The NBA season is barely two weeks old. The sample size is small, yes but at the current moment, the New York Knicks look like a competent basketball team. A team that may actually be competitive in the Eastern Conference playoff race as opposed to the race for a top five draft pick.
When Phil Jackson decided to publicly denounce Carmelo Anthony effectively diminishing all trade value, the new Knicks front office was left with their hands tied behind their back. The task was to figure out how to get as much value for Anthony as they possibly could.
Ending up with Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 Chicago second round pick did not seem like a lot on the surface, but has paid huge dividends on the court.
The Knicks are off to a surprising 3-3 start. After dropping the first three games to the Thunder, Pistons and Celtics, the Knicks went on to beat the Nets by 21, the Cavs by 19 and the Nuggets by 6. The Knicks actually led the Denver game by 23 before losing the lead early in the third quarter only to battle back and when the game in the fourth quarter.
It’s been a difficult opening schedule for the Knicks and a .500 start is way more than the fan base expected at this point.
However, what are the reasons behind the surprising start?
The first factor is the play of Kristaps Porzingis. Any questions about whether or not Porzingis would falter in his first season as the go to option on offense has been silenced.
Porzingis has now scored 30 plus points in 5 of the team’s first 6 games. That’s a franchise record.
Porzingis is playing an average of 34 minutes a night and is dropping in a nightly average of 29.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks. His shooting splits? Just an efficient 47.8% from the field, 36.4% from three and 81% from the line.
This is all with a 35.1% usage rate for Porzingis, the most of any player in the league. No team relies on one player to handle more offensive duties than the Knicks do with Porzingis.
All star numbers? Yes. All NBA team numbers? Heading that way.
The second reason is that the Knicks are one of the better teams in the NBA in rebounding the basketball.
The Knicks are grabbing 46.3 rebounds a night which ranks 7th in the NBA. That’s a good number to look at but does not tell the whole story.
What makes it better is the Knicks are limiting opponents to only 39.5 rebounds a night. A differential of 6.8 rebounds a game. That’s the second highest rebounding differential in the league trailing only the Portland Trailblazers.
What’s most impressive? The Knicks lead the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage. The Knicks are collecting 29.5% of all offensive misses.
Constantly, collecting your own misses and converting those opportunities to into points is deflating for opposing defenses.
The addition of Kanter and the solid play from Kyle O’Quinn off the bench have transformed the Knicks into a terrific rebounding team.
Kanter already had a reputation of being a outstanding offensive rebounder and in just 24.8 minutes a night, he’s pulling in 4.2 offensive rebounds a game. You know where the Knicks stand in offensive rebounds per game in the NBA? That would be fourth trailing only the Spurs, Blazers, and Clippers. The Knicks average 12.5 offensive rebounds a night. That’s twelve extra possessions they are getting to help their offensive rhythm.
Kanter has been the perfect addition next to KP in the frontcourt. Kanter is physical in the post, backs down opponents and is aggressive crashing the boards. Kanter does the dirty work that allows Porzingis to play on the perimeter.
Kyle O’Quinn has been just as dominate on the glass off the bench. O’Quin has been one of the better bench bigs in the entire NBA. Find a backup center who’s able to score 7.0 points, grab 7.7 rebounds and block 1.5 shots a night in just 17.2 minutes of action.
O’Quinn is the perfect back up 5. He has enough range on his jump shot to hit constantly from 15-18 feet away. He’s shooting 56% from the field and 82.4% from the foul line.
Between the three rotational bigs on the Knicks, the trio is grabbing 26.5 boards a game. Dominating the glass and limiting second chance opportunities is the perfect way to stay in a game.
Knicks fans may be watching competitive basketball for the most of the year. The Knicks have been a welcoming surprise this early in the NBA season.