Offense is strong since bigman went down
When Andrea Bargnani went down on an overzealous dunk attempt back on January 22nd, many Knicks fans were interested to see what the team would become without the seven-footer. A month later, we’ve seen a four-game winning streak, which occurred immediately after the injury, and we’ve seen a bad losing stretch that’s lasted until this point.
The Knicks currently rank 14th in the league in points per 100 possessions this season, and 25th in points allowed. Since the Bargnani injury, they’ve ranked 4th offensively, and 18th defensively. Furthermore, their rebounding rate, 20th on the season, is #6 in the NBA during that span.
Why has their offense improved so much? The majority of Bargnani’s 29 minutes have been distributed to Tim Hardaway Jr (receiving 11 more minutes per game) and Jeremy Tyler (nine more per contest). They’re making the most of their time on the floor, averaging around 20 pts & 6 rebounds per game while shooting at a 47% clip. They’ve logged 141 minutes together since Andrea Bargnani’s injury, more than the Felton/Prigioni starting guard combination, and scored a whopping 115 pts per 100 plays, the best of any pairing not including a starter.
Speaking of Felton and Prigioni, they’ve been far and away the best pairing since January 22nd, outscoring opponents by nearly 20 points every 100 plays. They’ve also moved the ball considerably well, with 24 assists per 48 minutes.
More important than Hardaway and Tyler, Pablo Prigioni has seen a six-minute increase, which Knicks fans have clamored for all season. Game after game, Mike Woodson would continue to leave maybe his only real two-way player (Iman Shumpert's offensive game has struggled) on the bench in favor of inefficient options like Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire. With the latter player, it would be a matter of going big versus small.
Many forget Pablo Prigioni was the team’s opening night starter at PG, mainly because he only went on to start two more games in the next 19, before being installed as a regular starter. He was one of the key pieces on a Knicks team that won a playoff series against Boston last year, and has been a steady marksmen from deep.
The one thing that’s changed for the worse, aside from the 5-6 record since the injury, has been Carmelo Anthony’s playing time. He’s actually received two more minutes per game, a category in which he already led the league. After missing a potential game-winner against the Kings February 13th, Carmelo admitted that “It could’ve been [fatigue].” While not making excuses for his play, blaming himself for missing an open layup late, it’s clear Carmelo’s minutes are a concern, and they’ve been growing more problematic since Andrea Bargnani’s been out.
All told, the Knicks have improved their scoring since Andrea Bargnani tried to dunk over two defenders and hurt his elbow, and have given minutes to those who deserve it. Pablo Prigioni, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Jeremy Tyler should continue to receive minutes for the Knicks to have any chance at success.