Battle of the Least: Pistons at Knicks

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (14-20) at New York Knicks (11-22)
  • Date: January 7, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

Is there a team more interesting than the New York Knicks in the NBA? Noticed I said interesting and not entertaining.

James Dolan reportedly stated he believes the Knicks had the pieces needed to win a title and well, the team has gone out of its way to prove him wrong by suffering a nine-game losing streak during the 2013-14 campaign.

Further exacerbating matters, Carmelo Anthony has made it known he intends to shop himself to the highest bidder when the summer hits given his free-agent status. That sounds great, however, Anthony is the best player on a team with a bad record even by Eastern Conference standards.

He will still command a maximum-level contract, but one can only wonder if his prospective departure is affecting the team. Melo recently made by headlines by harshly responding to a fan’s criticism on Twitter and then later issued an apology.

Things off the court make New York compelling, but the issues on the hardwood make them a comedy show of sorts. Indeed, J.R. Smith had a game earlier in the season where he scored 19 points and attempted 17 treys. His play this season has been subpar and many are wondering what’s prompted his struggles.

With that said, the most comedic performance belongs to Andrea Bargnani. The blunders of Mike Woodson’s group highlight just how bad the situation has been in the Big Apple. And yet, I keep hoping for the team to acquire JaVale McGee via trade to boost up the Knicks’ interest value.

The Knicks would immediately become an 82-game Shaqtin’ a Fool experiment. And yet, for all of New York’s shortcomings, the team has some talent to work with. Anthony is enjoying the second-best statistical season of his career and leading the league in minutes per game.

Iman Shumpert is a menacing 2-guard with what occasionally resembles elite defensive instincts, especially with Chandler protecting him. The players do not always complement each other, but on the nights they do, Dolan’s team looks somewhat formidable as evidenced by their road wins against the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks on the Texas trip they just completed.

Still, the evidence suggests that New York is simply far too inefficient in its makeup to truly be taken seriously unless their identity drastically changes. Indeed, the Knicks have one of the worst offenses in the league because they take some of the worst shots in the sport.

They are a bottom-third unit in terms of shot attempts per game at the rim as well as corner 3-pointers attempted on average. Teams that hunt these shots typically produce good if not great offenses because they are the money shots in basketball.

New York simply has too many players enamored with dribbling the ball and then firing up contested jumpers from mid-range or from above the break. Per NBA.com, the Knicks rank in the league’s top-five teams in mid-range shots taken per contest.

The man that encourages this behavior is none other than Anthony, who embraces the isolation game. The former Denver Nugget has a penchant for going to the mid-range area and looking to take his defender off the bounce. When that fails, he gladly settles for the long 2-point shot off the bounce.

SportVU tracking data tells us that Melo is among the league’s top 10 most active pull jump shooters (any jump shot outside of 10 feet where a player took one or more dribbles before shooting). Thus, the Knicks’ offense will go through ups and downs depending on the group’s ability to convert low-percentage attempts.

That in turn probably makes the Detroit Pistons the better team tonight despite the fact that some sports books actually list NYC as the favorites. The Pistons will spend the majority of the contest attacking the interior through drives, post-ups and offensive rebounds, which will yield a relatively efficient scoring output.

The Knicks on the other hand will put all of their eggs in the mid-range basket and hope to come away with a victory. That formula has worked roughly a third of the time for the Knickerbockers, which suggests the odds actually line up with the road team tonight.

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