Blueprint for NY Knicks to Avoid 2013 NBA Playoff Disappointment
Injuries and low seeding have had a lot to do with that, but after a fantastic regular season, New York is looking to change things in 2013.
This is a team that certainly has the potential to make some noise in the East, but at the same time, it wouldn't be beyond them to disappoint us.
Let's go through the key things New York needs to do to make good on its talent and, for the first time since '99, win a series or two in the postseason.
Get and Stay Healthy
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Without a doubt, the biggest issue for the Knicks right now is health. And the most worrying thing is that there's very little the team can do to fix the issue.
Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Amar'e Stoudemire are all out for the time being, and the front office has already been forced to release Kurt Thomas because his injury was so severe.
Free agent Solomon Jones has been picked up to help ease the situation, but when Chris Copeland is starting at center, clearly things are not ideal.
At the bare minimum, what the Knicks need to succeed in the playoffs are the returns of Martin and Chandler, and luckily, they should both be back in time for the first round.
There are no guarantees about the other three players, but having said that, the Knicks have survived the majority of the season without them anyway.
New York could use as much frontcourt depth as possible, but in a shortened playoff rotation, the Knicks can handle having Chandler and Carmelo Anthony in the starting five, with K-Mart and Jones coming off the bench.
Focus on Defensive Intensity
New York's defense has slowly improved over the course of the season, but Mike Woodson's side will need to tighten up even more in the playoffs.
As long as Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler are there, the frontcourt should be fine. They play physically and defend the rim, making things tough for opponents.
Where things really need fixing up, however, is on the perimeter. Opposition guards have been getting into the paint way too easily this season, and that needs to stop.
Having both Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni—arguably the team's best perimeter defenders—starting together has definitely helped, and in the playoffs, the likelihood is that they'll be playing more minutes.
Their presence has helped the Knicks hide Raymond Felton's poor play, but he's going to have to step things up a notch on a personal level.
J.R. Smith has done so over the past month, adding some solid defense to his stellar offensive game. Felton will need to do the same, and that's where Woody's coaching will come into play.
The Knicks have the potential to be an elite defensive team, but they'll need contributions for absolutely everyone in their rotation.
Don't Get Too One-Dimensional on Offense
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Possibly the biggest criticism for the Knicks this season has been their reliance on outside shooting.
The team has broken the NBA record for three-pointers made, and this has obviously been a huge part of the offense. The downside, however, is that a cold shooting stretch in the playoffs could cost the team its season.
When the ball is moving and Carmelo Anthony is drawing double-teams, the Knicks definitely have a formula that creates good looks outside the arc, but they must be wary of becoming too one-dimensional.
New York can score in different ways and in the playoffs will definitely need to mix things up. That means more of Melo and J.R. Smith getting to the line, as well as utilizing the Raymond Felton-Tyson Chandler pick-and-roll partnership.
The Knicks have the luxury of a lot of scoring options, and with good ball movement and smart basketball, they can make big things happen on offense.
Keep J.R. Playing Aggressive Basketball
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J.R. Smith has been a revelation for New York over the last month or so.
In his last 15 games, Smith is averaging 24.1 points on 50 percent shooting, and it has all come down to his aggression.
Smith is shooting seven free throws per game over this stretch, which is way over his season average of 3.9,
Using his ability to attack the basket has opened up avenues for Smith to be much more selective with his outside shot, which is a big part of the reason he's shooting 38 percent from downtown.
When he's in this frame of mind, Smith is the perfect second option for the Knicks, which is an essential role to fill in the postseason.
It's much tougher for teams to focus on shutting down Carmelo Anthony when J.R. is wreaking havoc and getting to the rim off the bench.
Utilize the Two-Point Guard Backcourt
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One of the keys to the Knicks' regular-season success has been their use of the unconventional two-point guard backcourt.
With three point guards who are good spot-up shooters, they can afford to have two out there at a time, allowing them to benefit from the improved ball movement it brings to the table.
On top of that, having two PGs has helped in terms of keeping possession of the basketball, which is why the Knicks have turned the ball over less than anyone else in the league.
Having capable, trustworthy passers in the backcourt has probably made the biggest difference of all for New York this season, so keeping it intact in the playoffs makes a lot of sense.
More to the point, since moving Pablo Prigioni to the starting lineup, the Knicks are 14-1, with the Argentine taking over Jason Kidd's "glue guy" role.