Despite losing to the LA Lakers in a nationally televised game on Christmas Day, the New York Knicks are off to their best start in years and may have many casual fans wondering why. It’s fairly easy to think “They are just playing better,” and while that is partly true, there are four very specific reasons behind the Knicks success so far. The best part is that if you happen to be a coach, these four factors can help your team win more games as well.
1. Guards are better.
Last season Jeremy Linn and “Linsanity” took New York by storm but what did it really accomplish in the long run? Sure, it was fun to watch at times, the Knicks did sell thousands of Jeremy Lin game jerseys, and even Lin eventually ended up with a fat $25 million contract over three years. However, none of those things really translated into more wins.
This year, on the other hand, Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton may not sell a single jersey between the two of them but both have been spectacularly solid game in and game out. Their contributions don’t always show up on the stat sheet but passing the ball quickly ahead on the fast break, getting the ball to whomever happens to be the current “hot hand,” and delivering passes right to the shot pocket of a shooter all silently influence the outcome of nearly every game.
2. Fewer turnovers.
Not only have the Knicks decreased their number of turnovers but they are currently on pace to set the all time NBA record for fewest turnovers in a season! That means that everything else being equal, the Knicks are getting more shots than their opponents and are also reducing the number of opportunities that those opponents have to get a quick steal and transition layup.
When Paul Westhead first introduced his fast break to the Lakers back in the 80’s he used to say that if his team could get 100 shots a game they would win. They didn’t even have to be good shots, just 100 shots! Reducing turnovers gets a team more shots and if that team gets a lot more shots than its opponent then they don’t have to shoot quite as good of a percentage in order to score more points.
3. Increased 3 Point Shooting Percentage.
Not only have the Knicks increased the number of three point shots they are attempting but they have increased their three point shooting percentage as well. In fact, they are currently on track to set NBA records in both of these areas! Combine their number of three point attempts with a great shooting percentage and a miniscule number of turnovers and it’s easy to see how the Knicks are winning games possession by possession. In other words, they are getting more shots, making more shots, and more of those shots are threes!
4. Have a Defensive Stopper.
Namely Tyson Chandler, who might be the most underrated player in the NBA. Chandler, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year does all the necessary dirty work in and around the paint and can positively impact the game without ever touching the ball. However, this year Chandler is also shooting field goals at an amazing 70% which makes him a legitimate scoring threat inside and helps open up the outside for the Knicks three point shooters. On top of that, he has an uncanny ability to tip errant rebounds out to the perimeter and into the waiting arms of his teammates. There’s no official stat for that but some games he is giving his team an extra four or five offensive possession.
So let’s sum this up – better guard play, few turnovers, increased shooting percentage, and a defensive stopper that can get your team even more offensive possessions to work with – and you have the New York Knicks formula for success.