New York Knicks Offense
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

For months the New York Knicks’ offense has had some serious issues with their predictable strategy and poor execution. The following chronicles an inevitable journey towards mediocrity.

Kristaps Porzingis’ injury has left a dark cloud over the New York Knicks’ franchise. At this point, nothing takes precedence over his recovery and long-term health. Yet, truth be told, KP’s injury feels like the last straw to break the camel’s back. And in this case, crush the camel’s back, legs, and soul.

But this has been a slow burn. The season started with great promise. The Knicks felt like that new Netflix show that you can’t wait to binge-watch. They may not have had the star power of shows like Stranger Things or Black Mirror, but they crept up on you, maybe like Dark or Mindhunters.

The latter shows started off slow, but by the time they picked up, you were pleasantly surprised and asking for more.

The Knicks’ offense followed the same pattern. Early on, players moved the ball so well, played hard, and their number one option, Kristaps Porzingis, was playing like a bona fide star.

In mid-November, the Knicks were at their season’s best in regards to offensive rating (106.0). They ranked ninth in NBA and seventh in assists per game (23.1).

On the same token, Porzingis was tearing up the league, scoring 28.9 points a game and shooting 40 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

During that time, their offense featured mid-range jump shots coming off curl plays from the baseline as well numerous backdoor cuts. It felt like almost every game had at least one beautiful backdoor pass from Kyle O’Quinn to a cutting Doug McDermott for an easy layup.

Simply put, the Knicks looked as if they had made a smooth transition from the Carmelo Anthony era, and were on their way towards building the foundation of the vision set forth by management in the beginning of the year.

Most importantly, the players looked like they were actually having fun. The ever-popular #KnicksTape became #KnicksWay, a phrase heavily featured on most player’s Instagram accounts. For a while, you started to believe that this actually meant something.

Yet, if all good things must come an to end, then this was certainly the case with the Knicks.

It’s no coincidence that the Knicks’ struggles started with an injury to Tim Hardaway Jr., and thus their journey spiraling into basic cable oblivion began. Hardaway Jr. missed over a month of basketball, and during that time the Knicks only won nine out of 14 games.

Hardaway Jr. was so important for Porzingis, as he was a nightly threat from the perimeter, making it difficult for opposing teams to double Porzingis in the post.

Flash forward and the statistics look far different for a team that wanted to move towards an up-tempo, free-flowing offense. Currently, the Knicks are tenth in the league in team isolation possessions (435). While there are some teams who are able to be more efficient in isolation the sets, the Knicks rank near the bottom of the league in field goal percentage at (38.9) percent.

As a fan, it became mind-numbing to watch the point guard dribble the ball down the court and dump the ball into the post to either Porzingis or Michael Beasley without looking for any off-ball screens, especially towards the end of games.

Although both players can dominate in the post, the offense became too predictable and easy to guard. Opposing defenses were savvy, pushing Porzingis out of the post or sending the double team his way early.

While there was an increase in isolation possessions, it should come as no surprise that the Knicks’ offensive rating dropped down to 23rd in the league at (104.1) and they went from seventh in the NBA in assists to 12th in the league at (22.9) per game.

Trey Burke New York Knicks
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

One area where the Knicks can improve is at the point guard position. The Knicks coaching staff likes the way that Jarrett Jack controls the offense, yet it’s clear that the offense is not pushing the pace enough to get efficient shots early in the shot clock.

Giving Trey Burke and rookie Frank Ntilikina more minutes may give the Knicks the jolt of energy they need. Both players bring different strengths and skills to the backcourt, but Burke, specifically, has demonstrated a good ability at running the pick and roll.

In the end, the mindset and goals for the 2017-18 season have changed post-Porzingis injury. Yet, the issues with the offense that have been present since November and December must be addressed.

The responsibility falls mainly on second-year Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek. Earlier this week, Scott Perry told Marc Berman of The New York Post, “We’re evaluating the entire season. Jeff and his group are working really hard with this basketball team and doing the very best they can and obviously, this is an adversity for them to deal with KP being out, but I’m confident that they’ll be able to do a good job of keeping this team playing hard and playing together. That’s what we’ll be looking at moving forward.’’

For the time being, Hornacek will continue to have the support of the front office while he tries to fix the offense, sans KP. He will also have to motivate a team heading towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference to play hard and stay together. If not, the Knicks could be looking for their sixth head coach since the 2011-2012 season.