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How They Drew It Up: First week

RJ Barrett is my K.I.N.G.

Boston Celtics v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Before I get into the meat of the article, I want to take a moment to address what happened in Saturday’s game against the Celtics. And by address, I mean speak to David Fizdale directly, since I know he is an avid reader of the world’s greatest Knicks website.

David, what you did to Dennis Smith Jr. that night was utterly disgraceful and unacceptable. How dare you allow that to happen. Your job as a coach is to protect your players and put them in positions to succeed. Instead, your head is so far up your own ass that you simply cannot see or comprehend that Smith is both hurt and has his confidence shattered. The poor kid was on the verge of tears when the home crowd started chanting “WE WANT FRANK.”

If you actually care about player development and the well-being of your team, then you should sit Smith and give him time off to work on getting healthier and ready to actually play NBA basketball (Ed. note: This was before Smith’s stepmother passed away, and he is currently taking a leave of absence). How can you have a mantra of “keep what you kill” and possibly believe that Smith “killed it” with his play on the court to start the season? In the competition to win point guard minutes, you have to play with an injured back and brick every jump shot?

I want to like you, Fiz, I really do. You’re much better than that bum Jeff Hornacek. I’m tired of the Knicks constantly firing their head coaches. But you’re a hypocrite who doesn’t practice what he preaches. If you actually cared about defense and sharing the ball, you wouldn’t be playing Smith, Trier, and Morris the amount of minutes you do. The only thing you actually get about is individual shot creation given that you don’t actually have an offensive system. And what makes it all worse is that you clearly have the capability to do this given your adjustments in the second half of the Net game.

Stop being stubborn, learn from your mistakes, and don’t ever do what you did to a young player like Smith ever again. And if you do, please go kick rocks somewhere outside of New York City. You should be completely ashamed of yourself.

Okay, so now that I got that out of my system, hey guys! Welcome to the inaugural “How They Drew It Up” for the 2019–20 season. If you’re not familiar with this series, it’s more or less me discussing random clips from Knicks games that I like or dislike. Sometimes it’s a theme, sometimes it’s a hodgepodge or clips. You never know what you will find inside these articles. They are like Wonder Balls.

For the most part, I review five clips. Sometimes there is a bonus clip, sometimes I add two clips into one video as part of a larger theme. I’m rather loosey-goosey with the rules. All that matters is that you get the gist of things.

Despite the 0–3 start and the whole Dennis Smith situation, there have been some bright spots with the play of the team. Alright, fine, you got me. It’s mainly just one bright spot, and his name rhymes with MK Garrett. And don’t worry, you’re gonna get plenty of RJ right here, right now.

RJ Barrett to the rim

One concern coming out of Summer League was Barrett’s inability to use his right hand. He would force layups and shots at the rim with his right, despite it not being the best hand available. Until it resurfaces (if it resurfaces), throw that weakness right out the window!

That right there is a MAN’S FINISH. Barrett, with his right hand, gets into the lane and the chest of that big Boston scrub to draw the foul and finish through the contact. Barrett is leading all rookies with 4.7 free throw attempts per game. If RJ is now going to draw fouls and finish through contact with his off hand, the league better watch out.

How not to post up

This may come as a shock to no one, but the Knickerbockers of New York are fifth in post-up field goal attempts per game (only two behind the league-leading Lakers and in the bottom half of post-up efficiency). Last season, Julius Randle was in the 48th percentile in post-up efficiency, so of course the Knicks’ signature play is to post up Julius Randle on the weak side early in the shot clock. If you can run a play that guarantees less than one point per possession, you obviously run it to the ground.

How many times have we seen some version of this play so far in the early season? Conservatively, 69 times, probably. The spacing here is awful. The entire team literally clears out to form a strong side, leaving Randle with no release valve. And then, predictably, Randle turns it over and leads to a transition opportunity. This is how you don’t post up.

This is how you post up

Now this is how it’s done!

Dennis Smith Jr. cuts and clears out to the opposite corner to both clear out space and present a potential scoring threat. San Antonio snuffed that out, obviously, but our good friend RJ Barrett has been great cutting to the rim with a purpose and scoring. Everyone from Bobby Portis to Marcus Morris go to their correct spots to maximize spacing. DeRozan went for the double or went just for a swipe at Randle. Either way, Randle makes the correct pass and timed it perfectly. Morris catches it in rhythm and drains the three.

If the spacing is correct, using the post to generate other scoring looks like cutters or 3-point shooters if the defender is sagging to close to the paint is the best way to maximize the strengths of Randle, Barrett, Morris, Ellington, etc.

RJ Barrett’s defense

The biggest and most pleasant surprise of the early season is that RJ Barrett is a legitimate NBA defender. He had a whopping six steals against the Nets. SIX! Barrett has been reading the passing lanes, keeping his arms up, and anticipating like a 12-year veteran.

Just look at the way he fights over the screen and recovers onto the roll man. Taj also did a great job in containing the ball handler, but RJ blew up what should have been an easy dunk for Jordan. This kid is gonna be special if he keeps this up.

We get it, you love RJ

Yeah, more RJ clips. Deal with it. He’s the King of New York now. What we are about to watch is a combination of everything highlighted above about Barrett.

Barrett’s second-half defense on the Nets’ point of attack got the Knicks back into that game. He was simply exceptional. Again, Barrett fights over the screen and recovers onto Allen. He gets his hands on the ball and pushes in transition. He then gets to rim, draws contact, and finishes with the right hand to complete the and-one. I love this kid and am so happy that my concerns I had about him when he was drafted are effectively all gone.


I didn’t want to leave this clip on the cutting room floor because it made me laugh when it happened live.

The way that (Ed. note: alleged) woman-beater Kurucs loses the ball and falls to the floor brought me tears of joy. Mitch is great and I love him too.