Mike D'Antoni may be gone, but the pick-and-roll will still play a significant role in New York next season.
In the past couple years, it seemed at times that the pick-and-roll was the only play the Knicks ran. It was the bread and butter for Amar'e Stoudemire when he came to New York, then Jeremy Lin leaned on it during his meteoric midseason rise.
Now that Mike Woodson is at the helm, his half-court scheme will make D'Antoni's up-tempo tenure a distant memory. Nevertheless, the Knicks have too much talent in the pick-and-roll game to cast it aside completely.
With two effective big men and a revamped backcourt, all the pieces are in place to keep running that play with success.
The pick-and-roll is no longer the first option in New York, but it's still a potent weapon.
Here's how Woodson will go about utilizing it.
Stoudemire (left) and Raymond Felton
Getting this pick-and-roll tandem back together should do wonders for both Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton.
Both players are coming off rough seasons.
Amidst injuries on the court and hardships off it, Stoudemire posted his worst scoring numbers since his rookie year and his worst rebounding output as a pro. Felton was overweight, unmotivated and erratic in Portland, as he put up the fewest points per game in his career.
Let's compare that to STAT's and Felton's fast times running the pick-and-roll in 2010-11, when they each first arrived in New York.
In 54 games before he was traded to Denver, Felton put up 17.1 points per game and 9.0 assists, both of which are easily career highs for him. He also facilitated Amar'e and his 25.3 points per game on .502 shooting on the season—both of those figures declined after Felton's departure.
Of course, part of the magic was in D'Antoni's up-tempo philosophy, but you can't deny the chemistry between these guys. It won't matter if Woodson slows the offense to a crawl, though.
When these guys meet at the top of the key, they know how to put the ball in the basket.
Look at Tyson Chandler and his 11.3 points per game last season, and it's hard to picture him as an integral part of the Knicks' offense.
It's how he got those points that is important, though.
Chandler didn't just lead the league in shooting percentage, he blew everyone away, hitting .679 from the field.
Let's put that in properly absurd perspective.
Dwight Howard was second, shooting .573, and Kyrie Irving finished 42nd with a .469 percentage. If you do the math, Howard's percentage was closer to the 40 guys behind him in the rankings than it was to the one guy ahead of him.
This is the point of the program where we remember that Chandler's points come overwhelmingly from near the rim, but there are stats to account for that, too. According to Basketball-Reference.com, he also led the league in effective field-goal percentage, which factors in how many three pointers a player takes and true shooting percentage, which includes both three pointers and free throws.
He may get his points on the easiest shots possible, but Chandler does it better than anyone else in the league by far.
Felton may be back with his old running mate, Amar'e, but he needs to keep his ultra-efficient center involved as well.
Perhaps even better, Chandler can now renew his connection with Jason Kidd.
While the Dallas Mavericks capped off the 2010-11 season with a title, it marked the beginning of the end for Kidd in the NBA. He averaged just 7.9 points and 8.2 assists per game, and it was the last time he averaged at least 30 minutes per game.
Yet even as Kidd slipped, he still managed to get the most out of Chandler on the offensive end. In just 27.8 minutes per game, Chandler still managed to score 10.1 points, and he set a then-career high with a .654 field-goal percentage.
If there's one guy the Knicks should pair with Kidd on the pick-and-roll it's Chandler, over Stoudemire, and it goes beyond their Dallas chemistry.
Given Chandler's nonexistent mid-range jumper, defenders are liable to clog the paint to stop this play. However, Kidd is long past the point of driving the lane—he'll be very well settled to take an open jumper if the defense hedges towards Chandler and leaves him open.
In this way, an aging Kidd can still keep defenses honest.
That's a luxury Amar'e does not need—his pick-and-pop prowess does it for him. So while Kidd and Chandler are two limited offensive players, this combo maximizes the abilities of both.
Don't worry about Stoudemire getting left out, though.
He'll fit in nicely alongside New York's new Argentinian import.
If this (admittedly biased) highlight reel tells us anything about Pablo Prigioni, it's that he can get to the rim in a way Kidd no longer can. The new Knicks rookie may be 35 years old, but his legs still work, allowing him to run the pick-and-roll the way Amar'e is accustomed to it being run.
Amidst Prigioni's surprisingly explosive drives and the pretty passing, though, is little evidence of a solid mid-range game.
Between his Spanish league highlights and his Olympic play, it seems Prigioni's approach to shooting is similar to Chandler's: Efficiency first. If his .420 career shooting percentage drops with the transition to the NBA, Prigioni will have trouble getting open looks for his teammates.
Fortunately, between his keen eye for ball movement and Stoudemire's ability to stretch the defense on the pick-and-pop, that should not be an issue. Prigioni has crafted a long career out of pick-and-roll passing.
Pairing him with one of the best finishers out there is an intuitive match.
He's no pure passer, but J.R. Smith could combine with Amar'e Stoudemire to form one of the most explosive pick-and-roll tandems around.
Though he has averaged just 2.0 assists for his career, maybe this is just what Smith needs to move the ball. In a two-man offensive game, he wouldn't have to worry about finding the open man. Besides, there are only so many options available: Smith drives, Smith shoots, Amar'e rolls, Amar'e pops out.
That's it, and no more than two of those options should be available on a given play.
In this scenario, Smith does not have to be the passer Kidd and Prigioni are—this duo's athleticism should make the open scorer easy enough to find. That's how he ran it during his time in Denver, and Stoudemire is a much better big than he ever had there.
Obviously, Iman Shumpert would be the preferred guy to run the pick-and-roll from the shooting guard position.
He is Smith's match athletically and is a more experienced passer from his days running the point at Georgia Tech. However, until he is fully healed from his ACL tear, the Knicks would be better not to bank on Shumpert having a quick first step.
At the same time, Mike Woodson has the luxury of a deep backcourt. He won't have to worry about overexerting Shumpert on offense because he has plenty of guys who can fill his role.
So long as the Knicks are so loaded with pick-and-roll guys, they'll keep running it.