Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Five reasons the Knicks are 16-5
By Ian Begley
These are heady times for the Knicks.
At 16-5, they have the best record in the Eastern Conference and the fourth best record in the NBA.
They've won 7 of 8, including a 20-point win over the defending champion Heat with Carmelo Anthony on the bench.
And the Knicks play a season-high six straight games at home over the next 11 days, looking to build on their 8-0 record at MSG.
So how has this all happened for the Knicks?
We break it down here:
MELO MAKEOVER: It starts, of course, with Carmelo.
Here's all you need to know about how Anthony's playing these days: he had a season-high 45 points in the Knicks' win over the Nets on Tuesday, but on New York's last possession, he gave the ball up, which led to Jason Kidd's game-winning three-pointer.
That play signifies Anthony's trust in his teammates and his shift in mindset this season. In year's past, maybe he dribbles out the shot clock and forces a bad shot. So far, we haven't seen that version of Anthony this year.
Carmelo Anthony has been a major part of the Knicks' 16-5 start.
His true shooting percentage -- a measure that includes free throws and 3-pointers -- is a career-high .583 and he's averaging a full three-throw attempt more than he took last season. This is a sign that he's not forcing bad shots and being more aggressive in getting to the rim.
While much has been made of his defense, the advanced metrics don't reflect an improvement. But you can tell that Anthony has often given an honest day's effort on the defensive end and he's sacrificed his body on several occasions in an effort to extend a Knicks' possession.
HE'S A GOOD KIDD: Some people laughed when the Knicks signed the 39-year-old Jason Kidd over the summer. The signing, to some, just furthered the notion that the Knicks were going to be too old to compete. But no one's laughing anymore.
Kidd has been arguably the second most valuable player on the Knicks outside of Anthony.
Sure, his game-winning 3-pointer against Brooklyn on Tuesday made for a great highlight and gave the Knicks a win over their rival, but that doesn't begin to capture Kidd's true impact.
Kidd has the second-highest 3-point field goal percentage (52.8) in the NBA, he has the highest true shooting percentage among guards and leads the NBA in assist to turnover ratio. And he makes what Mike Woodson calls "three or four or five winning plays" per game for New York, stuff that doesn't show up in the stat sheet.
KEEPING MISTAKES TO A MINIMUM: Kidd's also had a heavy influence on the way the Knicks take care of the ball. New York entered play Wednesday averaging a league-low 10.9 per game. They are forcing opponents into an average of 17 turnovers per game, thereby leading the league in turnover differential.
The lack of turnovers gives the Knicks, obviously, more opportunities to score. It also offsets one of the Knicks' weaknesses -- rebounding. They are being outrebounded by an average of four per game but the lack of turnovers minimizes the impact of getting outrebounded because, more often than not, the Knicks will take more shots than their opponent.
3-POINT PARTY: People keep waiting and wondering: when will the Knicks stop hitting threes.
So far, it hasn't happened. The 3-pointer has been a major weapon for Woodson's club.
New York leads the league in attempts per game (29.3) and makes per game (12.0) -- with two more takes and makes than the next highest team. They're also hitting 40.9 percent from beyond the arc -- the third-highest percentage in the NBA behind Oklahoma City and Miami.
More than 1/3 of their points come from 3-pointers.
If you think that's an unhealthy ratio, get used to it.
Woodson has said he's not going to change his approach because he has guys who can make the shots. Right now, it's hard to argue with that.
BUYING IN ON WOODSON: Woodson is 34-11 in his first 45 games as Knicks head coach. The only team with winning at a better clip over that stretch is the San Antonio Spurs.
Woodson's also had the most successful initial 45-game run in franchise history.
That record was shared by Jeff Van Gundy, Pat Riley, Stu Jackson and Don Nelson, who were all 29-16 in their first 45 games as head coach of New York.
Woodson seems to have gained the trust of his players through keeping in close contact with them throughout the year (he frequently mentions getting to visit with players in the offseason). The fact that he is a former player also seems to carry weight in the Knicks' locker room.