How Much Can Jason Kidd Help the NY Knicks Next Season?
Due to pure volume, it's only natural that the odd rumor involving the New York Knicks would actually come to fruition. It's by that statistical reality that Jason Kidd—who has been linked to the Knicks oh so many times over the years—finds his way to Madison Square Garden.
It's a big-name acquisition with a decidedly lesser benefit; Kidd is completely worthy of his status as a household name, but having him as the Knicks' starting point isn't quite the coup it once would have been.
Bringing in Kidd to bolster the point guard rotation in New York is a certain gain, but given how much his game has regressed over the last few seasons, it's worth wondering just how much Kidd helps the Knicks at this point.
The Inevitable Fall
Natural drop-off spares no player—even a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Anyone who has kept close watch on Jason Kidd's play over the past five years has seen a stark difference from his previous All-NBA standards.
Any semblance of a first step evaporated, thus limiting Kidd's ability to engineer more dynamic offense as a ball-dominant guard. His playmaking ticked downward as a result, and Kidd registered career-low assist numbers in 2011-12.
He's no more a scorer than he's ever been, and his once-improved three-point shooting has now regressed to a slightly above average level. The mistakes are more glaring than ever, and these days, even Kidd's defense can't make him a wholly positive force.
Simply put: Kidd is a mixed bag.
There are plays and minutes and games where he seems to add little to his team's success, and there are many more where he contributes a brand of production far more mild than he offered at his peak.
Enabling the Habit
All of that said, there is one particularly problematic facet of Kidd's regression: It enables Carmelo Anthony's most inefficient offensive tendencies.
Anthony is rightfully considered to be New York's best offensive player, but that alone doesn't mean that he should have complete control of the offense and the ability to execute possessions according to his every wont.
Melo has a bad habit of over-isolating within the Knicks offense, and though there are elements of that iso play that are beneficial to the team as a whole, thus far Anthony hasn't demonstrated the discretion necessary to create offensive balance.
Anthony would be best served not only by a system that aligns with his skills and style of play, but also a shot creator who could consistently set him up in his comfort zones. Post entry, pick-and-roll feeds, spot-up opportunities—these should be Anthony's bread and butter. Instead, he insists on creating for himself using varying sequences of shot fakes and jab steps.
Ideally, Kidd—or another ball-handler—would be able to put Anthony in a position to succeed and control the flow of New York's offense. But with diminished foot speed and little pick-and-roll capacity, Kidd will primarily initiate the offense and space the floor from the weak side.
In the right context and with the right support, Kidd can still be a definite asset—even at age 39—to whichever team employs him. But the Knicks, on preseason glance, would seem to offer him neither.
Raymond Felton would be leaned on to be Kidd's primary backup throughout the season, and the one-time Knick brings his own troubles to one of the most unremarkable positional tandems in the NBA.
Felton was essentially chased out of Portland this summer following an altogether dismal 2011-212 campaign, and there's little reason at all to expect that he might be able to compensate for Kidd's most glaring weaknesses.
Role players are, by way of the limitations, wholly conditional. They do well in certain contexts and poorly in others. They're invaluable to certain cores and expendable to others. Such is the way of things for complementary talents in the NBA, and at this point in his career, Kidd is certainly a complementary talent.
What he needs at this stage is a player who can take the pressure off of him by doing what he no longer can: penetrate, defend quicker guards, finish at the rim and pull up off the dribble. Felton can provide a little of all of that, but none so reliably as to relieve Kidd adequately.
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