Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images
Written By Kyle Crabbe
Follow on Twitter: @KthetruestKnick
So far, the Knicks haven’t won many games this season, but the Knicks organization has won soundly in the P.R. department due to an improved image around the league. The positive movement began last year with the hiring of General Manager Scott Perry and the hiring of David Fizdale as head coach. Both Perry and Fizdale assisted President Steve Mills to pull off a terrific 2018 NBA Draft, which netted the Knicks three promising young talents.
With all the great optimism the Knicks have garnered, the question is how successful can the 2018-19 season be for this young Knicks roster? Can this team make the playoffs? Could this Knicks team have any award winners? Will anyone represent the Knicks in the All-Star game?
To answer those questions, we begin deciphering how well the players adapt to Fizdale’s vision. With the Knicks sporting the youngest roster in the NBA, success will be tied to how well Fizdale coaches the players every game.
Since preseason, Fizdale has preached defense, competing hard, and taking accountability to the players. So far, the players have absorbed Fizdale’s approach. As a result, the team has been playing tough and playing with confidence. Already, there have been players who have shown improvement under Fizdale.
Some of the players who have been making great strides under the tutelage of Fizdale are undrafted rookie Allonzo Trier, rookie Center Mitchell Robinson, and Tim Hardaway Jr., who currently leads the Knicks in scoring. The development of these players is a definite sign of a successful season because the league is taking notice of their improved play.
The player who has made the most progress is Hardaway Jr. Surprisingly, he stacks up well statistically when compared to the best shooting guards in the Eastern Conference:
1) Victor Oladipo, 10 Games, 22.5 points per game (ppg), 7.3 rebounds per game (rpg), 4.3 assists per game (apg), 1.7 steals per game (spg), Offensive Rating 109, Defensive Rating 104
2) Bradley Beal, 8 Games, 23.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.0 spg, Offensive Rating 109, Defensive Rating 119
3) Tim Hardaway Jr, 9 Games, 25.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 0.9 spg, Offensive Rating 114, Defensive Rating 114
Statistically, Hardaway Jr.’s numbers are comparable to Bradley Beal and Victor Oladipo, who both represented the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game last season. Since the start of the season, it has been evident Hardaway Jr. has embraced being the Knicks number one scoring option. Currently, Hardaway Jr. is outperforming his contract. A contract that has been criticized by many when the Knicks signed him to the deal prior to the beginning of last season.
So far, the gun-slinging, long-range shooting Hardaway Jr. is 15th in the NBA in ppg, 12th in usage, 13th in offensive box minus, tied in the top 20 for offensive win shares, and 4th in 3-point field goals made.
Hardaway Jr. could be another young player to have an all-star season, which has been the norm in the Eastern Conference during the last 10 years. With the Knicks struggling in a rebuilding year, the Knicks success may hinder Hardaway Jr.’s opportunity at an All-Star selection. However, there have been instances of players being selected to the All-Star game from mediocre teams.
In the 2008-09 season, Devin Harris was selected to represent the New Jersey Nets the All-Star game. Under Lawrence Frank, the Nets were struggling with a 24-29 record at the All-Star break. Despite the Nets struggles, Harris performed well that season, averaging 21.3 ppg, 6.9 apg, 3.3 rpg, and 1.7 spg. Another example was when David Lee was selected to the All-Star game in the 2009-10 season. Under Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks were 19-32 at the All-Star break, but statistically, Lee was impressive. He averaged 20.2 ppg, 11.7 reb pg, 3.6 apg, and 1.0 Stl pg.
Even though these are good examples, in the case of Tim Hardaway Jr., a better comparison would be the All-Star selection of DeMar DeRozan in 2014. During that season, DeRozan was playing in a new offense ran by current Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, who was an assistant. In comparison, Hardaway Jr. is playing his first season under Fizdale.
In 2014, DeRozan averaged 22.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.1 spg, and he had an Offensive Rating of 110 and a Defensive Rating of 107. Those numbers are very achievable for Hardaway Jr. this season.
However, if any Knick is to make an All-Star appearance this season, it’ll depend on how well Fizdale develops the team. To that point, there are a couple examples of this in the Eastern Conference in recent NBA history. The first example is Jameer Nelson making the 2009 All-Star game representing the Orlando Magic.
Under Stan Van Gundy, the Magic started off slowly with a 2-2 record. By the All-Star break, Van Gundy coached the Magic to an impressive 38-9 record. The key to the Magic’s success was Van Gundy creating a great system centered around superstar Dwight Howard, which allowed Nelson to have a career year.
Another example focuses on the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks led by Mike Budenholzer. In the 2015 All-Star game, Jeff Teague made an appearance due to Budenholzer coaching the Hawks to an incredible 43-11 record. Earlier that season, the Hawks were struggling with a 5-5 record after ten games. The key to the Hawks success was Budenholzer implementing a great defensive system and an offensive system that focused on creating space. Also, Budenholzer encouraged the Hawks to play with pace to create opportunities for players, like Jeff Teague, to showcase their full range of talent.
Fizdale and his Knicks team may not win many games, but if Fizdale is able to develop the players within his system, the Knicks will eventually have players performing at a consistent All-Star level.