New York Knicks: 5 Things They Need to Work on to Keep Up Strong Start
Even with Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert out injured, the Knicks have been winning at an impressive rate against some tough opposition.
Efficiency on both ends of the floor has been the name of the game for New York, with an emphasis on keeping turnovers to an absolute minimum.
Outside shooting has also been a strong point, and it appears that the Knicks have established their identity as a team that plays strong defense and finds good shots through a commitment to ball movement.
But as good as the Knicks have been so far, there have been a few slip-ups, and there are some things that need to be sorted out moving forward.
Stats used in this article were accurate as of Dec. 1, 2012.
At this point, the major issue for the Knicks has been their work on the boards.
With their starting power forward out injured, and Mike Woodson resultantly having to go with a smaller lineup, their struggles have been understandable, but they need to be solved nonetheless.
The Knicks are currently one of only six teams in the entire league grabbing less than 40 rebounds per game, and they are ranked in the bottom three in terms of total rebound rate as a result.
Luckily, the Knicks have one of the league's top rebounders waiting patiently for his chance to shine in Marcus Camby, who will have a big impact once he finally sees some consistent court time.
The return of Amar'e Stoudemire should help, too. Though he's never been a dominant rebounder, his 6'11", 260-lb frame will be a welcome addition to the front line.
Teams can have success without being great at rebounding—just look at the Miami Heat—but things will be a lot easier if New York can at least become an average team in that area.
Avoiding Technical Fouls
Anyone who has been watching the Knicks early this season knows that they've had some terrible luck with officiating.
Calls have routinely been going against them, even when it seems they shouldn't, and it has caused a lot of frustration amongst Knicks players.
The real problem, though, is that the players are letting this frustration get the better of them in the heat of the moment, leading to a lot of technical fouls.
New York's star player Carmelo Anthony currently leads the league with five techs, and he runs the risk of missing a game or two with suspension if he reaches 14.
On top of that, New York has some notorious technical foul-getters in Tyson Chandler and Rasheed Wallace, as well as the soon-returning Amar'e Stoudemire.
These are the Knicks' most important frontcourt players, and the team simply cannot afford to have them get into major foul trouble or even miss games because they can't control their mouths.
Basketball is an emotional game, but there's a fine line between when that emotion helps your team and when it's a detriment.
Getting More Players Involved in Back-to-Backs
This past summer, the Knicks invested a lot in building a deep bench, and that has paid off in a big way.
The Knicks have managed to win despite injuries to key players, and it's because they have so much quality throughout their roster.
That said, Mike Woodson could look to utilise this depth a little more. This is an old roster, and Woodson needs to understand its limitations and make some adjustments in certain situations.
Of the Knicks' four losses, three have come on back-to-back road games, where fatigue has clearly been a factor.
Woodson should look to rest players a little more during these games—maybe not to the extent that Gregg Popovich does, but still in a way that gives them a chance to recover.
There are some good players on this roster like Chris Copeland and Kurt Thomas who have barely played so far. Giving them an opportunity when others are tired would make a lot of sense.
Scoring in the Paint
The Knicks have been nothing short of dominant offensively for much of the start of this season, but their success has mainly come from outside shooting.
New York is putting up the least shots of any team from 3-to-15 feet so far this year and is ranked in the bottom 10 in field-goal percentage at the rim.
Whilst the Knicks are right to utilise their great outside shooters, getting to the line and scoring inside can only help during those nights when shots simply aren't falling.
Players like Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Ronnie Brewer are perfectly capable of driving well to the basket, and they should look to do so more often to get easy buckets.
When Amar'e Stoudemire comes back, you can bet there will be a lot more baskets in the low post, as well as a lot more free throws taken.
STAT is one of the league's best at finishing through contact, and that's something the Knicks should definitely utilise upon his return.
There is a big correlation in the NBA between getting to the line and having overall success, so some more aggression on the offensive end can help.
Integrating Amar'e Stoudemire When He Returns
With the Knicks playing great basketball in these opening weeks, one of the bigger concerns has been whether or not they will keep it up when Amar'e Stoudemire returns.
Much has been made of Stoudemire's lack of chemistry with Carmelo Anthony, as well as the spacing issues with him playing alongside Tyson Chandler.
That said, Stoudemire has barely played under Mike Woodson, and as we all know, a lot has changed for the better since he took over from Mike D'Antoni.
Ball movement is now a key value, and if Stoudemire can buy into that then it would help both him and the team.
Using Stoudemire in a new role—possibly coming off the bench—could help too, and according to ESPN he would be willing to play as a sixth man if need be.
If Stoudemire does take his talents to the second unit, it would make the Knicks' bench arguably the best in the league and certainly the most diverse.
The pick-and-roll with Pablo Prigioni and Stoudemire should be a nightmare to defend, and that's a play we should see a lot of.
Coming off the bench, Stoudemire can play 30 or so minutes by playing power forward with 'Melo off the floor and center with Chandler off, which would be an almost seamless way to do things.
Ultimately, having an All-Star level player join the team is generally a good thing, and if Stoudemire is utilised correctly then he will give the Knicks a major boost.
For now, it's looking like a Christmas return for Stoudemire, and there'd be no better present for the Knicks and their fans than for him to finally work things out chemistry-wise.