Knicks guard Allonzo Trier shoots over Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson on Oct. 24, 2018, at American Airlines Arena in Miami.

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Schmeelk: Good, Bad And Ugly Of Knicks Season So Far

Blowout Loss To Heat Drops NY To 1-4

John Schmeelk
October 25, 2018 - 11:18 am
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The Knicks are five games into their season, and after a blowout win against Atlanta to begin the campaign, they have lost four straight to start 1-4. They have played far better than their record indicates with very competitive losses to the Bucks and Celtics, two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

Five games are far too early to draw any definitive conclusions, especially for the new guys who are still feeling their way in New York. So here’s the good, bad and ugly of the Knicks' season so far.

THE GOOD

The Pace: The Knicks are playing at the 12th fastest pace in the league. Coach David Fizdale wants his team pushing the ball, and so far they’ve been doing it. There is a bit of a red flag, however. Since the first game of the season, the Knicks only have the 24th fastest pace in the league. They are slowing down, a trend that needs to stop.

The Energy: The Knicks are playing hard, and much like the pace, it is a good indication that the head coach is reaching the team. Aside from the second half of a 110-87 loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, the Knicks' effort has been consistently strong.

The Defense: For the first time in a long time, the Knicks are defending. They have the 12th best defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) in the NBA, which is a huge improvement from where the Knicks have normally ranked since Jeff Van Gundy left as head coach 17 years ago: near the bottom of the league. They have a number of very good defenders such as Frank Ntilikina, Lance Thomas, Ron Baker and Damyean Dotson.

Youth Development: Fizdale is playing the young guys. Frank Ntilikina is averaging the second most minutes on the team. Damyean Dotson is averaging 29 minutes per game in the three he has played in. Kevin Knox, Mario Hezonja, Alonzo Trier and Noah Vonleh are all playing regular minutes, too. Ntlikina’s handle looks better, and he is more confident with the ball in his hands. Dotson looks like a different player than he did in the Summer League. Hezonja has flashed playmaking ability, and Trier can score.

The Coach: Fizdale is getting the team to play hard and in the style he desires. He also seems to understand when his players are playing well, or poorly, and need to be taken out of the game. After Knox hit a game-tying 3 late in a game, Fizdale pulled the rookie aside and grilled him for missing a defensive assignment. He actually substituted Enes Kanter in offense/defense patterns late in games. He really seems to get it.

THE BAD

Passing: The Knicks have the third lowest assist percentage in the league (50.5), and if you watch them closely, that should come as no surprise. They play too many guys who think shooting is their first, second and third options. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 24 points per game are needed on a team without great scorers, but he is averaging 20 shots and only 2.6 assists. Trey Burke is a shoot-first point guard. Kanter is a post-up scorer. Knox has been jacking them up when he gets the ball, averaging 10 shots in only 18 minutes per game. Trier wants to do nothing but run isolation. Hezonja has morphed into a chucker on more than one occasion. The Knicks need a true distributor and playmaker. Ntilikina has the best instincts and passing ability to fill the role, but he hasn’t shown enough assertiveness in that area.

Scoring: The Knicks have trouble scoring. They are 25th in the NBA in offensive rating (103.7), partially because of poor ball movement but mostly because they lack someone who can create their own shot. Hardaway’s shot selection has been questionable to get to 24 points per game, and Kanter primarily scores in post isolations. The Knicks need to play Hardaway, Kanter and Burke to score points, but all three also really struggle defensively. It is the price Fizdale needs to pay to get enough points on the board to win.

Inconsistency: You see good flashes from players from time to time, but then they show why they have struggled to make their way in the NBA. Hezonja has all sorts of skills, but sometimes he seems to forget he is on the court with four teammates and looks to shoot every time he touches it. Trier can score one-on-one, but he isn’t good enough to carry a team to consistent victories that way. Baker plays hard and excels defensively, but when he has to run the offense, few good things happen. Kanter still can’t guard the pick-and-roll, even while he scores down low and rebounds. Hardaway continues to struggle defensively. Burke’s midrange shooting has fallen off from last year. The team is young, and it shows.

THE UGLY

Kevin Knox’s Injury: Knox showed scoring ability before he twisted his ankle, but now the Knicks' prized rookie will miss at least two weeks. It is a tough beginning for a promising career, but it shouldn’t set him back long-term in his development.

Mitchell Robinson’s Injury: The Knicks' second-round pick has been battling ankle problems as well, giving Vonleh a chance to take his minutes. Vonleh has played well enough to keep his minutes, and now Robinson has to earn his way back into a consistent part of the rotation.

You can follow me on twitter for everything on Knicks, Giants and the world of sports @Schmeelk.