There’s no doubt that Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmello Anthony, and Chauncey Billups have brought some impressive offensive pedigrees to the 2010-2011 New York Knicks, but fans and analysts alike wonder whether or not they can bring a championship to New York. Some people wonder whether or not the aging and slower-paced Billups can run coach Mike D’Antoni’s high octane offense while others are concerned about how effectively Stoudemire and Anthony can share the basketball for the long term, but these guys are offensive stars. They will work together to put the ball in the basket. What fans should be worried about is the team’s defense.
Call me old fashioned. Tell me the game has passed me by. Up tempo, high scoring offenses are the wave of the future. The game has evolved. Well, let me ask you this: has the math involved in win – loss records changed? The 2010-2011 Knicks are currently sporting a .522 winning percentage at 35-32. That record is amazingly consistent with the .515 winning percentage that their 17 – 16 record in games where both teams score at least 100 points has earned them. Though, overall, when the Knicks themselves score at least 100 points, they are 29 – 16 for a .644 winning percentage, their greatest successes come on nights of defensive triumph. When the Knicks hold their opponents under 100 points, they have an astounding winning percentage of .900 and an 18 – 2 record. In games where their opponents score over 100 points, however, they are only 17 – 30 for a .361 winning percentage.
So why would a team with so many potent offensive weapons be more effective in a defensive battle than an offensive shootout? The reason is simple. In a shoot out, the game is left up to chance. It is open to whoever has the hot hand, but more importantly, average offensive players are given the opportunity to gain a rhythm where they can become more dangerous offensively. This actually minimizes the advantage that a team with prolific scorers, such as the Knicks, holds. In a grind it out, defensive slug fest, however, nobody is hot. In the fourth quarter of one of these games, only a great offensive player can find a way to consistently come through. That is why Michael Jordan was so dominant in his time. For these Knicks, when they play that type of game, there are few teams with the offensive weapons that they have waiting to come through in the fourth quarter. That’s why they’re so successful in defensive battles.
Since Anthony and Billups joined the team, the Knicks are trending in the same direction. Their record of 7 – 6 is consistent with their overall record for the season and they’re undefeated at 4 – 0 in games where opponents are held under 100. Unfortunately for this team, however, is the fact that they’re 3 – 6 since the trade when opponents score over 100 points.
These statistics are consistent with history as well. For example, the 1993-94 Knicks, the benchmark that all Generation X fans compare current teams to, held similar records to this years squad when it comes to scoring trends.
Both teams under 100: 93-94 Knicks 0.718 / 10-11 Knicks 0.750
Both teams over 100: 93-94 Knicks 0.583 / 10-11 Knicks 0.515
Opponents under 100: 93-94 Knicks 0.823 / 10-11 Knicks 0.900
Opponents over 100: 93-94 Knicks 0.350 / 10-11 Knicks 0.361
The reason that this year’s team has such a lower winning percentage than the 93-94 squad is that this year’s team is only on pace to hold opponents under 100 points 25 times while the 93-94 team did it 62 times. That is why the Knicks need to hire a defensive-minded assistant coach to compliment Mike D’Antoni.
As long as this team is coached by Mike D’Antoni, their identity will always be offense, and with players like Stoudemire and Anthony on the squad, that makes sense, but if they are going to become championship contenders, defense will be their catalyst.