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
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!