Two juggernauts of losing make their way into San Francisco for a clash of wills and intestinal fortitude. The Golden State Warriors are the Icarus of this story - they flew too close to greatness and crashed back down, through mediocrity and down into the deepest cellars of the NBA.
The New York Knicks are the antithesis of sustained excellence. Their unrelenting drive towards dysfunction and poor roster choices is nearly unparalleled in all of professional sports.
Both of these teams find themselves not just on the bottom of the standings, but resting comfortably down there, settling in like a frog hibernating in the mud. With these two teams fighting as much for draft positioning as they are for the occasional win - and to make the hurting stop for a day or two - tonight’s game is going to be... something.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (5-20) vs New York Knicks (4-20) (nice!)
WHEN: Wednesday December 11, 2019; 7:30 pm PST
WHERE: Chase Center, San Francisco, CA
WATCH: NBC Sports Bay Area
Blog Buddy: Posting and Toasting
Playing for the ping pong balls
Right now, it seems like the Knicks are destined to dive deeper than the Warriors tank can go. They’re coming in for the tail end of a back-to-back after facing the Portland Trail Blazers last night. Beyond that, the Knicks continue to do Knicks things. After recklessly planning for a top tier free agent or two to save them, the team struck out yet again in the offseason and then signed a bunch of ill-fitting, slightly overpaid, non-elite guys.
They gave Julius Randle three years and $56.7 million; signed Bobby Portis for $30.75 over the course of two years; and then filled out the rest of their roster by signing Elfrid Payton, old man Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, and Marcus Morris. Not exactly shooting for the stars. On the other hand, none of the players they lost were exactly Earth-shaking impact players either.
And this is all part of a pattern with the Knicks - planning disaster after planning disaster. Adding to the dysfunction, they just fired another coach; which is like changing a light bulb as the Titanic goes down.
Here’s some random guy on twitter explaining the Knicks to a Food Network star:
In cooking show terms, they are always trying to make risotto and use the ice cream machine in 30mins.— pedro suerte (@PedroSuerte44) December 10, 2019
With players starting to return to health, and rookie Eric Paschall continuing to improve, it’s unlikely that the Warriors will be able to say ahead of (“behind”?) the New York Knicks. But here’s the things, the NBA just revised the way draft odds are calculated, so now the three worst teams all have the exact same odds (14%) of landing the top pick in next year’s draft.
So the Warriors’ and Knicks’ draft targets like LaMelo Ball, James Edwards, and James Wiseman will be there for teams that finish in the bottom of the league - as both of tonight’s contestants are likely to do.
Player to watch: Eric Paschall
Golden State rookie Eric Paschall has been one of the few bright spots for the Warriors this season. In an attempt to better illustrate his impact, let’s take a look at the new True Shooting chart tool released by Positive Residual. Here’s Paschall’s chart for the season - the redder the hex, the more efficient; and larger sizes indicate greater shot frequency:
As you can see from Paschall’s general season chart, he is doing serious damage in the paint, getting a high frequency of shot attempts, and converting them at an elite level.
The downside to all this excellence is that teams are starting to plan for it. As Eric Apricot pointed out on Twitter during the last game, there’s a “book” beginning emerge for how teams should cover Paschall.
I believe this continues to be the planned defense on Paschall https://t.co/pW95wC0YKe— Eric Apricot (@EricApricot) December 10, 2019
Ok, now let’s go back to the shot chart - only this time, we will run it for just the games in December. This is a smaller sample, so caveats apply, but take a look at the discrepancy in patterns and results as compared to his full season chart:
A couple things to notice here:
1) Look at his usage and efficiency dip in the paint. Teams are clearly working to take away his favorite spots and focusing more on him as a defensive priority;
2) Check out the overall total shooting efficiency. Despite getting slowed down in certain spots, Paschall is maintaining his scoring efficiency; a fantastic sign that a young player is adapting to a league that is beginning to notice him.
I’m going to call this a win. Heck, I’d probably even put my money on the line if I was that sort of guy.
On paper, the Warriors are the superior team. I know the records are not all that dissimilar but the Warriors have the best players on the court, a functional vision, and some historical inertia all working in their favor.
The Knicks are coming in for their second consecutive night of basketball after playing against Portland on Tuesday.
Warriors are listing Eric Paschall as questionable for tomorrow's game vs Knicks with left hip soreness. He's coming off a rough night vs Memphis. Has carried heavy workload as a rookie. Damion Lee is expected to return.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 11, 2019
Is it too late to pull my bet back? No? Ok, cool, let it ride. Warriors will win the game, and lose the tank battle - but end up being better off in the long run. Light years!