York market and the desire to see some high-flying, Playoff-caliber basketball. coming from the fans. Surely he is frustrated too that his offense cannot get off the ground despite the marked improvement on the defensive end.
The fact of the matter is, the Knicks need to change the way they think of themselves. This is not an offensively talented team as constructed. This is a team that is built on defense and has the one-on-one players to execute late in games and create something from nothing. This is not a seven-seconds-or-less team. This should be a gritty hard-nosed team that is relatively difficult to score against.
That is what the numbers say at least.
Convincing D’Antoni to change to that philosophy midseason would be extremely difficult considering Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony are not known as lock-down defenders.
Or maybe New York’s struggles on the offensive end are more emblematic of the offensive downturn throughout the league and any changes that are made should wait until the offseason when the team will have a full training camp to prepare and drill.
That is not going to matter much to New York fans right now. Right now, their team stinks on that end.