Coming into the 2022-23 season, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the depth the Knicks roster offered. The team had their own version of a big three with new signee Jalen Brunson alongside RJ Barrett and Julius Randle. Where the excitement stood was in the players on the bench, and the potential of playing a new style. With Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride, and Obi Toppin, the Knicks looked primed to have a different approach coming into the season.
The different approach being an increase in pace.
Although they have the personnel, the Knicks have a coach that does not like to change his style. The Knicks have ranked T-30th in 2020-21 and T-29th in 2021-22 for pace since Tom Thibodeau became the coach. Success in the NBA is not predicated on pace, rather it is how coaches and teams utilize their strengths.
One example to be looked at is the Dallas Mavericks.
Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks rank towards the bottom of the NBA in pace. With the slower style, Dallas ranks last in the NBA in possessions per game. What they have done to overcome their slow style is hit a ton of three pointers. They have found an identity and rank in the top five in three point makes and attempts per game. Although they sit around the .500 record mark, they know who they are and what they do best.
Back to the Knicks.
New York has been able to rank in the upper half of the NBA in points per game this season. It is easy to just look at points per game and think they've had this solid offensive season. At times they have popped, but it doesn't accurately tell the story of the Knicks offense.
The Knicks are in the top ten for field goal attempts per game. This is also due to their high rebounding rate and creating second chance opportunities. Despite all the shots, they rank in the bottom ten for field goal percentage. The three point shooting has been even worse. Ranking near the top ten in three point attempts per game, New York ranks near the bottom five for worst three point percentage. The Knicks players are taking a high variance of shots, and watching a lot of them miss. Julius Randle (7.1 3PA), RJ Barrett (5.5 3PA), Quentin Grimes (4.2 3PA) Immanuel Quickley (4.2 3PA), Jalen Brunson (4.2 3PA), and Obi Toppin (3.9 3PA) are all shooting under 37% from three despite almost all hoisting up four or more attempts per game.
How increased pace can improve Knicks offensively
When the New York Post came out with an article in early October talking about how the Knicks have discussed increasing pace this upcoming season, it created hope of a new scheme.
“Pace is oftentimes determined by your players,” Thibodeau stated.
“Though he didn’t commit to playing faster in speaking with reporters, behind the scenes Thibodeau has preached that style to his players,” the article continued.
As we are over 30 games into the 2022-23 NBA season, the New York Knicks rank in the bottom ten for pace. An increase in pace can really open up and create more opportunities for a team that has not shot the ball well this season. A run and gun type offense could better suit a team that's three primary scorers are all lefties who like to get to the same spots.
Turning up the pace can also create more assist and transition chances. The Knicks rank in the bottom ten in assists per game, a spot the franchise has been familiar with for years now. The passing has to come along with this team as they rank in the bottom ten in both potential assists and assist points created. For a team that is already struggling on the half court offensive end and not passing the ball well, there is no harm in changing things up.
A team that is in the upper echelon for rebounding should be able to find more ways to outlet the ball and create open shots. Ranking in the bottom ten for fast break points is not setting this team up for success with the skillset they possess. Trading off some threes for easier twos in transition would not be the worst decision. It can be where we see players such as Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett, and Quinten Grimes thrive.
Without a transcendent offensive talent such as a Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, or Luka Doncic, the Knicks need contributions from everyone to unlock this team offensively. Pushing the pace gives opportunity to have more flexibility and open shots in a quicker timeframe. It also takes away some of the pressure in the half court where we have seen the offense get stagnant.
Improve open three-point shooting
The Knicks really need to work on making wide open threes. As per NBA.com, the Knicks take about 16 three pointers a game with 4-6 feet of open space from the closest defender. Shooting under 34% on those attempts places them in the bottom ten of the league. When it comes to 6-plus feet of space which would be considered wide open, they shoot 35.7% on around 15 attempts per game, near the bottom of the league. The 15 attempts is something that can improve with pace. Opening up the floor, New York can better position players around the three point line to at least attempt more of those wide open threes. It speaks to the poor spacing on where they rank in the league on wide open threes. The Knicks points per game average is likely to drop if they don’t start improving efficiencies.
Pace, space, and open shots are ways this team can stay in the playoff race and not have a disappointing drop-off come seasons end.