Friday, February 22, 2013
Changes the Knicks need to make
By Jared Zwerling
The Knicks have been struggling on both ends of the floor lately, and during Thursday's post-trade deadline conference call with reporters, Knicks GM Glen Grunwald admitted the team needed to make changes.
"Teams have adjusted to our offense a little bit and we need to continue to evolve," he said.
Speaking with several NBA scouts and through observation, ESPNNewYork.com brings you four things the Knicks need more of on offense and defense:
1. Pushing the ball. Currently, the Knicks rank third-worst in the NBA in fastbreak points per game (9.1), but in their open-court opportunities they've been very effective because of their personnel. Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith are fast facilitating, Carmelo Anthony and Steve Novak can spot-up from 3 quickly, and Tyson Chandler is arguably the best finishing big man in the game.
2. Attacking in half-court sets. In Mike Woodson's mostly spread-out offense, which he adopted from Mike D'Antoni, he's encouraged ball movement to the shooter in the baseline corner. But sometimes the team doesn't attack enough when they catch the ball, and they resort to giving it to Anthony. They've recently made it too easy for defenses with their predictive passing and standing around.
3. Off-the-ball playmaking. One way the Knicks can increase their attacking opportunities is through more screening and movement on the weak side. Sometimes when Anthony has the ball in the post, Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire look to crash the glass. But the wing players don't move as much in order to await kick-outs. But what if Chandler or Stoudemire set more back screens, or more down screens to create curl action for guys to get looks in the paint, or even opposite-side pick-and-pop action? Overall, the Melo star gazing needs to be reduced.
4. Versatile pick-and-roll schemes. There was a play recently where Anthony came down the court, Chandler set a screen for him, Melo attacked the middle of the paint and dished to Felton who then ran a pick-and-roll with Stoudemire, which resulted in the power forward finishing down low. While STAT hasn't been starting, the Knicks need to look for multiple pick-and-rolls from different angles in the same possession. Sometimes the Knicks only run it once and when Chandler doesn't a get a lob, isolation takes over.
1. Preventing transition. This is an absolute must, as opponents have beating the Knicks in the open court. First and foremost, they need more halfcourt offensive movement to energize their ability to get back on defense. They also need to improve their communication knowing who's picking up who. Overall, not having Rasheed Wallace, who's the team's best talker, on the floor is not an excuse. They have enough veterans to understand that great defense starts in transition.
2. Predicting screens. Way too many times, the Knicks have been late fighting through screens and contesting shots. With Iman Shumpert still mentally recovering, and Wallace and Marcus Camby still out of the lineup, the team can't afford to switch too much, leaving Chandler and Stoudemire far from the basket. So their wing teammates all need to improve their perimeter defense, even more so with Ronnie Brewer out of town.
3. Lineup changes. While Shumpert is starting, he should be at the two to guard more like-minded players. Then, what happens at small forward? That could be a suitable spot for James White, who some scouts believe is a better defender than Brewer. White has length and athleticism from the perimeter.
4. Early half-court traps and full-court pressure. The Knicks have unveiled these more in second halves, but why not occasionally use them at the start of the games? This would give them the Knicks some extra energy and potential momentum from going on a quick run.