Ok…let’s get to it. So what’s the meat of this new 2016 offensive approach to the game? Heavily inspired by Mike D’Antoni, the league is all about scoring points and shooting threes. Analytics teaches us that three is obviously more than two, so why would anyone not get up as many threes as possible? The Knicks and the Triangle offense are seen as archaic and rigid. Incapable of keeping up with the more fast paced, successful offenses like the Spurs, GS etc. The Knicks’ putrid offense the last couple seasons has only fueled this argument but it’s easy to offer a surface analysis that blames the offense and not the players so humor me.
At 48.3%, Knicks are third to last in the league in effective field goal percentage (Field Goal Percentage, but adjusts for 3pters as worth 50% more than 2pt fgs). Of the top 15 teams in efg%, only three teams weren’t in the playoffs and the Utah Jazz, the third team, just missed it. Should be noted that the Jazz were beat out by the Rockets, a top ten team in efg%. N0w this stat is about making shots, not rocket science. The better the player, the more shots you make, if you can’t make shots then your efg% is going to be low regardless of the offense. This all sounds very obvious but let’s continue. The Boston Celtics, a playoff team and known for their small ball style, shot 48.8%, a .5% difference from the Knicks. However the Knicks averaged 21.5 threes per game to the Celtics’ 26.1. A clear difference in approach there. The Spurs however averaged 18.5 threes per game. Hmm. The Spurs are followed by the Grizzlies at 18.5, and the Miami Heat at 18. The Pacers average 23, just two more than the Knicks. I’m confused, I thought the Knicks ran an offense that was behind the times, but the lauded Spurs’ offense shoots less threes. I’m missing something… Oh, see the Spurs shoot 37% from three, to the Knicks 34.6%. The Spurs are second in the league in efg% at 52.6% because ….wait for it….talent, not 2016 offense. The Spurs have an offense predicated on ball movement and player movement….just like the Triangle…. but with Hall of Famers playing in it.
The Miami Heat are interesting as well. The are in a virtual tie in assists per game with the Knicks, along with the Grizzlies and they are in the playoffs. The Knicks shoot a better 3pt% than the Heat, 34.6% to 33.6%, they shoot more threes per game (21.5 – 18), also more than the Grizzlies. Miami had a bout with injuries and changed their playing style the second half of the season, let’s look at the difference…Miami 22.1 assist/gm to the Knicks 20.8 (more than the Jazz, Grizzlies and Raptors); 3pt attempts per game had to go up, right? 16.6 to the Knicks’ 21.7 (Still more than the Spurs). The Knicks are neck and neck with the Heat in Pace (possessions per 48 mins), on the season, ahead of the Spurs, Cavs, Grizzlies, Raptors, Jazz and just behind the Mavs. Ah but the efg% for the Heat is top ten in the league, why? because they take and make good 2pt fgs. How do they make all those shots? Becaaaaause…….talent.
Some of these stats look good on paper but they do not correlate to wins as clearly as you would think. The Sacramento Kings lead the league in pace, the Suns aren’t far behind, it’s a meaningless stat in a vacuum. However, these numbers are very telling for the Knicks, it tells you that they aren’t as good as the playoff teams….did I use analytics to determine that or win/loss record? The Knicks offense isn’t behind the times statistically, The Knicks offense strugles because they don’t have the players needed to shoot higher percentages. If you’re wondering why I didn’t mention GS, it’s because they sport the best offensive player in the league and the best shooter in the history of the game. That’s what you call an “outlier”. The Warriors also run Triangle principles along with D’Antoni and Spurs’ offense because spacing, ball movement and player movement is what accentuates talent in this league, exactly what the Triangle is meant to do.
Contrary to popular belief, just hoisting threes does not make you a smart and statistically efficient team in 2016, ask the Rockets, who were second in the league in 3pt attempts but struggled to win most of the season. Furthermore, who is taking the shots? Where are they taking them from? I may want a great three point shooter to take a lot of threes but that streak shooting small forward who gets hot on Tuesday and Saturday but ice cold Thursday and Monday, may help our season numbers but those games he’s tossing up threes and hitting the side of the backboard…we’re losing.
Show me the great shooters on the Knicks who are being held back and we can have a different statistical conversation. As it stands, this is a make or miss league, just like it was thirty years ago because….talent.