While the Knicks may be losing game after game, they haven’t displayed the necessary signs that lead to a renewed sense of hope for next season. What has been at the crux of the issue for these Knicks?

Losers of seven straight and 15 of their last 16, the Knicks season has gone down the tubes in a hurry. There are a plethora of reasons you could highlight as to why New York looks so inept on a nightly basis, but what stands out above all are the glaring lapses in ball movement and the horrid defensive effort.

We are all aware of the fact that the current NBA lottery system is designed to encourage tanking, so if you are a team with no shot at the playoffs like the Knickerbockers, obviously the proper protocol is to lose as much as possible. To say that there is a “correct” way to tank might be an oxymoron, but the Knicks (even though they are losing) are embarrassing themselves in the process and not really showing much promise or giving fans much optimism for the future.

Even though the organization is doing the right thing and giving the young guys minutes, those said players aren’t showing you consistent effort and much improvement, which is very concerning because a lot of the Knicks’ future is contingent on at least a couple of these guys being good NBA players. Let’s evaluate what exactly has gone wrong.

Lapses In Ball Movement

Watching the Knicks night in and night out, you can occasionally see glimpses of them being capable having a relatively competent offense. Some Knick possessions open your eyes and you see crisp and fundamentally sound ball movement, resulting in great looks like the one we see below (miss you KP):

Even since Emmanuel Mudiay was added into the mix, there surprisingly hasn’t been much of a change in the number of passes per game despite Mudiay having the perception of being somewhat of a ball stopper in his time as a Denver Nugget.

Unlike the previous New York squads with Carmelo Anthony, this team doesn’t have an issue with relying too heavily on isolation ball. They look to swing the rock around more. ‘Melo was great, but he did stunt a lot of offensive possessions for New York with his ball-centric attitude and style of play.

Although the number of passes and flashes of solid offensive efficiency the team has displayed recently have been encouraging, it hasn’t translated into consistency and winning basketball. What has plagued New York for years is the inability to string together quality offensive possessions. Too often we see extended cold spells from the Knicks offensively, which can be attributed to the youth and inexperience of the current roster as a whole.

Neither Trey Burke, Frank Ntilikina, or Emmanuel Mudiay are finished products yet, so there is plenty of room for improvement, but sometimes they seem to play a tentative and deliberate brand of basketball. Considering that they have the ball in their hands the most and are in prime position to dictate the fluidity of an offensive possession, they will inevitably be under the microscope. The spotlight has been on them recently because of an increase in playing time, which has led to an alarming amount of errant passes and not very smart decisions with the ball. These frequent lapses contribute immensely to the Knicks getting throttled on a nightly basis, because in today’s NBA, poor guard play gives you no chance of being competitive.

It has been concerning to see the Knicks point guard trio, Tim Hardaway Jr., and most of the other young guys plateau and not show much improvement as the season goes on. Contrary to what reports you may hear, ego or a locker room divide is not the reason why the Knicks look so bad. Much of it has to do with their youth and having nothing to play for.

During the final 15 games, an improvement in offensive decision making and consistent ball rotation is something that will be imperative, especially from the young backcourt.

Invisible Defense

I know I might sound like I’m beating a dead horse with my criticism of the Knicks’ poor defense, but their effort on this end of the floor is something that is absolutely inexcusable and needs to be addressed. In six of their last eight, New York has given up north of 120 points. Ouch. You can point to lack of talent all you want, and the Knicks clearly aren’t the most physically gifted and talented group of guys, but passable defense is rooted in effort. The effort has not always been there.

There are numerous instances per game you can point to that highlight the Knicks’ laziness on defense. The culture here needs to change, and while it may be unfortunate and unjust, the coaching staff will likely take the fall for failing to make such a change.

It has been beyond difficult to watch this team play, and with a record of 24–43 and nothing to play for, it is hard to imagine there will be a sudden flip of the switch in this department. It just has been extremely disappointing to see not one iota of effort from a lot of guys on defense. Aside from a handful of players like Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas, and maybe a couple others, the Knicks seem disinterested in playing any defense. Constant confusion, late closeouts, and poor containment on the perimeter have seemingly become more and more frequent, which has made the final stretch of the season a miserable watch instead of an encouraging one.

It might seem like asking the Knicks to tank in a certain fashion might be greedy and unrealistic, considering that they’re losing like we all wanted. Just the manner in which they are playing doesn’t give much to look forward to, even if they are able to secure a top three-five pick.