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Knicks and Nets might not remain so mockable for long, so enjoy it while you can

Dec 5, 2013, 1:33 PM EDT

Carmelo Anthony

The Knicks and Nets as engaged in a thrilling competition: Which team is the biggest laughingstocks in the NBA?

Both can lay claim.

They have oversized payrolls, cartoonish owners, coaches on the hot seat and underwhelming stars. The Knicks have seen Metta World Peace and Kenyon Martin feud, and the Nets have matched with Jason Kidd-Lawrence Frank silliness. More internal strife seems inevitable for both teams.

The Knicks and Nets share the United States’ biggest market, but there are more fans outside New York than in it, and the rest of the country is eating up the Big Apple disarray. Though the Knicks and Nets are certainly accommodating with repeated embarrassments, I think we – and I definitely include myself – are a little overeager to mock these teams.

Of everything going wrong for them, the biggest issue is losing.

Even if they beat the Nets in tonight’s hyped matchup, the Knicks (3-13) would still be on pace for the worst records in franchise history. And the Nets (5-13) could shatter records for cost per win.

But a big reason the teams are losing isn’t fun to mock at all: Injuries. Both teams have been hit hard.

Using data from nbawowy, the Knicks rank No. 26 and the Nets No. 28 in net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating). But when the teams have used lineups that include only members their full-strength rotations, they’ve been much better.

For the Knicks, I define that as:

And the Nets:

Using that adjustment, the Knicks shoot up to No. 20 and the Nets No. 23 in net rating.

image

Being in the low 20s still isn’t great, but it sure beats leading only the Bucks and Jazz and sandwiching the Cavaliers.

Of course, other teams have also faced injuries and used non-rotation players who lower the team’s net rating. So, this is far from a perfect measure of how good the Knicks and Nets would be if healthy – and it’s also unreasonable to expect perfect health from two teams so old – but I think this is an indicator the Knicks and Nets, as constructed, aren’t quite as bad as they’ve been so far.

And without the losing, maybe their more colorful problems get handled in-house. It all relates.

If the Knicks and Nets get healthy, they could go from historically bad to just regularly bad, and what fun would that be? Sure, we could – and would – still mock them a little, but this golden era of New York jokes could end soon. So, enjoy tonight’s matchup while you can.

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