If the New York Knicks are intent on making the NBA Finals in 2013-14, they have to be a better team than they have been the past three seasons—a different team.
Metta World Peace changes the face of the Knicks.
With World Peace in the starting lineup, New York becomes a defensive team anchored on offense by a freed-up Carmelo Anthony, rather than an offensive team anchored on defense by Tyson Chandler.
Head coach Mike Woodson has one of those good problems on his hands: too much talent to fit into too few starting slots. He’s got a bunch of players (seven) who have had regular starting gigs at multiple positions and an equivalent number of potential starting lineups.
Woodson has already settled on Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton as givens, but that leaves two starting slots open and three unsettled positions (shooting guard, small forward and power forward).
From this starting point—and probably even depending on the opponent—rather than getting caught up in the playoff-proven fruitlessness of big vs. small, Woodson is going to find himself deciding between starting games with solid offensive or defensive footing this time around.
Inserting the defense-minded World Peace at small forward opens the door to start Iman Shumpert at shooting guard. With Chandler, that makes three-fifths of the Knicks’ starting lineup defensive specialists.
The thing is, New York’s offense will remain robust, and be even more so compared to last season. This is another 50+ win team that will continue to average over 100 points a game, along with becoming a top-five defensive team in the league.
Anthony should start at his now career-defining position, the one that earned him the scoring title: power forward. He’ll vie for that crown again thanks to sluggish opposing defenders at the 4 and no longer having to overachieve on the defensive end to pick up the Knicks’ perennial slack there.
Admittedly, the Knicks' typical defense-less fare has lessened since Chandler’s arrival, but in a different way. Chandler provided the D when there was none really in the first place, but the addition of World Peace up front puts New York over the defensive top with no luster to its offensive shine. In fact, the opposite is true.
World Peace and Anthony can switch off on defense—Metta taking on Melo’s power-forward assignment, letting Anthony take on the (for him) more physically and athletically compatible opposing 3s.
World Peace is no offensive slouch, either. If he pours on the D, New York will take the 12-15 points a game he’s fully capable of providing, especially given Woodson’s penchant for the long ball and Metta’s recent embrace of the perimeter.
Collaterally, World Peace opens the floor up for Anthony—and more than Ronnie Brewer did during last year’s torrential 20-7 start (and more than Shumpert and Kenyon Martin, for that matter).
Offensively, [World Peace will] do just fine as a floor spacer in the corners. He shot 19.7% of his shots last season from the corner three, hitting 37.4% from the left corner and 36.1% out of the right. Assuming the Knicks do what they should, keeping the small-ball lineup and running spread pick and roll, World Peace should get a ton of open corner threes. [via meloshipofthering.com]
Shumpert is coming around on that side of the floor, too. He finished the 2012-13 regular season averaging 12.5 points over his last six games—nearly twice his season average. He had a five-game flurry in the postseason where he averaged 13.4 points and wrapped it all up with 19 points in three quarters of the Game 6 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Felton and Chandler round out the starters with a guaranteed, combined 10-15 a night and an occasional 20-30 point add-on.
Meanwhile, this starting five leaves a fairly potent offensive bench in J.R. Smith, Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire that is steered by the savvy and grounded Pablo Prigioni.
Overall, the Knicks have slickly (and somewhat luckily with the World Peace pickup) positioned themselves this offseason for an offensive uptick, all the while improving their defense and defensive presence on the floor by a great deal.
It all makes sense with Metta World Peace starting at small forward and Carmelo Anthony at the 4.