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Game Preview: Suns vs. Knicks (And Mike D'Antoni)

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Tonight the Suns play game three of their current 4 game road trip against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The Suns enter the game on a 4 game win streak, but are facing the next couple weeks without Leandro Barbosa.

While the Knicks as a basketball team aren't incredibly interesting, this match-up interests all of us for one particular reason: Mike D'Antoni.

The architect of 7SOL in Phoenix is attempting the East Coast version on a cash strapped, Isiah Thomas/James Dolan destroyed franchise that can only look to the future for any kind of hope. The Knicks are currently 3-14, in the midst of a 5 game slide, in which they most recently lost to the Orlando Magic. While the Knicks and their fans do not have much to be happy about this season, at least they can say they aren't in last place, thanks to the 0-17 New Jersey Nets.

Since both squads emphasize the offensive side of things, here is a little statistical comparison:

PHX 112.0 50.7 44.5 72.8 42.2
NYK 101.9 43.8 31.8 78.6 40.0

OK, that's pretty boring. So why don't we try something a bit different in this preview? I'd now like to introduce, perhaps, for the third or fourth time on BSOTS, the most used FIVE-MAN FLOOR UNITS for the Knicks and Suns. This is a statistic I found out there on the inter-wide web that basically measures the effectiveness of a particular group of players by combined average +/-:

New York Knicks






Ouch. the most commonly used unit for the Knicks throws down a whopping +/- of -25.

Phoenix Suns:






Our starting five, and most often used unit averages a +40.

Obviously the numbers don't tell the whole story here, and we can argue that +/- has its significant flaws, but heck, it looks good right now!   Now, on to the players



Chris Duhon-runs the point and leads the Knicks with 6 assists a game. It's safe to say he's not a scoring threat at 7 ppg, and at present, shooting 28% from the field. Look for a Duhon/Lee pick 'n roll set from time to time.

Nate Robinson-we all know Nate can play. Against the Magic, Robinson popped off the bench to go 10-11 from the field for 22 points. Of course he may not be out of the D'Antoni doghouse after burying a three on his own basket after time expired.

Larry Hughes-is Larry Hughes, shooting 39% from the field and 28% from 3-point range. J-Rich should enjoy posting Larry, driving on Larry, shooting over Larry, etc.


Al Harrington-At 19 a game, Al leads the Knicks in scoring and manages 6 boards a game. But like most of the Knicks, he is a subpar 44% from the field and an attrocious 29% from three point land, which is interesting, because he continues to hoist them up, second only to Gallinari in attempts with 89.

Danilo Gallinari-the 6th pick in the 2008 draft seems to be improving, at 13.1 ppg, but the gripe on him seems to be his tendency to sit in the corner and watch the game. Still he's capable of getting hot behind the arc. 

David Lee-averaging 18 and 10, Lee can flat play. I anticipate Frye, Amare, and perhaps Rolo/Lou matching up at times to slow down Lee, especially on the boards.

The rest:  Wilson Chandler (11.9 ppg) Darko Milicic is evidently homesick, Jordan Hill (unsurprisingly) has seen time in only 8 games, and Eddy Curry (chuckle) has played in 4 games, which probably averages out to about 3 million dollars a minute or something obscene.


So the Suns are looking good and Knicks are not. Again, like many of these awful teams we have been playing of late, there is always a pitfall lurking, especially on the road. This writer likes our chances tonight, but we could be in for a barn burner with little defense being played and many three pointers being hoisted.

And....As a Very Special post Thanksgiving Treat...A Short Q&A with Seth over at Posting and Toasting regarding the state of the Knickerbockers:

Me: First off, how are you all enjoying D'Antoni as your coach?

Seth: Mike D'Antoni's had a rough time in his first years as coach, but I think a lot of Knick fans would agree that he can't be fully judged until 2010 rolls around and the Knicks (hopefully have something resembling a competitive roster. In the meantime, D'Antoni's plenty likable and forthright, which is a welcome departure from his predecessors. There have been complaints about his lineup management (why aren't the rookies playing more?) and control over shot distribution (why isn't Danilo Gallinari getting more touches?), as well as his unwavering attachment to Chris Duhon, who has been appallingly ineffective. All that said, D'Antoni's seat won't even be warm until the Knicks use their forthcoming cap space.

Me: Is the run and gun everything you'd hoped for?

Seth: It sure isn't when the shots aren't falling. The Knicks have reined in their heaving a little bit, but are still the 23rd in the league in FG% and 22nd in 3P%. There have been plenty of open shots, but guys like Duhon, Robinson, Chandler, and Hughes have all gone cold for long stretches of the first 17 games, while the Knicks' deadliest shooter, Danilo Gallinari, isn't taking enough shots. It gets ugly.

Me:  What are Knicks fans most frustrated about this season? (Besides simply losing) Is it that Jordan Hill and the youngsters don't see much playing time? Is it Duhon's performance in general? or the combination of all that and Gallinari not living up to his potential as the 6th pick in the draft?

Seth: You pretty much hit the three biggest issues. Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas should not only get to spin because this is a losing team and there's plenty of room for them to development, but because they've actually proven to be more effective than some of the vets. Chris Duhon finally registered a decent offensive game on Sunday against Orlando, but has spent most of the season shuffling around and bricking jumpers. He hasn't been the leader nor the offensive threat necessary to pilot the D'Antoni offense. Finally, I keep harping on this, but Danilo Gallinari needs the ball!

Me: Lastly, what else should we desert rats know about your squad?

Seth:  If (when) tonight's game turns into a blowout, you can hopefully look forward to Marcus Landry making an appearance. The undrafted rookie hustles and bangs just like his older brother Carl, and he's also got decent range for a big man. If D'Antoni ever fully commits to playing the young guns, Li'l Landry will make a name for himself.


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