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Knicks can become even tougher with offensive improvements

A 14-2 January with an average offense is pretty good!

Utah Jazz v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The opening month of 2024 was incredible for the New York Knicks. They had a league-high 14 wins. Only the Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers had two losses in January.

A change was needed after a December that saw New York finish dead last in defensive rating. That change was the brilliant acquisition of OG Anunoby. Anunoby has completely revamped the Knick's defense since arriving, and they finished first in defensive rating in January.

January Defense:

In 16 January games, the Knicks held opponents to 100.1 points per game. That’s the best defense in a month in terms of points per game since the Boston Celtics held opponents to 99.1 points in January of the 2021–22 season. The Knicks held opponents to 43.9 percent on field goal attempts and were the only team to give up less than 11 three-pointers per game. The 305 free throws they allowed were the sixth-lowest in the month.

To start the year, the Knicks held their opponents to 56.8 percent shooting on shots less than five feet. That was the lowest in the NBA. On shots 10–14 feet, teams only converted 38.2 percent of those opportunities. Surprisingly, only the Washington Wizards were better in that area. They could improve their defense from 5–9 feet, where opponents shot 48 percent, the third-best in the month.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Knicks were only 13th in total opponent points in the paint and tied for 22nd in opposing fastbreak points. This team finished first in defensive rating in January and still has areas they can point to and clean up.

It’s hard to say that teams will shoot 43.9 percent against the Knicks again in February. They can close the gaps in other places, like limiting fastbreak points to make up for teams shooting better from three this coming month.

Middling January Offense:

When looking at the Knick's offensive stats from January, I was encouraged to see how average their offense was. They went 14-2 in the month, and it wasn’t even like they shot the cover off of the ball. This allows for improvement going forward, and if they can maintain a top-five defense, this team should continue to rack up victories.

Here’s how the Knicks placed in several offensive categories in January:

PPG: 115.4 (T-17)

FG%: 48.0 (17th)

3PM: 14.0 (8th)

3P%: 37.2 (15th)

FTA: 21.7 (20th)

FT%: 82.1 (3rd)

EFG%: 56.0 (T-15)

PITP: 51.1 (16th)

FBPS: 15.4 (11th)

2ND PTS: 16.8 (T-1)

PTS OFF TO: 17.0 (10th)

TOV: 13.9 (T-24)

OFF RTG: 120.2 (6th)

As you can see, there’s good and bad. My main takeaway is that there are plenty of areas for improvement. I’m not sure if this team's offense can catch up to the defense, but that’s going to be something to follow. New York hit 224 total three-pointers in the month, which was tied for second. The 37.2 percent they shot was only 17th. If the Knicks can keep firing from deep but improve their percentages, this team will become even harder to stop.

It highlights just how good their defense was this month. It is also exciting to see the Knicks go 14-2 in the month and not even be impressed with how they scored the ball. I would have found it more glaring if they finished in the top five in points per game and field goal percentage, because you can just point to that as an outlier. This team is likely not a top-five scoring machine, but asking them to crack into the top 12 is reasonable.

Tom Thibodeau’s squad is built on defense, and I expect it to continue that way. The defensive side of the ball takes priority, but the offense should also be showing improvement. We’ll visit the February numbers in a few weeks or at the end of the month to see what has changed. Losing Julius Randle and his 24 PPG is tough and will take a team effort to make up.

Overall, January was the most fun I’ve ever had watching the Knicks. I’m hopeful Julius Randle can return, or else all this excitement is likely for nothing this season. The window for this season is wide open; the first month of the year showed the Knicks need to be on everyone’s radar.

Follow Josh on Twitter for more Knicks news and stories.

*This is my 100th article for the website, and I wanted to say thank you to the readers and commenters. It’s always cool to see comments (good or bad) and just know people are reading what you put out. This is a dedicated, passionate fanbase, and as a Knicks fan, it’s been fun writing for the website. I’m excited for the rest of the season and to see how far we can go. Thanks for the support, and let’s go Knicks!