NFL: Does Offense Really Take Longer To Gel Than Defense?

The conventional wisdom says that defense is ahead of offense during the early part of the NFL season. I have always doubted that assertion, or at least the absolute confidence that NFL analysts have in the assertion. The table below compares total yards per game during the first two games of the regular season to rest of the season’s total yards per game. If during the first two games of the season, the league averaged 600 yards/game and during the rest of the season the yards/game was 500, then the score would be 1.20. A score of 1.00 means there’s no difference.
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NY is the source of the photo.


Carmelo Anthony: What Has He Done To The Knicks? (Click Tables to Enlarge)

What has Carmelo Anthony done to the Knicks? I’ll compare and contrast how the Knicks have performed in their Wins and Losses, both pre-Carmelo trade and post-Carmelo trade. Let’s look at Carmelo’s favorite part of the game, offense, first. I acknowledge that the samples are small. However, they still do give valuable insight into the Knicks during the Carmelo adjustment period, especially in conjunction with actually watching the games.

Pre-Trade Offense vs. Post-Trade Offense:

There are some noticeable differences between the two “eras”. First, the 3-point shooting has improved from 36.5% to 40%, the difference between a good shooting team and a great shooting team. This can probably be attributed to Carmelo and Chauncey Billups providing better shots to the surrounding players as a result of the attention they command. Additionally, Chauncey is a great 3-point shooter in his own right. On a side note, they have committed more fouls during the post-Trade time period, 23.3 per game vs. 20.6. That is a significant difference, but I don’t know what to attribute it to. Overall, on offense the Knicks have been slightly more proficient.

Pre-Trade Offense – Wins vs. Losses:

The biggest difference between wins and losses for the Knicks is their 3-point shooting; they attempt the same number of 3-pointers in wins and losses, but their percentage drops from 41.5% to 30.9%. Another, minor, difference was the percentage of field goals that were assisted, dropping from 57.9 to 53.3%. This suggests that the Knicks’ ball movement was slightly better in wins than in losses, and there may have been less isolation plays. Bottom line: Live by the 3, die by the 3.

Post-Trade Offense – Wins vs. Losses:

The first difference, just as during the pre-Trade period was 3-point shooting, dropping from 44.5% in wins to 35.9% in losses. There were two other factors of the game that differed greatly from wins to losses. The first was the assists to field goals made ratio, decreasing from 62.1% in wins to 50.8% in losses, a significant difference. Not only does this difference suggest better ball movement by the Knicks, but my eyes also told me this was true. Whenever Carmelo and Amare would isolate for most of the game, the Knicks’ offense became stagnant and inefficient. The second factor besides 3-point shooting was free throw attempts. This is one was quite surprising at first, but became more evident as I thought about it more. The Knicks attempted 10 more free throws per game in their losses than they did in their wins. After looking deeper into the stats I found that Amare attempted a greater number of free throws in the losses, suggesting that especially when he iso’d, the Knicks were worse off because of his below average passing ability, even for a power forward. Bottom line: The Knicks will
 win more with ball movement during the Carmelo era, at least for the rest of this season.


Pre-Trade Defense vs. Post-Trade Defense:

There are a few main differences in the Knicks’ defense between the pre-Trade period and the post-Trade period. They play a slower paced game in the post-Trade period allowing only 79.3 field goal attempts per game, down from 85 in the pre-Trade era. Additionally, the opposing offenses have played slightly more efficiently with higher shooting percentages across the board and averaging the same number of assists on fewer field goals made. Opposing teams are also shooting almost 4 more free throws per game. Bottom line: the Knicks have been playing at a slower pace and allowing slightly less points per game, but they’re defense has become markedly worse. My eyeballs tell me the same.
Pre-Trade Defense – Wins vs. Losses:
The difference in defense between wins and losses in the pre-trade period was embarrassingly simple: ball movement, which led to more efficient shooting killed the Knicks defense. The Knicks gave up 23 assists per game in losses, compared to 18.8 in wins.

Post-Trade Defense – Wins vs. Losses:

The Knicks’ defense, in wins, has forced more turnovers than in losses, 16.0 to 13.3. Watching the games, I’ve seen that those extra forced turnovers are significant, but are not attributed to the Knicks’ defense. They’re more luck than anything else. Three other stats; FTA, Off. Rebounds, and 3-point percentage, tell us what we already knew about the post-trade Knicks’ defense. They don’t have a decent big man, and they miss Wilson Chandler, who was a decent defender, guarding the other team’s best wing player. They allow 7 more free throw attempts per game in losses than they do in wins(Chandler), their 3-point defense deteriorates from 33.9% in wins to 41.7% in losses(Chandler), and they allow almost three more offensive rebound per game in losses while the opportunities(opposing teams’ missed shots) for those rebounds have only increased from 41.3 to 41.5.(Need for a decent big man). Bottom line: They need to find a serviceable defensive-minded center and good defensive wing player who doesn’t mind getting less shooting opportunities.  

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