Regular season basketball is back, baby! It’s been one week
since you looked at me since the Knickerbockers of New York took the floor to commence their 2018–19 season. They trashed the Atlanta Hawks and since then, it’s been three losses. The silver lining is that these three loses have been close, entertaining games. Kevin Knox — if you’re not reading his eventual Pulitzer-Prize winning, Posting & Toasting exclusive series, go kick rocks — may have hurt himself, but at least Damyean Dotson is finally playing, right? I guess? Maybe? I don’t know.
Anywell, welcome back to the critically acclaimed, Posting & Toasting exclusive series “How They Drew It Up.” Jeff Bellone of Knicks Film School fame says, “Drew’s surface-level insight on random plays is inspirational.” In this week’s article, I decided to take five random clips instead of one cohesive narrative as the market for Knicks film analysis is becoming oversaturated with thematic videos. I can’t keep up with it as I have to maintain my growing relationship with Kevin Knox. Someone has to be on the beat.
There have been four games played, so each game will at least be represented once. Which game appears twice? Will there be a bonus clip this week to honor the first week of games? Who receives the most praise? It’s time to find out now!
Hardaway Steppin’ Behind the Line
In the previous edition of the series, I highlighted a clip of Frank Ntilikina consciously trying to step back behind the three-point line instead of taking a pull-up long two. Unlike Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway Jr. actually gets his feet behind the line.
In a season where we know how the season is going to end, you best believe that I’m going to be focusing on whether or not the Knicks shake the midrange stink from the latter years of the Carmelo Era, or as I like to call it, the Jeff Hornacek Experience. [LOW SAMPLE SIZE ALERT] Despite an increase in raw three-point attempts, Hardaway’s three-point rate has decreased from last season while his 10 foot to less than the three-point line two point attempts increased, per Basketball Reference.
Watching Hardaway consciously take a step back to generate more open space instead of a pull-up two pointer made me giddy. I need more of this, please.
Frank Imitating Kanter, But Much Better
You know that play the Knicks run for Kanter to make him feel special by feeding him the ball in the post on the weakside? The one they tried running against Brook “Brick Wall” Lopez the other night that made you want to pull your hair out? That play. Well, the Knicks decided to run this play with Frank in the post and actually have off-the-ball movement! It may be the best play of the season (hyperbolic, I know):
Kanter dumps the ball into the post to Ntilikina, then Kanter and Burke set duel pin downs to free Hardaway for an open three. They really made Caris Levert work to get out and contest that shot. Ntillmatic has the size and passing vision to post up smaller defenders. Using the big men like Kanter to set these type of screens to free up shooters is something the Knicks should explore more with French Sinatra and Kevin Knox (when he gets back) posting up.
The team usually stops moving when Kanter posts because more often than not, there isn’t a pass coming out. Kanter has been better at passing, though, meaning he actually has made a number of passes from the post. Granted, they are usually too late when the help defense is already there poking at the ball, but baby steps.
Nevertheless, more Frank post ups with off-ball actions!
Frank Slicin’ & Dicin’
See this clip? It’s nice, right? Well, you’re about to experience a bait and switch because I’m about to do something that pains me more than watching that Fresh Prince of Bel Air clip when Will’s dad leaves him: criticize Frank Ntilikina. I feel like I’m Will’s dad and Frank is Will.
Ntilikina doesn’t move when off-the-ball. Why he doesn’t will be the subject of a future Posting & Toasting article(s), so stay tuned. No matter the “why” of this subject, Ntilikina during the fourth quarter of this Milwaukee game was more passive than he’s ever been. With Burke taking a much needed rest after carrying the team in the third quarter and Ron Baker out via another elbow to the face, the French Prince was thrusted into the lead guard roll. And with the ball in his hands and taking the ball up the court, he simply passed it to the wing and ran to the corner. This type of behavior and play has a lot left to be desired.
There is no reason for the play above to be an outlier for Frank. He needs to cut more to get some easy baskets. This layup above was too easy and Frank should be doing this at least twice a game.
Vonleh Dishin’ & Swishin’
What if I told you that Noah Vonleh has the second highest assist percentage on the Knicks so far? Crazy, right? The clip below is so simple, but so pure. It’s beautiful.
Vonleh slips at the perfect time just as Aron Baynes’ momentum is still moving forward. Mario Hezonja performs a perfect pocket pass. Because Baynes wasn’t in position, it forced Jaylen Brown to help on Vonleh, which means Allonzo Trier is open in the corner. And guess what, Vonleh rifles a perfect pass to Allonzo Trier for the catch-and-shoot corner three.
Plays like this remind of why I love basketball.
Noah “Point Center” Vonleh & Damyean Dotson on Both Ends of the Court
I guess Coach Fizdale wasn’t kidding about whoever grabs the rebound can bring the ball up and initiate the offense. But this clip has even more than meets the eye.
The first part you see the Knicks fighting on defense as folks are fighting and getting over screens. Vonleh and Dotson contain the Morris-Theiss pick-and-roll as Hezonja recovers. With the driving lane closed, Marcus Morris kicks out to what should have been an open Jayson Tatum, but Dotson was having none of it. Dotson recovers and rushes out to chase Tatum off the three-point line, falls for the pump fake, but recovers again as he forced Tatum into a bad long-two attempt. Grade A defense on that possession.
Vonleh secures the rebound and takes off. Dotson is already in the corner when Vonleh and company get past half court. Then while the defense isn’t complete set, New York runs their patented sideline double screen action, but with a slight twist. The second screen came from a Vonleh hand-off. Dotson gets a clean, balanced, in-rhythm jumper as Tatum is forced to trail him due to having to go high on the screens.
Sure, this is a long two, but these are the type of long twos you can live with because it’s a good shot. It’s nice to see Dotson get some quality minutes off the bench and capitalize on the playing time, and Vonleh is filling the missing Kyle O’Quinn-shaped hole in my heart. If Vonleh continues to play like this, expect me to be clamoring for more Vonleh minutes over Kanter. How this guy fell through the cracks and why teams forced him to play the four is beyond me.