A trip to the past could provide the Knicks with their brightest future.
With injuries pressuring New York to downsize, head coach Mike Woodson has turned to the small-ball lineup that helped his team win 54 games a season prior. But can that magic be replicated on a consistent basis?
Small ball returns for #Knicks, as does the dual-PG look. Very successful last season. Can it work again?— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) January 20, 2014
The dual-PG look that Alan Hahn references above could be the catalyst that draws the Knicks closer to a winning record.
Benefit of Two 1s
Starting two point guards helps the Knicks' offense flow from the get-go with proper spacing and ball movement. An extra unselfish player on the court, capable of creating for his teammates, remedies the stagnancy and lack of creativity that has limited NY's offense.
Raymond Felton—a mediocre distributor cursed by the finitude of his abilities constantly outweighed by the infinitude of his will—isn't the floor general the Knicks need to spark the offense. But Felton could be serviceable when paired with a wily veteran like Pablo Prigioni, who doesn't force passes or try to be a hero.
As Woodson mentioned last season, via Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal, "Pablo frees [Felton] up from the ballhandling responsibility from time to time, and it creates different looks."
With the dual-PG lineup back for the time being, Felton should benefit from the decreased responsibility and pressure placed on his shoulders as NY's lone facilitator. Felton's PER of 11.64 places him 56th amongst qualified point guards around the league. Prigs is currently 47th with a PER of 12.99.
Running two 1s out there at the beginning of games prevents an early over-reliance on isolation plays, which inevitably simplifies Carmelo Anthony's duties.
Mismatches in NY's Favor
The adjacent video highlights Anthony's 62-point performance against the Charlotte Bobcats (Jan. 24), but it also displays some of the mismatches caused by the Knicks running Anthony at the 4 and Iman Shumpert at the 3.
Since the Bobcats decided to keep Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Anthony—despite Melo playing the 4—Shumpert was guarded by Josh McRoberts, a power forward with limited lateral movement. Had Melo not played like a superhuman-deity, Shump may have exploited his mismatch feverishly until the Bobcats adjusted.
Ryan Kelly has no shot guarding #Melo! I feel bad for him that his coach Mike D'Antoni put him in that position.— Wally Szczerbiak (@wallyball) January 26, 2014
Playing small helps Anthony—he's quicker than most power forwards around the league, and he could torture them with his range and explosiveness. But, it enables the Knicks' offense as a whole to develop an identity.
If teams decide to keep their 3 on Anthony, that opens up the possibility of an athlete like Shump getting to the rim while being guarded by a slow-footed big man. If teams answer back with a smaller lineup of their own, there will be less rim protection, and Anthony can feast on his man on the low block.
Small-ball was once the key to the Knicks' success, and if that well comes up empty over New York's remaining slate of games, it may be time to retool.
Stats are accurate as of Sunday, January 26, 2014.