5 Strategic Changes the New York Knicks Need to Make in 2012-13
Mike Woodson and the New York Knicks will need to make some strategic changes in 2012-13 if they want to improve on an average season that saw them finish 36-30 and seventh in the East.
The Knicks made some minor upgrades in the offseason, acquiring Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Ronnie Brewer, who bring 40 years and gobs of postseason experience with them.
But Raymond Felton is probably the most important new piece, as he’ll be starting at the point. Let's hope he can bring most of that Amar’e Stoudemire magic back. New York also re-signed shooters J.R. Smith and Steve Novak.
So finally, here is a team—roster, coach and all—set for a full training camp.
All that personnel and preparation stuff is good, but the Knicks will still be the same old seventh seed without some slick new strategies.
Here are a few that could shake things up.
1. Amar’e Stoudemire Post-Up and Pick-and-Roll
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Getting Amar’e Stoudemire back on pace is important and the key to creating a title-contending team. Without his return to the form of two years ago, the Knicks will still be good, but not good enough.
The stars are aligned for Stoudemire. He looks distanced from the back injury that took him out of the postseason in 2010-11 and hampered him throughout 2011-12. There will be a full training camp. The Anthony transition is now complete—roster, coach and all. And Mike Woodson is on board and committed to rediscovering Stoudemire’s game.
Two moves this offseason lend themselves to STAT’s redevelopment: the two-week training session with Hakeem Olajuwon in Texas and the return of Raymond Felton to New York.
Amar’e and Hakeem are attempting to resurrect Stoudemire’s post-up game (yes, he once had one, as Sports Illustrated points out). According to the New York Times, Stoudemire “called the results of his crash course with Olajuwon phenomenal.” That bodes well.
So does the return of the Felton-Stoudemire pick-and-roll that picked apart opponents in 2010-11. Stoudemire had nine straight 30-point games and 22 for the season (a distant memory now).
Per ESPN, Travis King, Stoudemire's longtime training adviser, says Woodson knows how critical Stoudemire’s re-emergence is to the success of the team:
Mike Woodson himself said he wants the ball to go through Amare in the post more, taking advantage of Amare and Tyson (Chandler), and even Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks' frontcourt has got to be one of the most experienced and best ones in the league. The games are decided inside most of the time.
2. Speed Things Up
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Stoudemire flourished in Mike D’Antoni’s seven-seconds-or-less offense. He languished in Carmelo Anthony’s isolation game.
But Anthony can still be the focus of the offense in a quicker game, an easy target on the wing for Felton, and with that, Stoudemire’s opportunities will increase as well.
In one critical phase of the game where Jeremy Lin failed, Raymond Felton can succeed. Felton may well be the point guard who finally meshes Anthony and Stoudemire.
Lin was a great scorer and a pretty good point guard. Felton is a pretty good scorer, and if not a great point guard, he’s more pure at the position than Lin and more capable of feeding the big men and keeping them both full.
Anthony’s a buyer. The New York Daily News quotes him as saying:
This is a special year for [Ray] mentally, for him being traded from here and having the chance to come back and prove to people what his game is about. I know, for him, he has a chip on his shoulder. I've been playing against Raymond since I was 9 years old in AAU basketball, so he's been the same since then. He wants to prove everybody wrong.
The Knicks don’t have to speed it up all the time. Mixing pace with both Anthony and Stoudemire on the court would keep opponents off guard.
With Felton running the floor and STAT bringing back his potent post game the Knicks can optimize both the run-and-gun and half-ourt offenses depending on opponents’ sets.
3. Separate Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire
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Most of the time, though, it will be Anthony's isolation game dominating the Knicks’ offense, one where a slower tempo and Stoudemire’s post-game will fit more snugly. That will work and should kick the team’s offense back up a bit.
But to maximize Stoudemire’s input this year, Woodson should find him some alone time.
This idea has been kicked all over the media, including here at Bleacher Report, and even by myself. Some go further, relegating Stoudemire to the bench, making him a sure winner of the 2012-13 Sixth Man of the Year Award.
It is doubtful Amar’e will come off the bench, and finding separate time for he and Carmelo is easier said than done. Anthony clocks 34 minutes a game and Stoudemire 32.
A shrewd move, and one that should at least be tried, would be to give Stoudemire the floor for up to the 10+ minutes a game while Anthony is resting. It would work.
4. Hone the Three-Point Assault
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While they sank the fourth-most three-pointers in the league last year, it was at the 21st-worst percentage.
There are a couple of issues. Erratic (foolish, really) three-point shooting is one (J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, Toney Douglas, Anthony). Poor ball and foot movement is the other. Novak is rattled by tight coverage.
So Woodson needs to clamp down on some three-pointer exuberance. Easily done. Specialize the trey. Limit it mostly to Novak, Smith and Anthony, the top three, all of whom had more accurate seasons in the past.
Second, room needs to be made for Novak. Smith and Anthony to create their own. But the at-times awkwardly immobile Novak needs more help.
Stoudemire’s post-up game will come in handy here, drawing the defense in.
A more offensively potent Tyson Chandler will help, too. The center had one of his best offensive seasons last year, but he thinks he can give more. ESPN quoted Chandler as saying:
I want to come back in better condition and I want to be more of a force on the block. I want to be able to pass better out of pick-and-rolls. I just want to become more of a threat. Myself and Amar’e, we really have to become a threat on the block. I mean, we have the pieces here and we have to get better....I've got to come back a better player next year.
A more dangerous inside game will mean more open shots for Novak from downtown and Anthony from anywhere.
5. Return Starting Job to Iman Shumpert When He Returns
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The Knicks improved dramatically on defense in 2011-12, going from not having one at all the year before (the biggest gripe of fans) to 11th best in the NBA.
Most of that was Tyson Chandler, but the new coach, Mike Woodson, had a defensive bent too. He was originally brought in as a “defensive coordinator” of sorts.
Rookie Shumpert, though, was the big surprise. He finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting and was the only rookie to receive votes for Defensive Player of the Year. He was in opponents’ faces.
J.R. Smith will get the nod while Shumpert rehabs his torn ACL, but what happens when Shumpert returns? What if J.R. Smith has been lights-out over that period? And what about Ronnie Brewer?
Well, to start with, Brewer was brought in to shore up Shumpert’s missing D, so he’ll be coming off the bench all season.
Shumpert should start over Smith, unless, and only if, J.R. is having a career offensive season. Anything short of that should give the starting job to Shumpert and his swarming D.
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