After a dozen games, the New York Knicks have given the opposition a pretty good idea of what their strengths and weaknesses will be this season.
During the team's sizzling 6-0 start, there were few weak links in Mike Woodson's new-look crew. In their 3-3 stretch since, however, teams have exploited a few areas where New York appears vulnerable thus far.
The small-ball Knicks have had difficulties on the boards since the beginning. Their once league-leading defense's performance has tailed off in recent days. Their ball movement that carried them to early season dominance has faded a bit, too.
Fortunately for the Knicks, their issues are relatively minor and can be solved with a few tweaks in the coming weeks. After all, they've played to a 9-3 record while playing the fifth-toughest schedule in the NBA.
Here are a few ways the Knicks can limit their rough patches on the road to greatness this season.
All stats are accurate as of Nov. 25.
Marcus Camby has been largely absent from the MSG hardwood thus far.
Without question, the Knicks' biggest flaw through the first 12 games has been their rebounding and post defense. Oddly, Mike Woodson's solution has been at the end of his bench the whole time.
The Knicks have pulled down the least amount of total rebounds in the NBA, and rank 28th in offensive rebounding percentage. They've out-rebounded their opponent just twice so far this year. Woodson's Knicks have been outscored in the painted area in all but two games as well.
The addition of Marcus Camby would alleviate both issues.
Camby has averaged 9.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks over his career that dates back to 1996. His presence in the orange MSG post would ease many New York woes on the boards and on the defensive end.
In four games this season, Camby's numbers normalize to 12.3 rebounds (five offensive) and 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes.
Woodson has blamed Camby's absence primarily on conditioning. Nearly a month into the season, the 38-year-old presumably should be close to playing shape.
Or so Knicks fans should hope. Camby is the highest paid Knick not named Stoudemire, Anthony or Chandler this season.
It's fairly simple. Implant Camby into the rotation in a limited-minutes role, and the Knicks' rebounding problems should dissipate. He's grabbed 19.7 percent of total available rebounds when on the court this season.
On D, it's the same principle. He's blocked 4.8 percent of all two-point attempts taken by opponents while he's been clocking minutes. Compare that to Tyson Chandler's mark of 2.4 percent.
Anthony has been the only Knick to consistently earn trips to the stripe.
The Knicks don't have many glaring weaknesses on the stat sheet, but getting to the line is a clear weakness for the team.
Only three Knicks are averaging over two attempts per game. Carmelo Anthony is shooting 6.3 attempts on average—a career worst—to lead the team. After averaging a career-high 5.1 free throw attempts last year, Tyson Chandler's average is down to just 3.3. J.R. Smith is the only other Knick averaging above two a game, at 2.8
This is markedly lower than last season when the team had four players averaging over five attempts. The Knicks were seventh in the NBA in that category a season ago.
The shots are falling for New York so far this season—they're second only to the Miami Heat in effective field goal percentage—but at some point the team may begin to regress towards the mean. If that begins to affect the team's offense, Carmelo and the rest of the 'Bockers should start to shift their focus to driving into the crowded paint to draw a few whistles.
Shumpert will provide impeccable defense upon his return.
Without Iman Shumpert, the Knicks have displayed some of the best defense New York fans have seen in a decade. With him in the lineup, MSG will be home to the best defending corps in the league.
The team started off on fire defensively, but has cooled off as of late. Their opponents are shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc this season, which is second worst in the NBA. Opponents are shooting 44.4 percent against New York, which is the 10th-worst mark out of 30 teams.
The addition of Shumpert and his lock-down defense will undoubtedly push the team's defense over the hump—from good to great.
Upon his return, no longer will Jason Kidd have to face-up guards with size like Dwyane Wade and Vince Carter. That's not how the Knicks will win games in the postseason.
With Shumpert stuck to those guards, Kidd will be able to preserve his energy by guarding players of similar size, ideally translating to more production from him on the other end—and putting that 51.3 three-point percentage to good use.
The return of Shumpert in January will act as loudly as any trade or free-agent signing ever would. The second-year man has proven, in just one season, that he's capable of shutting down any player he's paired with.
J.R. Smith and Rasheed Wallace have both received techs this season.
For the majority of the season, Knicks players haven't had much to fuss about. After all, a 9-3 start after playing one of the league's toughest schedules is more than any expert could've projected from this squad.
There have been glimpses of immaturity, however. Remember J.R. Smith's run-ins with Jerryd Bayless and Royal Ivey earlier this season? They're minor instances, but lapses in judgement that could haunt the Knicks later in the season.
Rasheed Wallace has provided more to the Knicks than anybody could've dreamed before the season, but his two technical fouls aren't the most sound method of leading by example.
And then there was Carmelo Anthony's forgetfulness against the Houston Rockets, when Patrick Patterson reminded him that disregarding a man in transition, and instead pleading for a foul call from the other end, usually ends up in an unconventional three-point play (easy bucket plus a technical foul).
Mike Woodson must reinforce the type of focus and maturity the team displayed at the season's open. It's not a fatal flaw at this stage, but ironing it out now could save the team from a major blow-up in a more crucial setting.
Stoudemire will give the Knicks size and offense.
When Amar'e Stoudemire returns to Mike Woodson's lineup, whether it be as a starter or reserve, opponents will notice an immediate impact in a few areas.
First, the Knicks are rebounding at a remarkably poor rate, largely due to their smaller lineups. Now, Stoudemire has never been confused for Dennis Rodman on the glass, but his 8.8 career rebounds per game will surely help the Knicks and their league-worst rebounding efforts.
The next point is one that the basketball world tends to forget about through all the troubles he faces with getting on the court. When on it, Stoudemire is one of the most offensively gifted big men in all of basketball. Just two seasons ago, STAT led the Knicks to the playoffs with 25.2 points per contest on 50 percent shooting.
This is a tremendous asset to have on both the second team—the only reserve who's a true scorer is J.R. Smith—and with the starters.
Off the bench, Stoudemire could play pick-and-roll with either Jason Kidd or Pablo Prigioni, and be teamed up with Marcus Camby in the frontcourt. Amar'e could thrive on offense thanks to guards who would be eager to feed him the rock, while Camby could cover most of the slack on defense and on the boards. Seems like a perfect fit.
The first team wouldn't be a horrible situation, either. Stoudemire would have to coexist with Carmelo Anthony, of course, but in just one game this preseason we've seen that Mike Woodson may be ready to prove the doubters wrong.
He could slide right into the power forward position to help preserve 'Melo's body as the season moves forward. Even though it's not his strong suit, Amar'e's size would help the Knicks post offense, and if nothing else give Woodson more options to go to in a game's closing minutes.