On Tap: The New York Knicks

 —  February 28, 2005

I had this great plan to ask the best NBA blogger living or dead — Knickerblogger — to write a preview telling us about his team (no, they’re aren’t a lot of dead NBA bloggers for him to compete with). Then, in the swirling vortex of a busy trade-deadline week and a busy last week at my office, I forgot. My bad. It’s a loss for all of us.

That said, if you want to know what it takes to beat the Knicks, Knickerblogger has already told us — through a post on Bulls Blog.

Talking about the Knicks should start with the recent playoff deadline moves, which have taken a beating in the mainstream media. However, Knickerblogger — as well as the new ESPN insider John Hollinger — don’t think the moves were bad. Their argument goes like this: The Knicks are already in cap hell until Houston’s salary comes off the books in 2007, so adding more salary before then is no big deal. After that the only contract they added was Malik Rose, and he’ll be in the last year of his deal. Getting the picks starts the rebuilding process for after 2007.

It’s an interesting theory if: 1) You think Isaiah Thomas is savvy enough to start planning for 2007 now; 2) You think Knicks ownership will let Thomas survive to 2007 as the team losses games and money.

I will say this — what the Knicks did at the trading deadline makes them a tough match up for the Lakers. Like the Lakers at the three, the Knicks are a team overloaded at the four — even their official starting center, Michael Sweetney, is a four. And, many would argue, some of those fours are really closer to threes. That doesn’t make for a balanced lineup and the Knicks offense is the 18th most efficient in the league at 102 points per 100 possessions. What it does make is a lineup the Lakers will have trouble defending — they have an opponents PER of 16.7 against power forwards and 18.8 against small forwards (remember the league average is 15).

The guy the Knicks offense runs through is Stephon Marbury — a shoot-first penetrating point guard (21.75 PER this season). Marbury is also fifth in the league in Roland Rating (+15.6). As we all know, Frank Hamblen could substitute an orange traffic cone for Chucky Atkins on defensive trips down and get the same result (Laker opponents PER against point guards is 18.2, just horrible). This is a game where Marbury could have a big night.

The good news for the Lakers is that Knicks are 27th in the league in defensive efficiency, giving up 105.7 points per 100 possessions. Teams shoot 49.8% (eFG%) against the Knicks this season. Despite the number of people they have playing the position, the Knicks have had trouble stopping fours this season, they have an incredibly high opponents PER of 19.2. The only position they’ve played good defense against is the shooting guard, and Kobe will still get his.

The Lakers have struggled on back-to-backs this season, but thanks to the day game yesterday this is at least a little longer break. The question is how intense the Laker defense will be — it has been missing except for spurts the last few games and if it doesn’t show up tonight the Lakers will be in serious danger of losing every game on this three-game road trip. Outside of that, my only advice is to consider betting the over because I’m not sure anyone will be playing defense tonight.