Solutions for the New York Knicks' Biggest Flaws
The New York Knicks have a lot of problems right now, but they can still adapt and salvage their season.
While injuries have prevented coach Mike Woodson from playing a coherent rotation, there's still no excuse for New York's 3-11 start.
Per Arash Markazi of ESPN, the Knicks held a closed-door meeting following their seventh consecutive loss to address their dysfunctional play. Between a clogged-up offense, defensive ineptitude and lack of communication on both ends, they had plenty to discuss.
This is a bad team right now; eye test and stats both confirm it. In order to get back into playoff form, some changes must be made.
Get Tyson Chandler Back
Though Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith have both missed some time this season, Tyson Chandler has proved to be irreplaceable in his absence.
It's no surprise that the Knicks have been lost defensively without him.
Their perimeter defense is dependent on switching, so they need an elite rim protector for when Chandler's overmatched teammates inevitably let someone drive the lane. Andrea Bargnani has attempted to fill that role, and while he's a capable post defender, his help instincts and positioning are severely lacking.
What might not be so evident is Chandler's offensive impact.
He may not be a dynamic scorer, but his ability off the pick-and-roll means opposing teams have to take a step toward the paint to impede his path. As much as the Knicks need to work on their ball movement, they'd find more open threes if Chandler were around to collapse the defense.
Regardless of Chandler's health, the Knicks have to change their mentality on defense.
Basically, the Knicks are defending the perimeter as if it's always someone else's job to make the stop. No one wants to fight through a screen, and they consistently go under screens instead of over. If opponents don't end up with open jumpers, they're likely to blow by the confused Knicks and attack the rim with impunity.
In order to close the sieve, New York has to heed Carmelo Anthony's criticism, per Mark Berman of the New York Post:
It’s just defense at this point. The easiest thing to do is try to point fingers and trying to figure out what’s going on — [like] ball movement. At the end of the day it’s defense, we’re not guarding anybody.
Melo is as guilty as anyone else on the squad, all of whom have to just boost their defensive effort. It's up to Woodson to make guys take responsibility. He may not have a team of plus defenders, but the situation becomes hopeless when they hardly try.
Less Amar'e Stoudemire
As for Amar'e Stoudemire, it doesn't matter how much he tries on defense. He's an irredeemable liability.
The forward formerly known as STAT has never been a good man defender; his footwork was always atrocious, and opponents could beat him consistently with any rudimentary post move.
But at least his shot-blocking provided some value. When he first arrived in New York, he averaged 1.9 blocks per game. Now that his body has deteriorated and left him a shell of his former self, he has just one block in 145 minutes this season.
At least he can still produce on the offensive end, though it's hardly worth it. He has developed enough of a post game to make up for his lost athleticism, but establishing him on the block becomes New York's sole focus when he's on the floor, which kills the team's spacing and ball movement in the process.
More Kenyon Martin
The Knicks would be better off if Kenyon Martin mooches some of Stoudemire's minutes.
Martin is the toughest interior defender New York has after Chandler, and even at age 35, he has enough hops to still contest shots inside. That's reason alone to give him starter minutes right now, brittleness be damned.
But while he makes his living as a low-post bully nowadays, Martin's game is more versatile than that.
He has flashed a nifty jumper from the high post, which is vital for a team trying to keep the lane open for Melo to operate. The weapon is reliable enough to keep defenses honest, but Martin has also surprised opponents with smart passes, particularly to backdoor cutters.
New York has tried to ration its use of Martin in order to save him for the postseason. If the Knicks don't take advantage of him now, though, they might not make it that far.
De-Emphasize the Iso
New York wouldn't have to look for K-Mart to facilitate on offense if the Knicks played more through their point guards.
That's not a call to take the ball out of Melo's hands; he's an elite scorer who warrants as many possessions as he can get.
But J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert have failed to create off the bounce as well as from beyond the arc; defenses aren't afraid when those Knicks get into mid-range territory, so opponents stay out on their three-point attempts.
Chandler or no, the answer is to keep the offense simple and lean on the pick-and-roll.
Even without an elite roll option, getting Felton around the edge and into the teeth of the defense will create kick-out opportunities to three-point threats and pop options like Bargnani. As long as one big with a decent shot is on the floor, it's difficult to stop the ball-handler and all his potential targets.
Of course, that drive-and-kick attack becomes easier when the Knicks are playing small, something Woodson has still been reluctant to commit to without Chandler.
Per 82games.com, three of New York's five most-used lineups employ two big men. When Bargnani and another forward play together, the point guard only has one outside shooter spacing the floor.
Yes, Melo and Bargs could theoretically spot up on the perimeter in those lineups, but both are more effective and comfortable working inside the arc.
At least those five-man units have featured Chandler or Martin alongside Bargnani, which at least bolsters the interior defense while clogging the offense. Playing Stoudemire at power forward next to Bargnani or Martin, however, brings about the worst of both worlds.
Last season, the Knicks proved they could win with three guards and a barrage of threes, even when Chandler was out. They have the personnel to attempt to replicate that strategy; Woodson just has to be willing to try it again.