Mike Miller, Kyle Kuzma, Mitchell Robinson, RJ Barrett
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

A winless west coast trip exposed the New York Knicks as a team not ready to keep up in today’s NBA, and at horrific levels.

Josh Benjamin

Sorry, New York Knicks fans, but the jig is up.

This team just isn’t built for today’s NBA and a winless four-game trip out west proves it. New York could barely keep up with the Phoenix Suns last Friday and may have won were it not for missed free throws. On Sunday, the Knicks lost to the Clippers despite Kawhi Leonard sitting and Paul George playing on one leg.

Cut to blowout losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz, and this trip went about as badly as possible for the Knicks. As I covered last week, the west coast swing was a strength test that could have included at least two Knicks wins.

But no, devoted readers. Going 0-4 on the road exposed everything. The Knicks can’t keep up with today’s game and something needs to be done about it.

Sluggish offense

The issue at heart is team president Steve Mills is operating as though it’s still the 1990s. Forget a high-volume guard who can carry the offense. The Knicks are still going to build around bruising paint presence and an old-school mentality.

For example, Julius Randle is fine in the paint but suspect elsewhere. RJ Barrett’s high ceiling is almost overshadowed by his lack of a consistent jump shot and rough three-point game. Mitchell Robinson could be a dominant center if he could just stay out of foul trouble.

Meanwhile, coaches and players alike shuffle in and out quicker than Wimpy at an all-you-can-eat hamburger buffet. In short, the Knicks are a circus worthy of Ringling Bros.

And it all comes down to the offense. The New York Knicks rank 29th in the NBA in scoring with 104.2 points per game, 15.2 points behind the No. 1 scoring Houston Rockets. The Knicks also rank 26th in FG%, 22nd in 3P%, and dead last in FT%.

Now, let’s look at NBA championship teams from the last five years. Each of them ranked in the Top 10 in at least three of the above categories. Some may not want to hear it, but basketball is now definitely a shooter’s game.

For context, the last team to win the NBA Finals and not meet the above criteria was the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Simply put, the Knicks have a lot to do to catch up with the times.

Defense, anyone?

And it doesn’t stop at the offense. Three-point defense is absolutely vital in this high-scoring era. Of the last five NBA championship squads, four were Top 10 in three-point defense in the years they won a ring.

The 2019-20 New York Knicks, on the other hand, can’t defend the three to save their lives. New York is dead last in the NBA in opponent’s 3P%, allowing an abysmal mark of 38.6%. In fact, the last time the Knicks were among the Top 10 in this area and made the playoffs was back in 2004. Talk about being out of touch!

Simply put, the Knicks can’t bully, post, step back, and drive their way to wins anymore. The scoring point guard runs the game with a soft-touched iron fist. Whereas the old generation revered Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O’Neal, the new one lauds Stephen Curry and James Harden.

The Knicks, meanwhile, seem convinced that the old ways can ultimately win out and have been dying on that hill day in and day out. How much losing is there left to suffer through before Mills finally wakes up, smells the coffee, and downs enough to catch up with 20 years of futility?

Final thoughts

In Saturday Night Live‘s infancy, the cast was jovially referred to as “The Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”

Though a misnomer at the time, the literal term applies perfectly to today’s New York Knicks. The players are talented but almost do themselves a disservice by donning the orange and blue. Randle would be a strong second or even first option on a mid-tier playoff team. The same goes for Marcus Morris.

On the Knicks, however, they aren’t either. Randle is a strong player on a bad team. Morris, if we’re being honest with ourselves, is ridiculously overachieving. The only reason he’s leading the team in scoring is part Randle’s inconsistency and part roster construction. Nobody else is capable of carrying the offense.

And 10-28 record aside, going winless on a west coast road trip is about as close to a rock bottom as the Knicks can get right now.

Being a bad team is one thing. Being an anachronistic one, however, is even worse.

Something has to change, the sooner the better.

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