New York Knicks: 10 Things That Must Happen To Advance in the 2011 NBA Playoffs
Right now, the New York Knicks look like they would not stand a chance at advancing in the 2011 NBA playoffs.
In fact, with only a 4.5-game lead over the ninth-place Charlotte Bobcats, the Knicks may even be in jeopardy of missing the postseason altogether.
However, all hope is not lost for fans of the New York basketball franchise.
After all, there is no doubt that, behind the combination of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks are extremely talented.
But with only nine games remaining and the team in the midst of a six-game slide, how can they improve to the point of making the playoffs and upsetting their first-round opponent?
Well, the following slides will list the 10 things that must happen in order for the New York Knicks to advance in the NBA playoffs.
No. 1: Win Some Games To Finish out the Season
Obviously, in order to have a chance at advancing in the NBA playoffs, the New York Knicks first need to string together some regular season wins.
And with two games against the Deron Williams-less New Jersey Nets, one against the league-worst Cleveland Cavaliers and another against the lowly Toronto Raptors all coming up, New York should be able to eek out a few victories.
So by picking up what should be some easy wins, the Knicks should be able to get back on track, to some extent, thereby allowing them to enter the postseason with some confidence and momentum.
No. 2: End Amar'e Stoudemire's Slump
After turning in a performance which had him in the MVP discussion earlier in the season, Amar'e Stoudemire's recent level of play has significantly dropped off.
During the New York Knicks' last 10 games—nine of which have been losses—Amar'e has shot a mere 43.2 percent from the field, well below his full-season mark of 50.3 percent.
What's more, Stoudemire has only scored 19.3 points per contest during New York's six-game losing streak—a substantial drop off from his season average of 25.6.
And with Stoudemire struggling to put points on the board, the Knicks will almost certainly be sent packing by a high-seeded playoff team.
Therefore, Stoudemire must break out of his slump if his team has any hopes of advancement.
No. 3: Toney Douglas Must Be Consistent
Ever since the New York Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony, Toney Douglas has seen his role with the team drastically increase.
However, that has been somewhat of a problem, as his inconsistency has hindered the Knicks' production.
This can be illustrated by the fact that, in the seven games which the team has won since acquiring Melo, Douglas is posting 18.4 points per game, as opposed to his meager average of 10.3 put up in New York's 11 losses.
And his struggles have been even more evident in the Knicks' last 10 games, as he scored 29 in the team's lone victory while notching seven or fewer points in four of the nine losses, all while never topping 20 points.
Therefore, it is evident that Douglas needs to find some semblance of consistency if the New York Knicks hope to string together enough wins to advance in the postseason.
No. 4: Shawne Williams Needs to Make Threes
After leading the NBA in three-point percentage for the much of the early portion of the 2010-11 regular season, New York Knicks forward Shawne Williams has witnessed his production drop of significantly.
And while he still ranks 17th in the league in that category at 42.0 percent shooting from deep, his recent numbers are rather troubling.
During the Knicks' six-game skid, Williams has been converting his three-point attempts at less than half of his regular level of efficiency—shooting a mere 20.7 percent from beyond the arc.
And seeing as though New York is heavily reliant upon the three-ball—they are second in the NBA in threes per game—they will be hard pressed to play with the best teams of the Eastern Conference if they can't knock down their treys.
Consequently, Williams needs to get out of his funk and start sinking his deep balls if he wants to help his team achieve postseason success.
No. 5: Strong Center Play
Throughout the 2010-11 season, one of the New York Knicks' biggest weaknesses has been their center play.
Oftentimes, the team has run with Amar'e Stoudemire out of position at the 5, forcing him to matchup against bigger and stronger opponents.
And seeing as though tough interior defense is by no means one of Amar'e's strengths, opposing bigs have often excelled against New York.
Nevertheless, when Stoudemire isn't playing center, that role has been primarily taken on by defense and hustle specialist Ronny Turiaf.
Turiaf, however, can be a liability on offense, which causes offensive-minded coach Mike D'Antoni to give him limited minutes.
And when he does earn time, the 6'10", 247-pound forward-center is still occasionally overmatched by bigger players.
Moreover, Turiaf has been hamper by minor injuries throughout the year, including his most recent DNP due to an ankle injury.
And now, after trading away Timofey Mozgov in the Carmelo Anthony trade, the only other option at center is Shelden Williams.
For his part, Williams provides a strong presence on the defensive interior, although his mediocre athleticism and limited offensive repertoire put a significant cap on his effectiveness.
Nevertheless, he had a decent game in his last outing—posting 10 points, nine rebounds, a block and a steal—and if New York want to win in the playoffs, they will need more of those efforts.
So in all, if the Knicks hope to achieve success in the postseason against the better frontcourts of the Eastern Conference, they will need Turiaf to return from injury with increased effectiveness and Williams to consistently produce.
No. 6: Mike D'Antoni Must Make Adjustments
As a result of the New York Knicks' recent struggles, there has been rampant speculation about Mike D'Antoni's future as head coach of the team.
However, he can likely quiet speculation by making some small adjustments to help his team succeed.
First among those would be to slow his team down.
With 34-year-old Chauncey Billups running the offense fresh of a leg injury, the Knicks aren't exactly suited for D'Antoni's patented rapid-fire, run-and-gun offense.
Moreover, after trading away many of their young players and outside shooters (i.e. Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton) in the Carmelo Anthony deal, the team's roster now seems better suited for a slower pace.
And this slower pace should play into the Knicks' strengths, as it would likely spell more touches inside for Amar'e Stoudemire and Melo to play their respective games.
But the problem extends further than just New York's personnel.
After heavily using Stoudemire early in the season, he appears to be gradually wearing down as the season winds down.
Consequently, a slower pace would be less demanding on his body; therefore, Stoudemire would have a better opportunity to sustain his effectiveness in the postseason.
And finally, D'Antoni's offense has never proven to be effective enough—even with the adequate personnel—to make an NBA Finals appearance.
Therefore, by changing things up and adjusting to the slower pace that usually characterizes the playoffs, the Knicks will have a much better opportunity for advancement.
No. 7: Stay Positive
Above all, the New York Knicks must find a way to stay positive.
If the team gives in and starts to invest too much in all of the negative things that people have been saying about their recent struggles, then they have little chance for success this year.
However, the players have, for the most part, been saying all of the right things so far, speaking optimistically about the team's prospects this season.
And by remaining positive and refusing to pack it in, the Knicks should be able play with confidence as they try to put together a run heading into the playoffs.
No. 8: Continue To Work
The New York Knicks have only played 19 games since trading for Carmelo Anthony with Chauncey Billups only participating in 13.
Therefore, it's evident that the team is still a work in progress.
And judging by similar struggles experienced by teams like the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic after they made significant roster changes, one can safely assume that New York will improve as they gain more and more experience playing with one another.
So as long as they continue to work to get better, the additional nine games together should allow the Knicks to become better acclimated and more capable of achieving postseason success by the time the playoffs roll around.
No. 9: Finish Strong
The New York Knicks close out the 2010-11 regular season with matchups against the two top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics.
Therefore, solid performances in these two games could do wonders for the Knicks' confidence and give them a huge amount of momentum heading into the playoffs.
Furthermore, given that one of these two teams could be New York's first-round opponent, a strong showing could be all the more important in overcoming that squad to pull off an upset.
No. 10: Play Defense
As everyone already knows, defense has been the Achilles' heel of the New York Knicks all season.
On the year, they are ranked 27th in points allowed per game, 25th in opponents' field goal percentage and 23rd in defensive efficiency.
And those pathetic numbers are obviously not the mark of a successful playoff team.
Consequently, if the Knicks want to make some noise in the postseason, they will certainly have to increase their effort and improve their defensive play, at least to some extent, heading into the playoffs.