- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: We know that the Knicks will likely go as far as Carmelo Anthony can take them in the postseason. Who besides Anthony, though, is most pivotal to the Knicks’ playoffs success?
Let’s take a look at three options:
TYSON CHANDLER: It’s funny, because when the Knicks won ten straight when Chandler was sidelined with a neck injury, some may have started to overlook his value to the Knicks. As good as Kenyon Martin was during Chandler’s absence, the Knicks reeled off those ten wins largely on the strength of their offense, not the defense, as Jared Dubin of Hardwood Paroxysm points out.
Per a tweet from Dubin, the Knicks’ offensive efficiency during their 12-game win streak is 118 points per 100 possessions. Their defensive efficiency during the streak is 103.6, similar to their season-long mark of 103.3.
So, with Chandler out, they found success by outscoring people and defending the same way they have for much of the season.
In the playoffs, they’ll no doubt need Chandler to protect the rim as the pace slows down and each possession becomes crucial.
J.R. SMITH: We’ve celebrated Smith plenty for his other-worldly play over the last few weeks. He had a three-game stretch of scoring at least 30 points, the first bench player in the last 20 years to accomplish the feat.
And he hit two clutch perimeter shots on Sunday to help beat Oklahoma City. But we also know Smith can be inconsistent. He made just 36 percent of his field goals in January and shot 25 percent from beyond the arc in the month.
With Amar’e Stoudemire out, Smith is the Knicks’ unquestioned second option. So they need Smith to attack the basket, get to the foul line and use discretion on his shot selection in the postseason.
When he shoots well, the Knicks seem to do well. New York is 20-3 when Smith shoots over 50 percent from the field.
MIKE WOODSON: It may seem like he doesn’t belong on this list, but the Knicks’ playoff fortunes may hinge greatly on how Woodson mixes and matches his lineups. The Knicks roster gives Woodson ample opportunity to tinker with his five-man units.
Will Woodson insert Kenyon Martin into his starting five against bigger lineups, such as Indiana’s?
Who will he have on the floor in the closing minutes of a tight game? On Sunday against the Thunder, Woodson went with Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Smith, Anthony and Chandler. Is that the five that he’ll go with in a close playoff game? Does that mean Iman Shumpert is on the bench? What if the opponent has a dangerous wing/guard? Does Woodson then insert Shumpert for Kidd? Decisions, decisions …
Question: Which Knick not named Carmelo Anthony is most important to the Knicks’ playoff success?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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10dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford