The 2013-14 NBA season has been an unmitigated disaster for the New York Knicks. Even judged simply on its own merits, the season could be kindly described as an embarrassment for almost every player, coach, and executive involved in the franchise. Even the players like Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, who have at least resembled above-average players for the majority of the season have not been enough to rid the Knicks of the pervasive stink of their mediocrity. Considering the amount of money that has been funneled into the on-court product, with the Knicks having the second-highest payroll in the NBA, even hyperbole might not be enough to fully capture all that is wrong with the Knicks team this year.
Yet, as unsightly as this season has been for the Knicks, their incompetence in every aspect of running a successful franchise looks even more grotesque when compared with what was a revelation last year. In the 2012-13 season, the Knicks won 65.9 percent of their contests (54-28) and advanced to the second-round of the postseason before being dispatched by the Indiana Pacers. What a difference a year makes as this version of the Knicks is on pace to be almost the antithesis of last year's team, having lost 35.5 percent of their 62 games, even after Wednesday's victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
As difficult as the regression of the Knicks has been for NBA enthusiasts to stomach this season, there has also been a quality of frustration because every now and then the Knicks demonstrate how good they can be when they are clicking on all cylinders; the frustration kicks in when they are not able to bring the same level of intensity and efficiency to the majority of their contests.
In some ways, the Knicks of 2013-14 are better in their wins than their yesteryear counterparts. While the Knicks' number of wins relative to how many games they have played is far from impressive, when they do win, they do it in a pretty commanding fashion. Their 22 victories have seen the Knicks outscore their opponents by 14.6 points per 100 possessions thanks to a few blowouts and overall dominating play when they do win. Almost always the outscoring is the result of an adept shooting touch as more often than not, when the Knicks win, they do so because they are shooting the ball lights-out.
Last year, when the Knicks were winning more regular-season games than they had in 12 years, they outscored their opponents by 13.3 points per 100 possessions so on a purely individual final efficiency margin, this year's Knicks have had the more impressive winning formula; the 1.3 points per 100 possession might not seem like a significant difference, but it is a pretty sizable one.
Where the Knicks are much inferior this season, in addition to in their abysmal winning percentage, is in their consistency, being far less consistent on offense than when they were on top of their game last year, a greater inconsistency that is not precluded from the Knicks having a smaller sample size of victories this season. After their first 22 victories of last year, the Knicks had an offensive rating standard deviation of just 7.7 points per 100 possessions. No matter how you slice it, the Knicks offense has been a roller coaster when the team loses.
So far, the 2013-14 Knicks have posted an offensive rating standard deviation of 13.6 points per 100 possessions, significantly larger than the offensive rating standard deviation of 9.1 points per 100 possessions. The Knicks are quite capable of playing well on offense one night, but do not expect them to be able to replicate their performance enough times for their offensive supremacy to matter in the long run.
However, any goodwill that the Knicks have built up by beating their opponents easily when they do win is completely shredded by how they play when they lose, which they do at the rate of almost two games out of three. When the Knicks suffer a defeat this season, they make sure to do so emphatically, as evidenced by the team being outscored by 13.1 points per 100 possessions; last year, during losses, the Knicks were beaten soundly, but only to the tune of being outscored by 11.4 points per 100 possessions. As impressive as the Knicks are when they win, they are just as mediocre when they fall in defeat, not even coming close to their opponents' final scores in most of their 40 losses.
In both a collective basis and an individual basis, the Knicks are lagging far behind the pace they set last year, which calls into question the roster moves they made in the offseason. This season, players who were on the team last year have accounted for 71.1 percent of the team's minutes, which is the equivalent of having to replace 1.5 position players. Obviously, the replacements for those players have been lacking.
The quicker the season ends for the Knicks, the better it will be so they can put this terribly inefficient season behind him and try to construct a roster that can actually outscore their opponents in the majority of their contests.