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Wolves and Knicks Set for Two Games in Three Days

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Taking a dive into the weirdness that is the New York Knicks, who the Wolves play twice this week.

NBA: New York Knicks at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolves are set for consecutive games against the Knicks tonight at Target Center and then Friday evening at Madison Square Garden. New York comes to Minneapolis after consecutive losses to Charlotte and Oklahoma City. On the season, the Knicks sport a record of 8-9, while the Wolves are 5-12. Despite what appears to be a respectable record, the logic of things could be worse, we could be the Knicks still holds true.

I’m not breaking news by saying the Knicks have been in turmoil for the better part of the past decade. Over the past seven years, they have constantly shuffled the deck around Carmelo Anthony. Before that, if we throw out the 2012-13 season, they have seen little success, like the Wolves! That is, four first round exists since 2000 and many bad teams. Outside of Anthony no player on the current roster was a member of the 2014-15 Knicks. This year’s version is new but outdated. I’m looking at you, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose.

The Knicks decided it would be smart to commit over $148 million to Noah, Courtney Lee, and Lance Thomas this offseason. Those signings are in addition to trading for Rose, who has the 21st highest salary in the NBA at $21.3 million. If this is your first time checking the internet since 2012, you may not realize that Rose is not worth anywhere near that dollar figure. To illustrate the Knicks mediocrity, there is no better place to start then Chicago’s fallen star.

The New New York Knicks

This Derrick no longer exists...

Derrick Rose

MPG: 32.6 PPG: 16.8 RPG: 2.9 APG: 4.9 Shooting: .438/.258/.885 Net RTG: -10.0

Of the players consistently getting playing time for the Knicks Rose is the worst. Of the Knicks starters, no player has a worse offensive rating or worse defensive rating than Rose, per basketballreference.com. When the point guard duties are handed to Brandon Jennings the Knicks offense has fared far better with a +2.0 Net Rating when Jennings plays (355 minutes) compared to -10 when Rose plays (554).

It’s not if Rose is incapable of attacking the rim as he did during his Chicago days, but the consistency of that explosion is not there and therefore neither is the effectiveness. When Rose gets to the rim he is still effective (54.5 percent within five feet) but too often he awkwardly settles for mid-range pull-ups which he only converts 33.7 percent of the time.

For the Wolves, when guarding Rose, the goal should be defending the rim and forcing Rose to take shots like this:

Joakim Noah

MPG: 22.5 PPG: 4.0 RPG: 8.1 APG: 3.1 Shooting: .466/.000/.286 Net RTG: +4.0

What made Joakim Noah elite in Chicago was exceptional passing ability from the Center position and elite level defense. Noah also brought the most intangible of assets—heart. Heart is about all he has left.

STUPID STAT COMING: Noah is making $17 million this season but is averaging a combined 15.2 PPG+RPG+APG.

The Noah signing has been a travesty. Age, injuries, and maybe Thibs driving Noah into the ground (yikes!) has turned a player who was once an MVP finalist into a player who is on arguably the worst contract in basketball.

CRAZY STAT COMING: Noah has missed 15 of the 21 free throws he has taken this season.

I don’t know who’s reading this, but odds are you are better at shooting than Joakim Noah this season.

Courtney Lee

MPG: 30.9 PPG: 9.6 RPG: 2.9 APG: 1.8 Shooting: .428/.434/.917 Net RTG: +4.0

Thirty-one year old Courtney Lee is another aging piece the Knicks signed to a four-year deal this offseason. Lee, at least on paper, has performed well. Unlike his two-hand heaving teammate, Lee has shot the ball well this year. Lee is making 43.4 percent of his threes this season on 3.1 attempts from distance per game. That is the best percentage and most threes Lee has shot per game since the 2011-12 season.

More than being known for shooting ability or any type of offensive creation, Lee has always been highly regarded as a defender. The Knicks have been poor defensively thus far this season (27th defensive rating) but Zach LaVine will draw the difficult offensive matchup of Lee.

So, why are the Knicks 8-9? Kristaps Porzingis.

Karl-Anthony Towns seems a bit emotionally fragile at the moment, so I don’t want to pile on, but Porzingis has been the Sophomore of the Year through the first 17 games of the season. This really isn’t a knock on Towns whatsoever. Porzingis is shooting more and making shots at a higher rate this season, particularly from three.

Last season Porzingis was shooting 3.4 threes per game and made 33.3 percent of those attempts. Decent. This season, Porzingis is shooting 5.7 three per game making 40.6 percent of his attempts. For context, the only “big” in the league to shoot more threes is Ryan Anderson. Anderson plays for the Houston Rockets who shoot threes at the volume of a child playing NBA2K.

Porzingis has become the ultimate pick and roll tool. His ability to effectively roll off of the high screen paired with his ability to simply pop and shoot over anyone is nearly unguardable—something I would like to see the Wolves implement a bit more with KAT.

The action is simple: high screen, then read and react (roll or pop). If the big hedges at all, Porzingis can dive to the basket allowing the ball handler to pass it anywhere near the rim for an often easy finish.

If Porzingis opts to pop on the screen and stay perimeter bound, the ball often finds it’s way back to him. As the defense rotates to Porzingis it’s almost always going to be a small defender. At well over seven-feet tall, almost no wing can sprint to Porzingis and reach high enough to actively contest the shot.

With Porzingis in the paint and on the perimeter, the Wolves will have their hands full as they also must worry about that Carmelo guy.

Expected Starting Lineups

Minnesota Timberwolves

PG – Ricky Rubio

SG – Zach LaVine

SF – Andrew Wiggins

PF – Gorgui Dieng

C – Karl-Anthony Towns

Injuries: Nikola Pekovic is OUT (ankle).

New York Knicks

PG – Derrick Rose

SG – Courtney Lee

SF – Carmelo Anthony

PF – Kristaps Porzingis

C – Joakim Noah

Injuries: Lance Thomas (Sore Left Ankle)

The Wolves have two opportunities to get back on track against the Knicks this week. Can they deliver? Stay tuned.