On the newest edition of the New York Knicks Garden Party, ESNY’s Jason Bisnoff opines on the organization’s trajectory.
The New York Knicks have been competitive in all but one outing, despite a record of 1-4. Ideally, the team would have beaten their less than impressive crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, but handily beating the Atlanta Hawks and being tied in the final five minutes against two contenders for the eastern conference crown, and the honor of being beaten by the Golden State Warriors, is a praiseworthy performance for a young team missing its best player and hoping to be at the start of a more successful era than the past has been.
Against the Miami Heat, the scoreboard was less than impressive, but a top draft pick next offseason has its own advantages.
I don’t think there were many, if any, Knicks fans expecting this team to come out of the gate dominating, but seeing some young players get real reps and hold their own is enticing.
The question is whether the team will have the organizational structure to build something.
For now, avoiding bad habits developing among their young roster while not jeopardizing a solid draft lottery standing is a delicate balance they may just be striking.
Some bright spots thus far include the defense, with the Knicks in the top 10 in steals and 12th overall in defensive rating. They have also avoided unforced errors, in the top-five in turnovers. The Knicks are among the bottom of the league in field goal percentage and in the middle of the back in free throw and three-point percentage.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has led the way in scoring, stepping up for a team that needs scoring to come from somewhere. The downside to his 24.4 points per game is that he is shooting under 42 percent from the field, though he has fared better from behind the arc with a 38.1 percent clip.
Shot selection has been an issue for Hardaway, but one has to think that problem will be at least somewhat abated when there are other scorers to help with the load, most immediately Kristaps Porzingis and perhaps others this offseason or as his current teammates mature.
The other offensive leader has been Enes Kanter, who is putting in 16.8 points per game shooting an impressive 57.4 percent, making it a double-double with 10.8 rebounds per game. They have had three other scorers in double digits with Trey Burke picking up where last year left off, Daymean Dotson contributing in the three games he’s entered and Mario Hezonja showing flashes of his once-hyped potential.
That being said they have Burke and Hezonja have added to the disappointing team-wide field goal percentage shooting 38.7 and 37.7 percent respectively. Dotson has a smaller sample size, but a nice 48.6 shooting percentage
Other notable early returns include a 24.8 player efficiency rating from Noah Vonleh who has put up roughly eight points and more than eight boards on an efficient 56.5 percent. The Knicks last two first-round picks have not come out of the gate strongly with Kevin Knox shooting just over 35 percent with 9.3 points per game and now missing some action with a left ankle injury that is said to not be serious.
More concerning is that Frank Ntilikina is letting last years lackluster offensive debut bleed into this year, showing a lack of offensive aggressiveness though he still is a reliable defender. Lance Thomas has looked in over his head as he continues to start on a nightly basis.
With expectations low, it is more important to have the team develop good habits and David Fizdale has been vocal about his optimism that these close games against good teams are letting young players play competitive basketball, a priceless development tool.
At 1-4 and with low expectations, there is nowhere to go, but up from here.