Jeff Hornacek is going to change the New York Knicks' offense. That much we know.
What's unclear is how, specifically, Hornacek plans to tweak things.
Carmelo Anthony said in recent interviews that he expects to play quicker under Hornacek, whose deal with the Knicks is expected to be completed in the coming days.
"One thing I do know is he wants to play as a fast-paced team, up tempo," Anthony said in a Q&A with the NBPA published Tuesday. "You just look at the teams that he's coached in Phoenix, and how quickly they wanted to get up the court and play. We still have time to figure everything out as far as sitting down and seeing what he wants and seeing what we want as a team. And we'll figure that part out."
Figuring that part out will be one of the more interesting story lines of Hornacek's first season in New York.
While we wait to hear from Hornacek and Jackson (no, the news conference hasn't been scheduled yet), it's perhaps instructive to take a look at a few things Hornacek said about his coaching style before he took the Phoenix Suns job in 2013.
ESPN's Zach Lowe sat down with Hornacek in the summer of 2013 to talk about offense, defense and a host of other subjects. The Q&A is fantastic. You can read it here in full.
Below, we'll take a look at a few of Hornacek's thoughts how they may apply to the Knicks.
Q: What's that offense going to look like after a year of struggling to find an identity without (former Suns star Steve) Nash?
A: "I compare a lot of things to how it was when I actually played in Phoenix, back in the day, with Kevin Johnson. We got into the offense really quickly. If you can get it in the post, or penetrate and kick out, and get that early shot in the first seven seconds, or maybe eight seconds of the shot clock … Statistics say in the first eight seconds, you shoot a much higher percentage."
How might this impact the Knicks?
Life will be different if Hornacek brings this philosophy to New York. The Knicks ranked 25th in shot attempts per game in the first 4-6 seconds of the shot clock and 24th in shot attempts in the first 6-9 seconds of the shot clock.
Hornacek's Suns were top 5 in both categories.
Shooting early in the clock would increase the Knicks' overall pace, which is what Anthony referenced above.
This seems inevitable. The Knicks ranked in the bottom third of the NBA in pace the past two seasons. Hornacek's Suns ranked in the top 10 in pace in each of his three seasons as coach.
Q: You guys (the Suns) were either No. 1 or No. 2 in midrange jumpers, and fell way below the league's average in 3-point attempts. Do you want to change that?
A: Oh, yeah. We gotta get rid of that long 2. I'm not opposed to the middle jumper, in that 15- or 16-foot range. I think all but two teams that were in the playoffs, their effective field goal percentages were above 51 percent. If you can shoot 15-footers and shoot 52 percent, OK, you're beating the average. You can't totally discount those shots.
Q: Especially as defenses get better, sometimes they are the only open shots you can get. You're not getting a corner 3 or a dunk every time down against the Pacers.
A: Right. We'll take a look at it all. But the ones we have to eliminate are the ones that are within 4 or 5 feet of the 3-point line. Those are low-percentage shots worth two points.
How will this affect the Knicks?
New York led the NBA in mid-range field goal attempts per game last season. More specifically, the club had the fourth-highest per game average of shots taken between 16 and 24 feet per game. Given what he said above, it's fair to assume that these per-game averages will decrease under Hornacek.
Of course, it would be foolish to see reducing the mid-range shot as a cure-all for the Knicks. After all, San Antonio was one of the league-leaders in mid-range attempts last season.
Q: What kind of system are you going to lean on? Every team is a pick-and-roll team to some degree, but what kind of stuff will serve as the bread and butter -- side pick-and-rolls, the old Utah flex, Rick Adelman corner stuff, or something else?
A: You have to get a read on your players and what suits them the best. When you look at the game today, with the rule changes -- that's why everyone is going to some sort of pick-and-roll. The rules are, you can't touch that guy with your hands. It's not like the old days, where you could hand check.
How might this impact the Knicks?
The first sentence here is key. The Knicks have said on several different occasions that they will look for players who fit in their triangle system.
Here, Hornacek is preaching the opposite approach: tailor the system to the talent on the roster.
This is probably a good thing for New York. Fair or not, the Knicks' struggles over the past two seasons had been inextricably tied to the offense. Some around the league say the stigma surrounding Phil Jackson's offense turned off potential free agents last season.
So the idea that Hornacek is open to tweaking the system -- or tailoring a system around the players on New York's roster -- may help the club in free agency. According to sources, some current Knicks have already expressed excitement over Hornacek's potential tweaks to the offense.
Q: Is there room in the league for posting up anymore? Will we see Marcin Gortat get 10 post touches a game?
A: Absolutely. If you can find a guy that can post up inside and be effective, whether it's a center, power forward -- heck, you could put a point guard down there. It's the same concept of creating some sort of double-team that allows you to have a four-on-three. Whether we do that from the post or with pick-and-rolls -- we'll figure that out.
Q: Yeah, it seems like teams use post-ups more now as a way to create passes rather than shots.
A: You can use it that way, depending on who it is. I mean, when you watch Miami play, you can stick LeBron there in the post and let him dictate what's going to go on. But you do hope your good post-up players offensively are good passers. Then you can really do different things.
How will this impact the Knicks?
The idea that Hornacek isn't opposed to playing through the post makes sense; his Utah Jazz teams thrived on post-ups. But this is also instructive when thinking about the triangle offense, which runs through the post frequently.
In fact, the Knicks were tied with the Spurs last season in post-up frequency.
So Hornacek's affinity for post play suggests that he will still use a significant portion of the triangle offense. This is probably a good thing, as long as Hornacek has the freedom to tweak the offense as he sees fit. After all, some of the top teams in the league, including San Antonio and Golden State, use principles of the triangle.
"Everyone uses a version of the triangle. Everybody does," one veteran Eastern Conference executive says. "It's called basketball. Playing off of the elbow; moving the ball side to side; cutter goes through, screen for the short corner spacer. It's basketball."
Hopefully for the Knicks, it's a better brand of basketball under Hornacek.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com