The New York Knicks have had an identity crisis over the last few seasons. The talent has been there for the most part, but a clash of styles has led to some major struggles, particularly on the offensive end.
Last season, with Mike D'Antoni as head coach, these struggles reached their peak, as he failed to implement his transition offense without a true point guard at his disposal. Instead, D'Antoni looked to Carmelo Anthony to run his offense—something he clearly wasn't comfortable doing.
When Jeremy Lin came along—with Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire out with injuries—D'Antoni finally had someone to run his system. However, once the two stars came back, things weren't nearly as smooth.
After an 18-6 end to last season, Coach Woodson is back as the full-time head coach. Ahead of the regular season, he is in position to start anew and establish an offensive system from the get-go.
Woodson, more of a defensive-minded coach, had long-term success in Atlanta with a slower half-court offense, but is his new Knicks team more suited to that or the transition game?
Well, looking at this Knicks roster, it's easy to see that there is a case to be made for running a more gradual and methodical offense.
For starters, the age of this Knicks team—the oldest in NBA history—dictates that an offense reliant on speed and youth may not be such a good idea. Players like Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby will be playing a big role off the bench for the Knicks this year, and, at this point in their careers, they aren't as much of a threat on the fast break as they have been in the past.
Conversely, though Kidd has regressed in his later years, he is still one of the best floor generals in the NBA. He would be right up there among the players you would select to initiate a well-flowing half-court set.
More importantly, the Knicks' two major stars—Stoudemire and Anthony—are also more suited to a half-court style.
Though Stoudemire had great success in transition in Phoenix with Steve Nash, after so many knee injuries he's probably better off slowing down in the half court, which also allows him to play on another strength of his—the pick-and-roll.
When Stoudemire returns from his latest left knee injury, he'll have three particularly good pick-and-roll point guards to work with in Kidd, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. He will be able to do a lot of damage if he can build a rapport with them in the half-court offense.
In 2010-11, we saw just how well he and Felton could work the pick-and-roll, as both players had All-Star caliber seasons working off of each other.
We didn't see much of Stoudemire in preseason, but one thing we did see was Prigioni working the pick-and-roll to great success with Chris Copeland, something which will work even better with Stoudemire as the roll man.
Melo is also more suited to the half-court style, as his slower, isolation style on offense has brought out the best in him over the last 10 years.
As one of the league's best scorers, Anthony can break down almost any defender when given eight seconds to work with. He has been around a 25-point scorer for his career by maximizing isolation opportunities.
Anthony has also been known to work his shot in the post, something which can be particularly successful when given time to establish position on his defender.
Also, half-court sets allow for Tyson Chandler to establish position under the boards, where he regularly cleans up on offense for easy second-chance points. The center averaged 68 percent from the field doing just that last season.
By working these styles in the half court, the Knicks can be a very solid offensive team and also avoid teams running on them and beating their older players on the fast break.
With all that said, the transition game isn't something that should be completely ignored.
As a top-tier defensive team, opportunities to run on the fast break should come in bunches for the Knicks. They have fantastic shot-blockers in Chandler and Camby and also some sneaky defenders in the backcourt in Kidd and Iman Shumpert, who can come up with multiple steals each game.
Though the majority of the roster is suited to the half court, there are a few players who can be nothing short of devastating on the fast break, including the super-athletic Shumpert and J.R. Smith.
When healthy, both players should see a lot of minutes, and it would only make sense to utilize their speed, athleticism and ability to come up with steals when the opportunity presents itself.
With sharpshooters like Steve Novak trailing on the outside, there's certainly a chance for some special plays to be made on the run.
On the whole, this is a team with diverse offensive talent, most of which points to the half-court offense being the better fit. Here and there, the transition game can play a role, too—especially considering the team's defensive prowess—but there's no doubt that this is a half-court team.