Schmeelk: Midseason Report Cards For The 2019-20 Knicks

Things Have Improved Slightly Since Mike Miller Took Over

John Schmeelk
January 15, 2020 - 9:52 am
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The Knicks have reached the halfway point of their season and sit at 11-30, which is the second worst record in the Eastern Conference and third worst record in the NBA, two games behind the Hawks and Warriors. They are eight games behind the Nets, who hold the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

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They are on pace for 22 wins, which is below my predicted win total of 28. They have already changed coaches, removing David Fizdale after a putrid 4-18 start and replacing him with Mike Miller, who has gone 7-12 since. Under Miller, the Knicks would be on pace to finish with 30 wins, which is far closer to what their talent would dictate.

Here’s how I grade out everyone in the Knicks organization for the first 41 games of the season.

David Fizdale: (F-) It was clear Fizdale was not a very good coach in his 104 games with the Knicks, but his 4-18 start looks even worse after Miller had the team playing much more fundamentally sound basketball after just a few days on the job.

Mike Miller: (B+) Miller took over a foundering team and helped turn the season away from the brink. Nothing he has done has been revolutionary, but simple things like improved spacing and more frequent pick and rolls have helped not only team performance, but also individuals like Julius Randle. Even the young players seem to be developing better under his tutelage, though his recent insistence on maximizing playing time for veterans dings his grade a bit.

Steve Mills and Scott Perry: (Incomplete) They haven’t done anything stupid… yet. Signing Kenny Wooten to a two-way deal was smart, but until we see if they can get any future assets for veterans at the deadline, this remains a wait and see proposition.

New York Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry speak to the media on media day at MSG Training Center.
USA Today Images

James Dolan: (D-) Forcing his front office staff to do a ridiculous postgame press conference once again put the Knicks into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. He was, however, willing to eat the remainder of Fizdale’s contract. Steve Mills still has a job. If Dolan can find a real professional to run the franchise, this grade skyrockets.

Julius Randle: (C+) but trending up. After a brutal start to the season, his numbers have rebounded. His true shooting percentage still only sits at 53%, and he is shooting only 45% from the field. He has been slightly better since Miller took over, with a 55% true shooting percentage. Most of that jump can be attributed to improved three-point shooting, which might simply be the ebbs and flows of a normal season. Randle still has all the flaws he had before arriving with the Knicks. He can get this up to a B if his performance under Miller continues to improve.

Marcus Morris: (A-) Morris has been fantastic, shooting a miraculous 47% from behind the arc while averaging 19 points per game. He defends well, brings toughness and is a good leader. The three-point shooting is probably not sustainable, which will bring down his efficiency, but he is still having an excellent season. He gets the minus due to recent injury issues and his slew of technical fouls.

Elfrid Payton: (B) After a hot start right after returning from injury, Payton’s play has begun to regress. He is down to shooting only .411/.250/.536, which is worse than Frank Ntilikina’s shooting numbers. His defense, spare some threes, has been spotty. He does, however, get the ball into the paint and sets himself and his teammates up for shots around the basket.

RJ Barrett: (B+) This is all about expectations, right? He is an inefficient scorer (.395/.326/.606), much like he was in college, which should be no surprise. His free throw shooting of late has picked up, and he is driving and getting to the free throw line a lot (4.5 attempts per game). His defense and intangibles are a plus. I would like to see him get more opportunities to run pick and roll and be more of a creator under Mike Miller. It’s a good start to Barrett’s career.

Kevin Knox: (C-) There has been improvement on the margins for Knox in terms of passing, rebounding and defense. He is still not average in any of those categories, but there have been improvements. His shooting continues to be poor (.380/.336/.658) and he is not consistently logging more than 20 minutes per game. Knox’s future is as a stretch four, but the Knicks poorly constructed roster won’t let him play there, which hurts his development.

Frank Ntilikina: (B) Ntilikina has made a decent jump this season in terms of his shooting numbers (.396/.326/.868) but he is still not consistently aggressive enough. He took a dip when Payton returned from injury, but then bounced back the last couple of weeks before hurting his groin. The potential is starting to show more results. He still needs to be a more consistent shooter outside of the corners and the free throw line area, and just be more aggressive getting into the lane. There’s progress but not enough.

Mitchell Robinson: (B-) There have been stretches of improved play for Robinson, but they have been too inconsistent. He still fouls too much and is undisciplined far too often in how he helps around the rim. The potential is still there, but the big jump hasn’t come yet this year.

Dennis Smith Jr: (F) In what many though might be a breakout season for Smith Jr, has instead been a disaster. He has dealt with personal tragedy and injuries. When he has been on the floor, his play has been ugly and inconsistent. His shot, which was supposed to be reworked over the summer, still looks broken. It’s as bad as it gets, with his return from an oblique injury nowhere in sight.

Damyean Dotson: (C-) Dotson still plays hard but his shot has been slow coming back from an offseason shoulder injury. He is only shooting .306 from behind the arc. His off-ball defense needs improvement.

Bobby Portis: (C) He is exactly what everyone thought he was, a decent floor-spacer that brings little else. He is shooting only 37% from behind the arc.

Taj Gibson: (B) He has provided good defense, leadership and solid play whenever he is on the floor. He is giving you exactly what you expected.

Wayne Ellington: (F) A player brought here for his long-range shooting is only hitting 31% of his threes.

Allonzo Trier: (Incomplete) He hasn’t had much of a chance to play, but I imagine that’s because he hasn’t gotten past any of his bad habits in practice. I haven’t seen that, however, so I have to go incomplete.

Reggie Bullock: (Incomplete) He has only played 8 games since coming back from his neck injury.

Ignas Brazdeikis: (Incomplete) He has played well in the G-League but that doesn’t matter much.

Kadeem Allen: (Incomplete) Only eight games.

You can follow John on Twitter (@Schmeelk) for everything about the Knicks, Giants and the world of sports. You can also find his Knicks podcast, The Bank Shot on WFAN.com, Radio.com and all your favorite podcast platforms. Find it on Apple Podcasts here.

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