David Fizdale knows the New York Knicks need to clean things up offensively, but he sure has a funny way of explaining it.
NEW YORK, NY—The time for playing it calm, cool, and collected is over. Sunday’s on-the-spot press conference from team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry made that much clear for the New York Knicks and head coach David Fizdale.
So what can the Knicks do to turn this season around? For what it’s worth, the Knicks rank 21st in defensive rating this season which means there’s room for improvement on that end, but that’s not where the major problem lies.
Fixing the anemic offense is the right place to start. The Knicks rank dead last in offensive rating this season.
Prior to Thursday’s game, Fizdale was asked about the isolation and post-ups the Knicks are favoring early on this season. The coach has talked often about keeping the ball moving, but it’s not happening on the court.
“I just gotta keep hammering that habit home, but it is funny how that works, right? I don’t hear anybody bitching about Houston isolating,” Fizdale told reporters prior to Thursday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. “They hold the ball the whole game and score a thousand points so I think it’s just a matter of finding balance in what they do.
“But I know for our team, for us to have true success, we have to have consistent ball movement.”
I know what you’re thinking? Did he just compare the Knicks’ iso-heavy offense to that of the Houston Rockets? Yes, he did.
However, Fiz’s point is not that isolation is the tried-and-true way to score the ball. His point is that every team needs to find the proper balance between ball movement and allowing certain guys to operate with the ball in their hands.
It’s a tricky balance, especially with the kind of roster overhaul the Knicks underwent in the offseason. But it’s a balance that Fizdale needs to find desperately.
Entering Thursday’s game, the Knicks rank ninth in isolation possessions per game (8.5), but are dead last in points per possession (0.67 PPP) on such plays. As for post-ups, the Knicks rank fourth in possessions per game (8.1) and 25th in PPP (0.73).
The choice to run post-ups and isolation can work for certain teams. As Fizdale notes, few question the Rockets’ heavy reliance on isolations because they score points in bunches, mainly due to James Harden being an otherworldly scorer. Similarly, the Philadelphia 76ers’ penchant for running post-ups works because they have Joel Embiid, Al Horford, and Ben Simmons to bang inside.
By comparison, the Knicks don’t have the horses to rely on either playtype as their bread and butter. Julius Randle is averaging 3.3 isolation possessions per game, but only scoring 0.56 points on those possessions. That’s bad enough to clock in at the 10th percentile in the NBA. Yikes.
Randle is a brute force when he can catch the ball near the basket. That’s where he operates at his best and yet, he still hasn’t logged enough possessions as a pick-and-roll roll man to even register on NBA.com’s statistics page.
Post-up Bobby Portis is another interesting case for the Knicks.
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) November 15, 2019
The best stretch of Portis’ career came during his 28 games with the Washington Wizards last season. During that span, only 12.9% of his shots came out of the post. He’s up to 20.6% frequency this season.
To be clear, there are no quick fixes. Fizdale is catching the brunt of the blame for the 2-9 start to the season, but it’s not as easy as flicking a switch and overhauling the offense.
Developing a consistent and thoughtful offensive scheme is going to take some time. Unfortunately, time might not be a luxury for Fizdale. The clock is ticking and with every bad loss, and every abysmal offensive performance, Fizdale’s seat heats up a few more degrees.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com.