The Big Three, Part 1: Ways to improve

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
9:34
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Let's face it: The hefty contracts of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler -- which equal $53 million next season and give the Knicks little salary-cap room -- wouldn't get as much attention if the Big Three played better together.

When all three were on the court, their collective plus-minus was minus-9, and the team's field goal and 3-point percentages were only 45.1 and 26.8. The spacing on the court was sometimes jammed -- mostly based on Chandler and Stoudemire occupying similar space -- which slowed down ball movement and limited good shots from downtown.

Combining insights from ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling and a couple of NBA scouts, here are five ways the Knicks' Big Three can improve in Season 2 together:

1. Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire need to become more willing passers. When they catch the ball in an isolation situation, they tend to put their blinders on and make their focus the basket. They don't demonstrate enough floor vision when they attack.

Anthony became a better passer in his first full season in New York, acting as more of a point-forward, but they both need to learn how to find each other and their teammates. If I'm Mike Woodson, I'm stressing penetration and passing as a combined action they both need to work on this summer. Overall, the Knicks' ball rotation has to improve, and it starts with Anthony and Stoudemire.

2. Anthony and Stoudemire need to get better at moving without the ball. Too many times when one of them catches the rock, the other stands around, watches and hopes for the kick-out pass from penetration. In fact, that sometimes goes for all the Knicks.

Overall, they both need to be more active in halfcourt sets and utilize their teammates to get open off down screens and backdoor cuts. The same movement Woodson demands on defense, he needs to demand on offense.

3. Tyson Chandler needs to be the main pick-and-roller. Earlier this season, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told ESPN New York: "Offensively, he's one of the very best pick-and-roll guys to the rim, where he collapses your defense if you don't put bodies in front of him, and he has those lob dunks."

Many around the league agree with Spoelstra's assessment, especially because Chandler is a bigger presence than Stoudemire. Though STAT can pick-and-roll, his versatile scoring skills need to be utilized more in isolation and catch-and-shoot situations.

When Jeremy Lin and Chandler develop their pick-and-roll game, that should routinely open up looks for Stoudemire. Overall, with more pick-and-rolls, that will limit the Knicks' isolation and stagnant play, and with more defined roles for Chandler and Stoudemire, that will give the team better spacing and scoring opportunities.

Stoudemire crowded the court and limited ball flow, which made it difficult for Anthony, who shot better up to 29 feet when STAT was out of the game vs. on the court (45 percent to 40.9). When Stoudemire was on the bench and Chandler was playing with Anthony, the Knicks scored more than 100 points per 100 possessions (less than 100 with Stoudemire).

4. Chandler and Stoudemire need to both own the paint. Memphis' Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph showed how it's done during the first round of the playoffs.

While the Grizzles averaged 45.1 points in the paint during the regular season (fifth-best in the NBA), the Knicks averaged 40.5 (16th-best). With a Anthony-Stoudemire-Chandler frontline, that has to improve.

While Chandler was always a lock to score in the paint and grab double-digit rebounds, including a couple of putbacks and tapbacks per game, Stoudemire was occasionally an onlooker. Anthony sometimes had more of an inside presence than Stoudemire, who said during the regular season that added muscle from last summer limited the pep in his step.

5. Anthony and Stoudemire need to play consistent defense, like Chandler does.

Scouts agree that Anthony can play D, but he takes plays off to exert himself more on the offensive end, and Stoudemire sometimes looks like a space cadet on the court, appearing not to know his position and then getting burned by his defender.

Stoudemire is the bigger liability. When he was on the court with Anthony or Chandler, the Knicks allowed opponents more than 100 points per 100 possessions, but Anthony and Chandler (with Stoudemire on the bench) kept them below 100 points. With Woodson likely back, his demand for accountability should continue to motivate Stoudemire.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which examines three different offensive sets that could benefit the Big Three and the team.

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2