Projecting the NBA Using xWARP: New York Knicks

The Knicks are not contenders. Let’s get that out of the way to start. This core group of players won 54 games last year, but they did so on the strength of two runs of, frankly, unsustainable three point shooting as a team. According to NBAWOWY, in the first 23 games of the season, in which the Knicks went 18–5, New York shot 41% from deep on 29.4 attempts per game. Later in the year, the Knicks got similarly hot from long distance, shooting 40.6% from three on 28.2 attempts per game. For the season, the Knicks were 37.6% from three on 28.9 attempts per game. So, in games outside of those first 23 and the last 18, the Knicks shot a mediocre 34.4%. For the Knicks to have shot that well as a team, for that long during those runs is frankly remarkable, but it’s pretty unlikely to happen again. It’s especially unlikely to happen again next year, as the Knicks will be without their best three point shooter from last year, Steve Novak, and will have Andrea Bargnani’s below average three point stroke in his stead.

Additionally, Jason Kidd retired and will now be coaching the Nets across town. Beno Udrih is a solid replacement, but he’s no Jason Kidd. Even at 39 years old, Kidd was a +1.4 in xRAPM, on the strength of his very strong defensive contributions at the point guard position. Udrih is solidly above replacement level, but projects as just a -1.6 by xRAPM for next year in Nathan Walker’s numbers. Finally, many of the most important Knicks project to regress a bit. Tyson Chandler projects to have a big step back from last year, owing both to his age and expected regression to the mean. Chandler was better last year than he has traditionally been by xRAPM, clocking in at +5.3, when he is usually in the mid +4 range. Carmelo Anthony projects at +1.7 xRAPM, down from +2.3 this past season- again likely the result of regression to Carmelo’s historical mean level of performance. Pablo Prigioni is also quite old and is thus projected to decline from last year’s solid performance to something more average. Adding it all up, with the minutes projections, we get:

The Knicks project to win 47 games next year, down from 54 this past year. This is right in line with the ESPN Forecast of 48 wins for the Knicks. In fact, a lot of the projections so far seem to line up fairly well with the ESPN Forecasts, which have proven to be pretty accurate over the years. That makes me feel more confident about this exercise. One item of note: in both the East and West, my projections are higher on the teams ESPN has projected to place 4th in their conference. I have the Nets and Rockets both placing second in the East and West, respectively. It’s probably the case that the ESPN Forecast voters were factoring in some amount of an adjustment period for both these two teams, as they have both undergone a fair bit of roster turnover, which can cause teams that look great on paper to fail to live up to wins expectations sometimes. It will be interesting to see if it turns out that these xRAPM projections overrated these teams or if the ESPN voters were sleeping on them. I can’t wait to find out. Next up: the Memphis Grizzlies.

Image from Keith Allison via Flickr.

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