5 Knicks Players Who Will Struggle in Mike Woodson's System
By combining a focused defensive plan with an isolation offense, New York is in a prime position to be a force in the Eastern Conference this year and give teams like the Chicago Bulls, and even the Miami Heat, runs for their money. Seeing as how the Knicks went 18-6 under Woodson last year, you can understand why I (a hardcore Knicks fan) am beyond excited for next season.
Yet, though I can't wait for the season to start, I'll be the first to admit that I'm also a wee bit on the fence about next season's team. As much as I love Woodson and the style of play he brings to the table, there are certainly some players who will have a hard time adjusting to it.
Players like Amar'e Stoudemire (pictured) have played in an offense-first system their entire careers, and to suddenly be asked to play defense, may very well prove to be a a tough challenge.
That said, Knicks fans could find themselves disappointed if the man known as "Stat" and some his teammates don't adapt, and fast.
No. 5: Kurt Thomas
Now, chances are that Thomas is going to be the Knicks' 12th man this season, but let's not forget that the primary backup center is the oft-injured Marcus Camby. Thus, assuming that he goes down with an injury at some point, Thomas is going to have to play some significant minutes.
Seeing as how Woodson is going to expect the 39-year-old to be a tough interior defender who plays aggressively under the basket, I'm anticipating that the 6'9" center will have a tough time adjusting.
While a top rebounder in the prime of his career, which just happened to be spent with the Knicks, Thomas has yet to be an impact player on a team for quite a while. Last year, playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, he averaged just 15 minutes a game and posted just 3.5 boards.
The fact is that age has slowly been catching up with Thomas the past four seasons, and this year, it's probably going to strike, and hard at that.
No. 4: Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd is on the Knicks for one reason: to be a team leader with championship experience and to get the stars the ball whenever Raymond Felton needs a rest. Yet, Woodson's system is not right for a man his age.
Sure, Kidd is still capable of making a pass and sinking clutch three-pointers, but his speed and toughness aren't what they used to be. Woodson is going to want his point guards to cover their man like peanut butter on jelly and drive hard to the basket to draw fouls, and Kidd just can't do that anymore.
If Felton has conditioning issues like he did last year, Knicks fans will almost definitely be holding their breath every time Kidd goes up the court to set a play, as his reliance on three-point shooting could hurt them if his role were extended from backup to starter.
No. 3: James White
Assuming that White even makes the Knicks' final roster out of training camp, something tells me that he's not going to be the right player for Woodson's system. Though he's a great dunker and had some productive years in Europe, his NBA Summer League numbers raise some concerns.
In three games, White averaged just 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting an awful 29 percent from the field. If he does make the final roster, he could very well be a backup small forward off the bench, and in a Woodson system, the key to any player's success is consistency.
Given how White had to go to Europe to find success before coming back to the NBA, I can't help but be skeptical about how he'll do in the new New York system.
No. 2: Amar'e Stoudemire
Mike Woodson was the coach of the Atlanta Hawks for six seasons before taking a year off and joining the Knicks as an assistant last year (before becoming the interim head coach), and his power forwards during the best years were explosive defenders in Josh Smith (who could also play small forward) and Al Horford, who also saw some time at center.
These players, especially Smith, knew how to balance their offensive games with their attacks on defense, and as a result, they became forces at their positions thanks to Woodson's tutelage.
In New York, however, Woodson has a tough coaching task ahead of him in trying to turn Stoudemire into that type of power forward. Though the man is 6'11", 260 pounds, he plays like someone much smaller.
Instead of standing and banging under the basket like he should, Stoudemire prefers to stay on the wing and only drive to the inside when he absolutely has to.
Don't get me wrong. Stoudemire can still hold his own in the rebounding department, having averaged 8.8 per game for his career. Yet, he just doesn't crash the boards in the same manner as someone like Kevin Love or Kris Humphries, preferring to score points and only get his hands dirty if it involves making a dunk.
With Woodson bringing back the defensive style that carried the team back in the '90s, Stoudemire is going to have to work extra hard if he wants to have a significant role on the team and not be the inconsistent odd man out.
No. 1: Raymond Felton
As I mentioned before, Woodson expects his point guards to play tough defense and drive hard to the basket, not to mention get the ball to the stars who carry the offense. Though I'm a fan of Felton, his style of play has me concerned as the new season draws closer.
Sure, the stats are good, but that type of system is one in which any point guard can do well.
When push comes to shove, tough-talented, Felton is really just a scoring point guard who prefers to take a shot from behind the three-point line rather than drive the lane. His defense is alright, but he isn't what one would call an elite pest.
That said, along with his aforementioned conditioning issues, I'm worried about how well Felton can do playing for Woodson. His career marks of 13.4 points and 6.7 assists per game aren't bad by any means, but is he really the tough and athletic point guard that Woodson prefers?