After five years of using the SCHOENE projection system to predict the upcoming NBA season, I have a pretty good sense of where SCHOENE will differ from conventional wisdom. Still, sometimes the results surprise even me. Such was the case when I saw the initial version of the Knicks projection featured in today's Insider team forecast: 37 wins. Tom Haberstroh did a good job of explaining New York's potential pitfalls in the forecast, but I wanted to take a closer look at some of the statistical factors causing SCHOENE to project such a steep decline.
1. 3-Point Outage
As Tom noted, no team in NBA history has been more dependent on the 3-pointer than last year's Knicks, who made a league-high 891 triples. Over the summer, New York lost its two most accurate 3-point shooters (Steve Novak, 42.5 percent; and Chris Copeland, 42.1 percent) as well as Jason Kidd, who made 114 3s. The newcomers replacing them (Andrea Bargnani, 30.9 percent; Beno Udrih, 33.3 percent; and Metta World Peace, 34.2 percent) combined to make 33.4 percent of their 3s, a rate worse than league average.
Add in regression from the Knicks' holdovers and SCHOENE projects them to make nearly 200 fewer 3-pointers this season. Take away those triples and New York's offense could look a lot more like the 2011-12 incarnation, which finished 19th in the league in offensive rating.
2. Fewer Looks, Makes for Melo
Because the Knicks lost two of their lowest-usage players, Kidd (responsible for 11.7 percent of the team's plays) and Novak (13.1 percent), SCHOENE projects Carmelo Anthony's league-high 35.6 percent usage rate to decline all the way to 30.2 percent. Yet Anthony is also projected to be less efficient because SCHOENE factors in his down 2011-12 season.
As a result, SCHOENE estimates just a 16 percent chance of Anthony playing as well as last season or better. If his improvement last season was a real effect of the improved spacing around him -- and New York can replicate that without its best shooters -- Anthony could easily outperform his projection.
3. The Effects of Age
Anthony isn't the only Knicks player with a pessimistic SCHOENE projection. In fact, of New York's likely rotation, only J.R. Smith saw similar players improve at the same age. Players similar to Amar'e Stoudemire declined by 6.1 percent the following season, while players similar to Tyson Chandler saw a 5.4 percent decline.
Chandler might be the most important factor. If the Knicks are going to score more like they did in 2011-12, they'll have to defend like they did in Mike Woodson's first half-season at the helm, when they finished fifth in defensive rating and Chandler won Defensive Player of the Year honors. If he suffers through another season where injuries limit his productivity, that will be difficult if not impossible.