So far, the New York Knicks are 2-2 on the season in 4 games vs. projected playoff teams. After tripping over the starting line in the home opener against Chicago, the Knicks rattled off two wins in close games vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Charlotte Hornets. Then they had an off night in a loss to the Washington Wizards. Ups and downs are expected at this stage in the season, so let’s take a look at what Derek Fisher and the triangle offense has shown us so far this season.
The most obvious change that Knick observers have noticed so far this season is the ball movement. So far, they average 22 assists per game. That is good for almost 10% better than last season and 8th in the league. The ball movement has made the team harder to guard. Although the sample size is small, the quality of shots the players are taking is promising. The Knicks are running a 90's style offense, and it shows.
The Return of "Clutch Melo"
Carmelo Anthony's reputation as a premiere closer had taken a dip over the last couple of years due to struggles in the closing moments of games. This season, he has already hit pivotal shots in the 4th quarters of both the Knicks' wins this season. One can attribute this resurgence to improved play design in big moments. They've changed from starting the possession at the top of the key and facing the teeth of the defense. Because of the team-wide willingness to pass the ball, it is much harder to double-team Melo in tough situations. Another factor that may have a part to play in his improved fourth quarter performances is the way his minutes have been distributed. In both wins, Anthony sat until midway into the fourth quarter and looked fresh down the stretch.
Shumpert Has Regained His Mojo
In a pivotal year as far as his career is concerned, Iman Shumpert has found an early groove on both sides of the ball. His signature defensive energy is back, and his offensive game is looking better than ever. He is shooting a career high 44.7% at a career high 20.8 usage rate. He is taking initiative in this new offense, and he has been the team’s second leading scorer. He even seems to have more confidence in his ball handling. It’s obvious to see that this offense suits him more than Mike Woodson’s isolation heavy system.
The Triangle Giveth and the Triangle Taketh Away
In an offense that emphasizes more intricate passing and movement, mistakes will be made. The Knicks have averaged 15.5 turnovers a game in this young season. That is almost 20% more turnovers per game than last year. If the Knicks are to be a playoff team this season, this must be cleaned up. Attention to detail is important in this offense. They are still in the early stages of it but how they take care of the ball will be a good barometer to measure if the offense is working.
It is still too early to tell what exactly the Knicks are, but at the very least, they’ll be interesting. There have been some positives and some negatives in this transition period, but there is also reason for further optimism. We have yet to see how the offense looks with Jose Calderon at the helm. We also have yet to see the effect the triangle will have on Andrea Bargnani or vice versa. Stay tuned.