3 ways the Knicks have learned from last season’s mistakes

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) dunks against the Atlanta Hawks in the second quarter at State Farm Arena
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are 1-2 on the young 2023-24 NBA season and will play the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road in their next game. Though they are under .500, one media member has noticed positive changes that were not seen a year ago.

Knicks Have Pushed the Ball Up The Floor With More Pace

David Vertsberger of Yahoo Sports identified three areas where the Knicks have switched things up on offense, including getting the ball up the floor quicker, saying:

“With New York’s isolation bully ball approach hitting some roadblocks, they looked to find easier buckets, for example in transition. While Randle, Hart and Brunson normally like bringing the ball up coast-to-coast off defensive rebounds, they adjusted to quickly find an outlet up the court, seizing on numbers advantages for some fast break points.”

The Knicks lacked a multivariate approach to finding easy offensive looks last season. They leaned heavily on half-court sets which limited their ability to catch defenses sleeping off of defensive rebounds for quick buckets up the floor.

Now, the Knicks have played faster. It has not translated to wins just yet but a quicker pace is a pivotal step toward putting more points on the board and keeping opponents on their toes.

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Coach Thibodeau’s Tweak to the Knicks’ Pick-and-Roll

Vertsberger also pointed out how the Knicks have run screens for point guard Jalen Brunson in different areas of the floor and with different pick-and-roll partners.

The Knicks generated the fewest points from their screen-setters last year at 2.8 points per game. That has not gotten much better as they are only averaging four points per contest thus far. In turn, coach Thibodeau has utilized his wing players including Josh Hart and Quentin Grimes as pick-setters to open up more opportunities for Brunson to make plays.

The new scheme has been a factor in the Knicks making 15 three-pointers per game, good for fourth among all teams. It has also helped Brunson produce 5.3 assists and spell for his woeful 37.5 percent clip from the field.

RJ Barrett Playing With More Aggression

The third area which has benefitted the Knicks has been the improved play of RJ Barrett. The Duke University product has shot 47.1 percent from the field and 82.5 percent from the free-throw line — the latter of which is the best he’s seen in five seasons as a pro.

Barrett is getting 17 shots up per game, slightly above his average career workload. Brunson and Julius Randle have been cold early, giving Barrett the opportunity to hold the offense up. Moving forward, they’ll need him to continue to look to score while maintaining his efficient shooting line.

Barrett spoke during training camp about aiming to improve his free-throw shooting and it has paid off. The more the season progresses, the more we’ll see if it lasts.