Are the Knicks really that improved??

    Only if their defense is born again

There was a very provocative recent post on the WoW Journal written by Arturo Galleti, author of the outstanding “Arturo’s Silly Little Stats”.  It broke down the offseason moves made by the New York Knickerbockers and concluded the Knicks would win 47.7 games next season. 

This caught my attention.  That’s more wins than I am projecting for the Milwaukee Bucks.  If true, then, the Bucks have slid behind the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference pecking order.  (So much for Jennings top 4 projection!).

Anyway, I wanted to take a look and see if Marginal Win Score, my little off-shoot metric, predicted the same.  It did not.

The Knicks are a tricky team to forecast because of roster turnover.  It is difficult to know how effective their team defense will be because they have never played defense together as a united whole and defense is a team activity with individual components. 

But the interesting thing about their turnover is that most of it is coming from the Golden State Warriors.  Why is that interesting?  Both the Warriors and Knicks abstained from the practice of defense in 2009-10, and almost to the same degree.  So that made my job a little easier.

In fact, it allowed me to project a sort of defensive continuity for the Knicks.   I don’t think their defense will be any more than slightly improved.  In fact, I would be absolutely shocked if the Knicks defense improved substantially this season for three reasons. 

(1) They will be directed by a coach who has always emphasized offense over defense;

(2) They haven’t added anyone with a track record of defensive interest let alone effectiveness;

(3) Defensive effectiveness seems to correlate strongly with size and strength or girth, especially up front.   The Knicks did not have this with David Lee as their center. If the Knicks are truly planning on playing Ronnie Turiaf as their center this season, they will not be improved.  Their other additions, Amare Stoudamire and Anthony Randolph are absolute defensive agnostics.  In other words, they do not deny that the concept of defense exists, but they are not convinced  it is an important part of the game.

Method 1:  Offense with projected Defensive Efficiency

So with all that, here are my two methods of forecasting.  Method 1 says, “they will play defense in accordance with the past, with reasonable improvement, and they will play offense to their proven productive capacity.”  

In the Knicks first season under Mike D’Antoni’s quasi-European philosophy, the Knicks Opponent Win Score was 53.88 per 48 (somewhere Red Holzman wept).  Last season it improved by 4.8% to 51.22.  So I allowed for a similar improvement this coming season and thus set the Knicks projected Opponent Win Score at a still-well-below-average 48.64. 

Next I simply took Arturo’s projected roster and projected minutes, and calculated the Win Score averages for the players, and then figured out what the Knicks projected Team Win Score would be for next season.  I came up with the well above average 46.30 per 48 minutes.

Putting the two together, you get a projected 2009-10 record of 37.9 wins and 44.1 losses.  Now notice something, though, with the offense/defense breakdown.  My numbers project the Knicks to produce 24.1 offensive wins and only 13.8 defensive wins.  If you double the offensive wins, Arturo’s projection is absolutely correct.  Meaning, if you assume the Knicks will play average defense next season, the forecasted wins are exactly what Arturo projects.  But I can’t make that assumption for the reasons outlined above.

Method 2:  Straight MWS48

My second method is simpler.  I just went on the Win Charts from the last two seasons, averaged each player’s “Player Winning Percentage”, translated Arturo’s projections into “Game Responsibilities”, and calculated the Knicks projected record.  Here’s what I got:

2010-11 New York Knickerbockers
Amare Stoudamire…..9.3__2.4
Ray Felton…..7.5__4.6
Bill Walker…..4.6__5.4
Danillo Gallinari…..4.4__6.5
Kelenna Azubuike…..3.5__1.8
Anthony Randolph…..2.9__5.9
Toney Douglass…..2.8__3.3
Wilson Chandler…..1.5__3.2
Ronnie Turiaf…..1.4__4.2
Timovay Mozgar…..0.7__5.8
Andy Rautins…..0.4__0.8
Knicks Projected Record: ……39.0___43.0
The Defense may will undo the Knickerbockers

So I projected the Knicks to be in about the same ballpark with both methods.  I just can’t see the defense being good enough or improved enough or even interested enough to allow for the 15 game improvement their offensive capacity suggests they could hit.  In fact, given D’Antoni’s established record of indifference, I would be stunned if it happened.

But that is why they play the games.  I can’t wait for Halloween!


14 Responses to “Are the Knicks really that improved??”

  1. dan fitz Says:

    I read that that article too and I was just as surprised as you at the prognosis for the Knicks. I am a rabid Knick fan and hope he is right, but it conflicts with everything else I have read and seen about them. According to Berri lee was better then stoudemaire. The guys they got from the Warriors are all below average WP48. the only hope is randolph really taking huge strides. He is young , and the russian center being a really good player. I dont see it either. Plus look at the east. Miami is going to be incredibly good, Bulls are better too. Nets are going to be better(still not good) and the only team that got a lot worse is Cleveland. There are only so many wins to go around. I dont see it at all for the Knicks

    • tywill33 Says:


      You gave me an idea… I need to take a look at Cleveland. At first I didn ‘t think they would be as bad as people were predicting, but they keep shedding productive players (Delonte West) and adding hopelessly bad players (from the Twolves).

  2. tywill33 Says:

    What do you know about this Russian? I looked on Draftexpress, and based on his hilariously bad turnover and personal foul numbers, I see him as a completely ineffective rookie.

  3. brgulker Says:

    LOL @ “abstained from defense.” Well put!

  4. arturogalletti Says:

    Awesome post. This is the kind of response I’m going for. The defense argument is a very valid, stat based approach to the problem. I really want to see where the truth lies (and refine the models accordingly of course) 🙂

  5. Guy Says:

    “If you double the offensive wins, Arturo’s projection is absolutely correct. Meaning, if you assume the Knicks will play average defense next season, the forecasted wins are exactly what Arturo projects.”

    Small point, but doubling offensive wins is not the same as assuming an average defense. To do that, you would add 20.5 defensive wins, for a total of 45 wins. So Arturo’s projection implies a bit above-average defense (or higher offense estimate than yours.)

    • tywill33 Says:

      Good analytical thinking, my friend… I was kind of going out of my way to make it clear that the post was not intended as a criticism of Arturo, who does great work.

  6. todd2 Says:

    I’m not sure I can agree with the assessment of D’Antoni’s system and its defensive shortcomings. His Suns consistently shot a higher fg% than they allowed—check out their differential during his time there. I can’t help but think D’Antoni was happy to rid himself of Lee and the Knicks have done a good job of upgrading their team speed to fit his preferred style of play. They should get more easy baskets in transition and their defense should improve. Great defense is based on help-and-recover; watch the way the Lakers rotate off the ball when they’re defending. 38-40 wins should be considered a success next season and I’m looking forward to seeing how NYK matches up against the plodding Celtics.

    • tywill33 Says:

      That’s probably true. It seems like length, or at least long arms, has a lot to do with it as well. Just that little extra bit of disruption can have a real effect.

  7. winniepoo Says:

    Nice work Ty,

    I like your blog especially the Bucks posts. I am a Lakers fan but am Aussie so the Bucks are my second team for Bogut.

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