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Friday, August 1, 2014
Position analysis: Small Forward

By Ian Begley

Melo
Last season, the Knicks were about eight points better per 100 possessions with Melo at PF.
Now that free agency has died down, we’re taking a look at where the Knicks currently stand position-by-position. Today, we look at small forward.

SMALL FORWARD

New additions: Cleanthony Early, Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Returning/on roster: Carmelo Anthony

Gone: Metta World Peace

The starter: Derek Fisher could go with a bigger lineup and start Anthony at small forward alongside a traditional power forward like Andrea Bargnani. Or Fisher could go with a smaller lineup and start one of his shooting guards (J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert) at small forward and put Anthony at power forward, where he excelled for much of the last two seasons. Though we should note that specific positions for the Knicks this season may be less relevant than they were last year under Mike Woodson (more on that below).

The wild card: Early. The Knicks drafted Early with the 34th pick of the 2015 draft. Many draft experts said at the time that the Knicks got a steal at this slot. Early was projected by many to go higher than 34th. Phil Jackson has said that he likes Early because the 23-year-old has enough experience at the college level to step in right away and contribute. If that’s the case, Early could give Anthony a viable option behind Anthony at the forward position. Could Early’s emergence give Anthony, who played career-high 38.7 minutes per game last season, a chance to rest more often this year?

Outlook: Looking at things through a traditional position-by-position prism, the Knicks should be fine at small forward this season. They have one of the best scorers on the planet back in Anthony. And the argument that seemed so prevalent among Knicks fans and observers over the last two years -- should Carmelo play small forward or power forward -- may be less relevant this year because of the triangle offense (more on that below). For what it’s worth, Anthony played 73 percent of the Knicks’ total minutes at power forward last season and 44 percent of the team’s total minutes at small forward, per 82games.com. The Knicks were approximately eight points better per 100 possessions when Anthony was at power forward compared to when he was at small forward last year, but they outscored opponents when Anthony played either position.

That positional argument, though, may be less relevant this season because of the triangle. Anthony will be asked to take on a different role in the triangle and his function will be different as a small forward this season than it was last year in Woodson’s offense. Also, in the triangle, each player on the floor may be asked to fill multiple roles on the offense and may not be locked into a traditional position at all times. So the bigger issue this season will be who Anthony shares the floor with and which role he’s asked to fill in the triangle.

Question: How do you think Carmelo Anthony will fit in the triangle offense this season?


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