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John Schuhmann

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Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks have struggled more on the offensive end than they did last season.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Knicks laboring due to spotty shooting, turnovers


Posted Feb 2 2012 12:26PM

In the 10 full seasons since they last won a playoff game, the New York Knicks' problems have started with defense. They've finished in the bottom 10 of the league in defensive efficiency in eight of those 10 seasons, including each of the last seven.

This season, however, the Knicks' problems start with their offense. New York has two of the league's best individual scorers but currently ranks 24th in offensive efficiency, scoring a paltry 97.1 points per 100 possessions.

No team in the league has regressed more than the Knicks, who are scoring 11.3 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season. Only the Detroit Pistons (-10.6) and Toronto Raptors (-10.1) are even close.

It's obvious that Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire aren't a great fit together, but that didn't stop the Knicks from having the fourth-best offense after Anthony arrived from Denver last season.

Knicks efficiency
Timeframe Wins Losses Pace Rank OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
2010-11 Pre-trade 28 26 98.6 2 107.6 7 106.1 20 +1.5 11
2010-11 Post-trade 14 14 97.1 7 109.8 4 108.5 25 +1.2 14
2011-12 8 13 96.4 2 97.1 24 97.8 11 -0.7 20
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

The Knicks are the fourth-most improved defense in the league, but their defensive ranking is likely inflated by having played the second-easiest schedule. Eleven of their 21 games have come against the other teams in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency. Ten of the 21 ha nve come against the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency (there's a lot of overlap in the two groups), so there are no excuses for the poor offense. There are reasons, though.

Shooting is obviously a big problem. Anthony and Stoudemire have combined to shoot just 41.5 percent, down from 47.5 percent after the trade last season. And the Knicks have gone from the ninth-best 3-point shooting team after the trade to the seventh-worst.

But a closer look at the Knicks' numbers reveals that turnovers are nearly as big a problem as shooting is.

Knicks offensive breakdown
Timeframe eFG% Rank OREB% Rank TO% Rank FTA Rate Rank
2010-11 Pre-trade 51.3% 9 24.2% 24 14.3 5 .297 16
2010-11 Post-trade 51.2% 8 24.4% 23 13.1 3 .317 7
2011-12 46.7% 22 24.6% 21 17.4 27 .315 9
eFG% = Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA

The Knicks are committing 4.3 more turnovers per 100 possessions than they did after the trade last season. That rate is far greater than the league's overall increase (+1.0) and obviously gives the Knicks far fewer shots at the basket.

The Knicks have committed 20 or more turnovers in a game six times already, after doing that just five times all of last season, with all five occasions coming before the trade. Six of the seven top players in the Knicks' rotation have a turnover rate above the league average. And the turnover problem can be linked directly to the lack of a point guard.

Asked to handle the ball more, Toney Douglas is turning it over much more often than he did last season. Rookie Iman Shumpert, a point guard by default, has the 13th-highest turnover ratio in the league among guards. And Anthony's turnover ratio is below the league average, but is up from last season.

Last season, after the trade, the Knicks were slightly more efficient with Chauncey Billups on the bench than they were with him on the floor because he shot poorly. But they turned the ball over a lot less (12.3 times per 100 possessions) when Billups was in the game than when Anthony Carter or Douglas was running point (14.0).

So is Baron Davis, whenever he's finally available to play, the answer? If you look at Davis' time in Cleveland last season, the answer is yes. Davis actually made a much bigger offensive impact in Cleveland after arriving last February than Anthony made in New York.

Cavs efficiency, 2010-11
Timeframe MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
Before trade 2746 96.0 98.9 110.2 -11.3
After trade, Davis on bench 825 95.3 98.3 105.4 -7.1
After trade, Davis on floor 380 92.1 106.0 108.5 -2.4

That's not really a fair comparison, because the Knicks already had a great offense, while the Cavs had a pretty horrid one before the trade. But it might be fair to compare the pre-trade Cleveland offense to the Knicks' offense right now. And if Davis can make a similar offensive impact in New York, he'll truly be the savior that Knicks fans are hoping him to be.

Turnovers are an issue with Davis, but he'd still be an improvement over Douglas and Shumpert. And his presence would certainly help the shooting of both Anthony and Stoudemire. Davis had a much higher assist ratio (assists per 100 possessions used) with Cleveland last year (28.7) than Douglas (16.8) or Shumpert (18.6) this season.

While the health of both of their stars is a concern, the Knicks know they can be a much better team offensively than they've shown, even if Anthony and Stoudemire aren't all that compatible. All they have to do is look back at last season.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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