NY Knicks' Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses
The New York Knicks season has been turbulent to say the least and there are a variety of positives and negatives to consider as the Knickerbockers are getting ready for the playoffs.
One needs only to take a look at the past month’s play to see what I am talking about. The Knicks were on a four game losing streak, but they snapped out of it and are currently enjoying the season’s longest winning streak.
The Knicks are first in the Atlantic division, five games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets, and look poised to take the division crown for the first time since 1994.
The team has already clinched a playoff spot and now it is simply a question of where the Knicks end up in the standings and who they play in the first round of the playoff.
What will be the pillars the Knicks can hold on to when every game becomes do or die? What can doom the Knicks’ title hopes and keep the streak of 40 seasons without a championship going?
Strength: Three-Point Shooting
The Knicks are one of the most capable three-point shooting teams in the league and when their shooters get hot, they can compete with the best.
Just take a look at Tuesday’s game against the Miami Heat, which the Knicks won 102-90 by making 14 out of 27 three-pointers.
Although LeBron James and Dwyane Wade didn’t play in that game, they did take the court in the two other losses back in November and December. In those two victories, the Knicks made 52 and 40 percent of their three-point shots.
The Knicks are ranked sixth in three-point percentage with 37 percent and leads the league in three-point shots made with 10.7.
It doesn’t exactly hurt that the Knicks have Steve Novak, the three-point specialist who is currently seventh in three-point percentage.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that frequent injuries are one of the Knicks’ weaknesses.
Amar’e Stoudemire, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace are still injured and the Knicks can only hope they’ll be ready for the playoffs.
Tyson Chandler just returned from an injury, which fortunately didn’t stop the Knicks from launching a winning streak but a healthy Chandler, who is currently seventh in the league in rebounding, will be important in the playoffs.
It looks like the Knicks have finally added enough firepower to their bench so that they don’t simply have to rely on stars like Melo.
I already mentioned Novak, but there is also Jason Kidd who started for most of the season but lately has been coming off the bench.
J.R. Smith is a curious case in that sense, because he hasn’t started a single game but he has been playing starter minutes by averaging 33 minutes per game.
One of the more successful bench experiments of the year was Amar’e Stoudemire.
The forward, who was signed in 2010 to be the face of the franchise, gracefully accepted his limited role once he came back from injury and played his heart out.
He averaged 14.2 PPG in 23.2 minutes before he was sidelined with an injury. If he can make it back, the Knicks would be grateful to see him continue where he left off.
As I mentioned earlier, Chandler is a top-10 rebounder in the league and that serves as the Knicks rebounding alibi. The truth is that New York’s rebounding efforts are little to be proud of.
The Knickerbockers are only 26th in rebounding with 40.4 rebounds per game.
Unlike other contenders such as the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, they do not improve much when you only account for defensive rebounds.
While Boston and Miami are 10th and 19th in defensive rebounding, the Knicks are 24th and they’re the worst defensive rebounding team among the contenders for the Eastern Conference crown.
Strength: Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony looks like he is peaking at exactly the right time.
He was already having a career year with 28.1 PPG and a 23.0 PER but the latest developments might indicate that Melo has an extra gear that he’s getting ready to showcase for the playoffs.
On Tuesday, he tied his career-high with a 50 point performance against the Miami Heat.
But this wasn’t simply a matter of Melo playing heroball and taking as many shots as he needed to reach 50. Anthony was incredibly efficient, going 18-of-26 from the field including 7-of-10 from behind the arc.
If this is the type of play Knicks fans are going to see from Anthony in the playoffs, then there’s much to look forward to.
Weakness: Raymond Felton’s Big Mouth
The Knicks won the season series against the Heat and it brings hope that this scenario could actually repeat itself if the two teams meet in the playoffs. So why did Felton have to give the Heat extra motivation by talking trash about Mario Chalmers?
Per ESPN.com, Felton was asked if the Knicks had the edge when it came to the point guard position and he said.
I'm not saying that's a weak point [for the Heat] because [Mario] Chalmers has been great for Miami. He's won a championship there and he's a solid point guard," Felton said. "But I think that's one of the weaknesses of their team. Not saying that Chalmers is a bad player, because he's not. He's great. He's won a championship. A lot of point guards in this league can't say that. He has that. But if you look at LeBron, Bosh and D-Wade and then you look at Chalmers, you're like, 'OK, this is maybe where their weakness is at.
First of all, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that any player not named LeBron, Bosh or D-Wade is the “weak” point of the Heat. But to say it outright is just begging for the Heat to get riled up.
Obviously, Chalmers was not happy about the comment.
He told the Palm Beach Post that he knows Felton "pretty well" and that he was "a little shocked about that comment."
It seems that Felton forgot about one crucial thing. With LeBron and Wade running the floor, Chalmers doesn’t need to manage the game. Instead, he can focus on hitting three-point shots, which he has done quite well, averaging 41 percent during the season.
If the Heat take Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals after a buzzer beater by Chalmers, we know who to blame.