HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The New York Knicks talked defense in training camp, but we knew they weren’t going to be very good on that end of the floor.
Offensively, the Knicks still have talent. Carmelo Anthony is one of the league’s best scorers, Jose Calderon has been one of the league’s best shooters, and Amar’e Stoudemire has returned to being one of the league’s best finishers. Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith are all pretty flammable.
But the Knicks rank 22nd offensively, having scored just 100.9 points per 100 possessions through Wednesday. When you compare their efficiency to the league average, this is their worst offensive season since 2007-08, when Isiah Thomas was coach.
One reason is a lack of free throws. The Knicks rank last in free throw rate, having attempted only 22 freebies for every 100 shots from the field.
Free throws are the most efficient way to score. And in that regard, the Knicks have the same issue on defense. They rank 26th in opponent free throw rate, putting their opponents on the line 32 times for every 100 shots from the floor.
When you put it together, the Knicks have attempted 7.8 fewer free throws per game than their opponents. That’s not just the worst discrepancy in the league. It’s the worst discrepancy since the 1998-99 season, when Rick Pitino‘s Celtics attempted 8.6 fewer free throws per game than their opponents.
The Knicks had the league’s worst free throw disparity last season too. But it wasn’t nearly as bad: minus-4.6 per game.
The triangle offense has made the Knicks more of a jump-shooting team than they were before. A mere 37 percent of their shots have come from the paint, the lowest rate in the league.
That is, in part, a result of the offense’s lack of ball screens and drives. According to SportVU, the Knicks rank last in both of those categories as well.
Knicks’ lack of attack
% of shots in paint: 37.3% (30th)
Ball screens per game: 37.1 (30th)
Drives per game: 13.2 (30th)
The video above is the latest installment of “One Stat, One Play,” a look at a typical triangle possession, which goes nowhere near the basket.
Some good news: The Knicks have attempted as many or more free throws than their opponents in their last three games. But it was just last week that they attempted 41 fewer freebies than their opponents over a three-game stretch against the Blazers, Pelicans and Spurs.
The Knicks visit Chicago in the first game of TNT’s double-header (8 p.m. ET) on Thursday.