While it may seem like the season has just started, we’re actually not too far off from being a fifth of the way through the season. Now, a lot can still change and a whole myriad of unexpected things can still happen so we do need to be cautious not to overreact, but there are a few numbers and stats that are important for this team and its fans to keep an eye on going forward.
At 8-6, the Knicks are currently tied for the 10th-best record in the league, which is good but not great. What is great though, is their net rating, which is at a plus 4.7, good for sixth in the league. Now, at first sight, this is welcome news. It’s a potential sign that the Knicks’ defense, which has been very good so far, and the offense, which has been inconsistent but above average, are good enough to sustain a top-10 record and even make a run for a top-five record in the league. I do want to caution fans before getting overly excited though, because those numbers early on may be partially skewed and propped up from their games against the Hornets, Wizards, and Spurs. Obviously, the Knicks can only play who is on their schedule and they still deserve credit for taking care of business when playing lesser teams. This could mean that the team may be better than their 8-6 record suggests, but, this is as good of a time as any, to remember that this stat, just like all the ones below, and any other stat in general, needs to be taken with a grain of salt and with context in mind.
We all know just how infuriating the Knicks’ offense can be to watch at times. Too often, they become stagnant, end up over-dribbling, and rely too much on isolation-heavy hero ball. It was a big reason the Knicks’ season ended last year, and their lack of ball movement and offensive creativity and diversity could come back to bite them in the butt again. While the offensive rating, as mentioned above, looks solid, the Knicks are once again overly reliant on taking and making tough shots and praying for second, and sometimes third or fourth chances. Through 14 games, the Knicks currently rank 27th in the league in assist percentage at just 58.2%. For comparison, the top six teams in the league in terms of assist percentage are all at 65% or higher. If the Knicks want to be taken seriously as contenders, they’ll have to go from being a solid and competent offense to a good, or even great, and elite one that moves the ball around and beats you in different ways. Unfortunately, with the current coach and roster, that seems a bit tough.
Average seconds per touch
As we just talked about, the Knicks’ offense can often lack movement, in terms of both players and the ball. Another statistic pointing to that reality is their average seconds per touch. Heading into Friday night, New York currently ranks fourth in the league in average seconds per touch. This isn’t necessarily a sign that the offense is bad or that it will regress because there are and have been plenty of teams to be high on this list while having and maintaining a good, even great, offense. Right now, the Mavericks, Sixers, and Bucks, all of whom are top five in offensive rating this season, are all top 10 in the league in average seconds per touch. But, the only thing is, all of those teams have a player that can make a very compelling case for being a top-five player in the world. Dallas has Luka Doncic, Philadelphia has Joel Embiid, and Milwaukee has Giannis Antetokounmpo. New York does not. Both Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson are good players who are relied on to do a lot for this team but as we saw last season in the playoffs, this kind of offense can become somewhat easy to stop and gameplan for.
Effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage
While the offensive rating, as mentioned earlier, looks solid, those ratings can be a bit deceiving. Most teams that rank high in offensive rating, like the Pacers, Bucks, Hawks, and Mavericks this season, have a very good true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage, but that is absolutely not the case with the Knicks. As of Friday, the Knicks, despite ranking 11th in offensive rating, rank just 27th in effective field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage. And as bad as last season’s offense looked at times, they still managed to finish 20th in the league in both categories. Now, this could mean two things. One way to look at is that the Knicks are in for a very long season offensively and that they may need to go out and acquire some shotmakers if they want to give themselves a better shot down the stretch. The other, more optimistic, and potentially overly hopeful way to look at this, is to believe that the Knicks will regress positively.
Ever since Tom Thibodeau became the head coach of the Knicks, it seems like pace has been a pretty consistent talking point. During his tenure, the Knicks have been bottom five in pace every season and so far, it’s been no different. The Knicks currently have a pace of 96.89, which is 29th, a.k.a second worst, in the league. Like a lot of the offensive numbers above, this is both confusing and unorthodox. Most of the teams that lead the league in offensive rating tend to have a high pace. Making things even stranger is the fact that this team is relatively young and has some quick players like Jalen Brunson, and Immanuel Quickley, and has some athletes like Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson. You’d expect a team that struggles to shoot the ball like the Knicks would emphasize getting some easy baskets in transition but alas, here we are. I don’t expect the Knicks to ever be a fast-paced team with Thibodeau, and Randle leading the charge in New York, but it’s still important to note that their pace, as has been the case for a while now, is still a major weakness.
Offensive rebounding percentage
So how exactly have the Knicks managed to flirt with being a top-10 offense while being one of the worst shooting teams and the slowest teams in the league? Offensive rebounding, and more specifically, Mitchell Robinson. While Robinson has never been and likely never will be considered an offensive threat or a key cog in a good offense, his impact on that end of the floor this season has been incredible. The Knicks currently rank second in the league in offensive rebounding percentage and Robinson, who leads the league in offensive rebounding rate among qualifying players, is a huge reason why. If New York does manage to have a good season and make a playoff run, and do so without making any major moves to improve the offense, Robinson and his offensive rebounding will play a huge role. But, if his nearly historic offensive rebounding rate declines or if he has to miss any time, keep an eye on just how negatively it impacts the offense as a whole.
Blocks per game
The Knicks, who give up the fifth least points in the paint per game, average the least blocks per game by a significant margin. Through their first 14 games, New York is averaging just 2.6 blocks per game, which makes their elite rim protection very impressive. Having Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein definitely helps, and having a coach who is very adamant about playing drop coverage and packing the paint also contributes to that. This stat isn’t as worrying as a lot of the ones listed earlier but it is interesting nonetheless, and may be worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.