Knicks’ offense is still a concern for playoffs despite recent strong performances

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau with guard Jalen Brunson (11) against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being shorthanded, the New York Knicks crushed the Detroit Pistons 124-99 Monday, headlined by a franchise record 11 made threes from Donte DiVincenzo. However, looking ahead, New York’s offense is still not quite where they would like it to be, which could cost them an opportunity at a deep playoff run this season.

According to SNY‘s Rafael Canton, the Knicks are only 13th in offensive efficiency. Canton added that their saving grace has been their outstanding offensive rebounding numbers, which can be a deception to their true offensive output.

“The offense will be a central plot point to a Knicks playoff run,” Canton wrote. “The scoring numbers seem good enough, but they are propped up by offensive rebounding. New York leads the NBA in offensive rebound rate, snatching up 33.3 percent of available misses.”

The Knicks offense hasn’t had the same production as the defense

At 43-28 on the season and fourth in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks look like they’re in the area of contention for the first time in what feels like an eternity. Their defense has been outstanding for most of the season, especially when OG Anunoby plays, as they have a strong 103.9 defensive rating in the 17 games he has played for them this season.

The saying goes “Offense wins games, defense wins championships,” yet the core issue that hurt the Knicks in the playoffs last season was, in fact, their offense. They averaged barely over 100 points in the 2023 postseason, with rough shooting numbers as a team, as they shot just 43% from the field and 29% from three-point range as the Knicks fell to the Miami Heat in six games of the second round.

The Knicks haven’t had a chance to see the roster at full strength

This year, they addressed the lack of shooting by adding Donte DiVincenzo in free agency over the summer, as well as Anunoby, Alec Burks, and Bojan Bogdanovic in separate midseason trades. The only caveat: the Knicks have yet to play with a fully healthy roster since January, as Anunoby has missed lots of games and Julius Randle still hasn’t played since Jan. 27.

As a result, the Knicks have had to improvise with lineups they didn’t picture having to plug in coming into this season. Many games have seen a frontcourt of Josh Hart, Precious Achiuwa, and Isaiah Hartenstein, three players who are not considered to be a threat to score from the perimeter.

Those lineup changes paid dividends defensively, but came with a massive cost offensively, as teams would just hound Jalen Brunson until he passed the ball and then wall up the paint to force the others to shoot from long-range. As a team, New York averaged just 104.7 points per game in an 18-game stretch between Jan. 29 and March 10, which was the fifth-lowest mark in the NBA over that span.

The struggle to score forced head coach Tom Thibodeau to make another change, starting Miles McBride at shooting guard and Josh Hart at power forward, which has led to better offensive results recently.

While it may seem like those problems will magically disappear once Anunoby and Randle return, it is not as simple as it sounds.

It will take some time for Anunoby and Randle to settle back in once they return

With less than a month left until the playoffs, they are going to have to quickly adjust to the newest faces on the roster and learn how to play with one another, on top of that, the lack of basketball activity over the past few months means the two will need to endure a quicker ramp-up period in time for the postseason.

As the season winds down, the Knicks offense will need to find a consistent groove if they wish to make a deep run this year. Getting healthy is the first step, obtaining a good rhythm is the next.

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