Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert should thrive with the New York Knicks during the 2014-15 season under new head coach Derek Fisher.
New York acquired them in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks this summer likely because it was felt the tandem would fit in quite nicely with the players on the roster given their skills. The Knicks also received Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and two draft picks (Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo).
CBS Sports' Zach Harper felt the Knicks did a good job in the transaction, and that it speaks to the vision of new president of basketball operations Phil Jackson.
The Knicks jettisoned Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler in the swap, a move that altered the identity of the team. New York was already going to be a different team from a philosophical perspective given the new coaching staff, but the exchange of players certainly increases the amount of change.
The Knicks now have an incoming tandem that should give the Knicks a different look and potentially make them a better team.
New Knicks Point Guard
Jose Calderon will more than likely be New York’s starting point guard, and that will sit very well with the team.
Calderon forces teams to play him because he’s such a proficient shooter. He’s converting 47.9 percent of his overall shots and 41.1 percent of his treys. Because opponents must honor his shooting, they usually end up throwing a few defenders to shade him, which opens up the floor for his teammates.
Calderon is great at reading these situations and finding the open man as evidenced by his career 8.5 assists per 36 minutes.
Interestingly enough, Calderon is the exact opposite of Felton. He’s selectively aggressive and prefers clean looks instead of forcing the issue. Calderon’s eagerness to avoid bad shots and play within the system means the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire will get a multitude of opportunities to put up field-goal attempts.
And then there’s the triangle offense. In June, Fisher appeared on The Michael Kay Show (radio show) and offered some insight into the way his offense will function (via Marc Berman of the New York Post):
Yes, in my opinion Carmelo will thrive in a triangle system. He is actually the prototypical triangle player because of his versatility. We could use him at all five positions on the floor. That’s the beauty of the system, being able to move players around on different spots on the floor. I believe we can be great right away because we have that guy we can anchor that system around.
Fisher made it clear to all that New York would run the triangle, and Calderon will be an ideal option in the system. His passing and shooting make him a great asset in the triangle because he can fit multiple roles.
The triangle balances the floor and creates optimal spacing for every player. Because it has built-in reads, a classic distributing point guard isn’t necessary. Every player can be a playmaker, provided they read and react accordingly.
Granted, pinpoint passers capable of quickly adjusting to openings will always look good in this offense. For instance, Luke Walton looked brilliant at times with the Los Angeles Lakers precisely because of this.
Calderon should be a solid contributor given his passing acumen, and his shooting will create all sorts of havoc for Knicks opponents. He should get an abundance of open looks, because defenses will likely be far more concerned with Carmelo.
Bleacher Report’s Dylan Murphy wrote a terrific piece in March outlining how Carmelo fits in the triangle offense, and Murphy provided some insight into what New York could look like. Instead of ball-stopping isolations, the Knicks will have a fluid offense predicated on sharing the ball and hitting the open man.
Calderon’s never played in the triangle offense, but he certainly seems excited at the idea.
“I’ve always put the team first,” Calderon said during a conference call in June, per Berman of the New York Post. “I never really played it, but it’s still having to hit the open guy. At the end of the day, the good thing about it is more than anything it’s a team offense — try to find the right guy, try to put the guys in the right situation and look for where the weak spots are."
Calderon will get opportunities to spot-up on the weak side of the floor, and he’ll get chances to run a two-man action with Anthony where defenders will abandon Calderon to stay at home with Carmelo.
In July, Bleacher Report’s Murphy offered insight on Calderon: “He can function as the 1, 2 or 3. He can pass. He can score. He can stand in the corner and shoot threes. Whatever role he's forced to play on a given possession, he can do it very well.”
The Spaniard should look terrific with the Knicks because he’ll be facing spread out defenders who will be more concerned with limiting some of his teammates.
Interestingly enough, Calderon will occupy the same role that Fisher once had as a member of the Lakers, and he might actually be better suited for it because of his superior ball-handling and passing skills.
Dalembert isn’t quite the defensive presence that Chandler was in New York, but he will help the Knicks.
Dalembert is a really good individual interior defender. At 6’11", he has the length to bother players during post-ups and force misses. Dalembert is usually disciplined enough to only leave his feet when his opponent goes up for a shot. Thus, he will occasionally turn away the man he’s defending or simply create a bad miss.
The same applies in the pick-and-roll when he switches onto a perimeter player. Dalembert smartly gives a cushion to ensure he doesn’t get beat off the dribble. He concedes the jump shot and quickly closes out to make the shot attempt difficult.
The Knicks should be fine if they put Dalembert in these situations, but it’s tough to determine what the philosophy of the first-year coach will be.
New York fans should hope Fisher relies a bit on a switching defense and single-coverage in the post. Dalembert lacks the mobility to attack the pick-and-roll ball-handler, and he has trouble rotating defensively because he lacks foot speed. This is part of the reason he’s averaging 4.3 career fouls per 36 minutes.
Dalembert’s usually a step behind when getting back to his man after a pick-and-roll, and he struggles when asked to help on a player and then recover back to his man.
In turn, that means he can’t play against big men with shooting touch and is nearly useless against small lineups.
If Dalembert was an offensive presence, New York could justify keeping him on the floor against small-ball units, but he mostly scores on offensive rebounds and drive and dishes. Despite these shortcomings, Dalembert should be a good addition for the Knicks.
He will be important against teams with low-post oriented teams, and his 3.8 career offensive rebounds per 36 minutes fall in line with Chandler’s four career rebounds per 36 minutes. Knicks fans will remember that Chandler was a terror on the offensive glass, and Dalembert will certainly replicate some of that.
I’m interested in seeing how he adapts to the triangle offense given his lack of offensive repertoire. Dalembert is a finisher more than anything and teams will likely play off him to corral Anthony. The triangle offense’s ball movement should result in Dalembert getting touches within proximity of the basket without much deterrence.
As a result, he should give the Knicks enough offense to stay on the floor and combat the opposition’s interior players.