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Smart People on the Knicks' Success

I don't have much of significance to say today, so I'll pass you off to two giants of the basketblogosphere who've recently penned interesting articles on these rising Knicks. It appears that Mike D'Antoni has found a way to play to his roster's strengths.

Mike Kurylo of Knickerblogger as identified some of the overriding tenets of the D'Antoni system in New York. One of several strengths he mentions:

Over the life of KnickerBlogger, I’ve criticized Knick coaches for not putting out a lineup that forced the opposition to adjust to New York’s strengths. And this is exactly what D’Antoni does. If you watched the Indiana game, Hibbert looked like a slow plodding dinosaur against the more agile Knicks.

Indeed. Click through for more of the "D'Antoni rules".

Meanwhile, Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus (who tackled the Knicks' slow start with much aplomb) is back at it, combing through the data to pinpoint the trends in New York's recent success. A taste:

The most surprising change is in terms of the Knicks' pace. The coach once known for his ":07 Seconds or Less" philosophy is now practicing something more akin to ":15 Seconds or Less." Through the end of November, New York was playing at the league's third-fastest pace. Since then, the Knicks have been more deliberate than the average team, playing old-fashioned track meets only against running teams like Indiana and Phoenix. D'Antoni slowed things down when the Suns traded for Shaquille O'Neal, but even that adjustment was nowhere near this extreme.

Almost as much as the fast pace, poor rebounding--especially on the offensive glass--had been a D'Antoni trademark, and New York was no exception early this season. Only the Golden State Warriors have rebounded fewer of their own misses than the Knicks in November (21.4 percent). Since the end of that month, New York is up to a 25.3 percent offensive rebound rate, which is within shouting distance of league average. The Knicks are rebounding better on the defensive end too, making use of a big starting lineup (6'8" Wilson Chandler, once groomed for the Shawn Marion role in D'Antoni's lineup, is now nominally the two-guard) that assists anchor David Lee on the glass by committee.

So, a lot of it has to do with atypical adaptability on the part of D'Antoni. If you read on, Pelton also gives credit to a few Knick players who've improved mightily since the season's opening month (including players that he singled out in his first article). He also warns that some of the positive statistics might be tough to keep afloat:

I'm willing to accept New York as one of the best three-point defenses in the league, if not the best, but 25.2 percent shooting beyond the arc is unsustainably low. As we saw with the Miami Heat earlier this season, fluky three-point shooting by opponents can make a defense look a lot better than it is. Expect the Knicks' D to regress slightly going forward.

It's pretty wild to imagine the Knicks as anywhere near a competent three-point defending team, let alone an elite one, but it seems that's been part of the success. I have been noticing an unusual number of missed open threes from opponents (while Nate was torching Atlanta, they were bricking gimmes), so we'll see how that number holds up.

Good stuff. Just to pass along a couple other things I've been staring at this morning, check out New York's Hot Spots for the early going (Might post on this soon.), as well as David Lee's detailed shooting numbers. The man is shooting as confidently and accurately as it appears to the naked eye. Also, take a look at Jared Jeffries' splits for November vs. December. I can't help but notice how well those two complement each other.