Why Iman Shumpert Is Finally Set to Thrive with New York Knicks

For a guy who hasn’t been hit with so much as a speeding ticket off the basketball court, Iman Shumpert’s three-year NBA career has been uncommonly tumultuous.

Such as it is with the New York Knicks, a team that’s spent the better part of the last decade orchestrating, and then immediately recovering from, so many a wayward rebuild. That’s made Shumpert—a promising two-way prospect with upside for days—something of a volatile commodity.

But after years of being bandied about in virtually every Knicks-related trade talk and chat-room rumor, Shumpert is finally poised to thrive as a long-term piece in Phil Jackson’s puzzle.

At least according the New York Post’s Marc Berman, who quotes a source around the time of Jackson’s hiring to the effect that Shumpert was, in fact, part of the long-term plan.

Things could change, of course. After all, there’s seldom such a thing as a sacred cow in professional sports—particularly when the commodity in question stands as one in a logjam of backcourt talents and has just one year remaining before his qualifying offer officially kicks in.

Indeed, as ESPN New York’s Ian Begley writes, Jackson’s praise may have been more about managerial mind games than genuine infatuation:

But Jackson’s praise may have served a duel purpose.

The Knicks continued to explore opportunities to trade Shumpert over the summer, according to league sources, so Jackson may have been trying to improve the league-wide perception of his player.

Still, we think Shumpert has an opportunity to make a strong impact this season in the triangle. Tall guards such as Ron Harper have thrived in the offense. Can Shumpert fill the same role?

What Shumpert offers, however, is a skill set nicely suited to the team’s new orientation toward a Carmelo Anthony-centric triangle offense.

Following a season in which the former Georgia Tech standout hit the statistical skids, Shumpert—who just turned 24—is poised for a bounce-back year. Especially from three-point range, where Shumpert will look to approach the 40 percent clip he authored just two seasons ago.

Operating in a system where quick ball movement trumps superfluous dribbling, Shumpert—who’s struggled somewhat with his ball-handling abilities—is sure to get open looks aplenty. And while he might not be quite the knockdown shooter of a Tim Hardaway Jr., Shumpert’s superior passing and playmaking make him a viable rotational option at both the 2 and the 3.

For his part, Shumpert sees in the triangle the perfect antidote to what’s thus far been something of a stagnant role on offense. Here he is in a recent interview with the New York Post’s Howie Kussoy:

There’s constant action going on. I think I’ll be able to capitalize off that and I’ll be able to use my athleticism a lot more than standing in the corner. … I know this year, this offense, I’ll have a lot more opportunities to cut and get to the basket, so I just want to work on the strength in my leg and be able to jump off and be comfortable.

A lot more than standing in the corner.

If that sounds like a veiled swipe at former head coach Mike Woodson’s isolation-heavy offense, well, it probably is.

Derek Fisher, by contrast, is a triangle disciple through and through. And not just any triangle disciple, either. Indeed, if ever there was a player who personified how the offense can maximize what might otherwise be a middling talent, it’s Fisher—an athletically limited but intelligent point guard who became one of Kobe Bryant’s most trusted on-court confidants during the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship run of the early 2000s.

Tyronne Lue, Devean George, Sasha Vujacic: Jackson’s career is rife with replacement-level wings who used the triangle to author the best statistical seasons of their careers.

Obviously, Shumpert’s career trajectory is, at this stage of the game, impossible to pinpoint. What’s become increasingly clear, however, is that after three years of injury misfortune and roller-coaster roster dynamics, the Knicks—after nearly 20 years of flabbergasting front-office doings—finally have the look and feel of a genuine basketball incubator.

It remains to be seen how Fisher will manage the multifaceted wing troika of Shumpert, Hardaway and J.R. Smith. Each brings their unique strengths and weaknesses to the table and each, under the right circumstances, could prove potent triangle fits alongside Anthony.

Assuming Jackson’s roster retooling will include more multiplayer deals, there’s a good chance one of the three could be gone by the trade deadline—if only to either reinforce New York’s paper-thin draft-pick stock or further lessen its salary-cap commitments heading into next summer.

Should Shumpert survive past the deadline, much will depend on whether (and how many) teams look to test his $3.8 million qualifying offer next summer. Even though Jackson would be able to exceed the salary cap in order to match any offer, the CBA’s prohibitive luxury tax might make him think twice about rolling the dice on what very much remains a risky commodity.

In the meantime, Shumpert will have every opportunity to prove to Jackson and Fisher that last year’s regression was nothing more than an anomaly.

So much of Shumpert’s struggles have been due to factors beyond his control, from the knee injury that sidelined him for the better part of a year to New York’s volatile coaching carousel.

Luckily, the ascendance of Jackson and Fisher portends for the Knicks not only a breath of fresh air but a fair shot as well.

If you’re Shumpert, what more could you ask for?

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New York Knicks: 5 Reasons They Will Make The Playoffs

New York Knicks: 5 Reasons They Are Better Than
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff..
People aren’t talking about the Knicks much when it comes to this season and it’s hard to blame them, as they have only re-signed Carmelo Anthony, traded Tyson Chandler and hired Derek Fisher this offseason and they missed the playoffs, but this team has talent. There seems to be 10 teams in the East that can make the playoffs and based on talent, they are probably 7-9, but they are better than the Knicks team which was just the 9th seed in the East. Yes, the conference is better, but for 5 reasons they will make the playoffs this season.
1. Carmelo Anthony
– When you have one of the five best players in your conference and the best scorer, you have a strong chance to make the playoffs and the Knicks have Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo will give them about 30 points and 8 rebounds per game and he alone gives them an excellent chance to be one of the 8 best teams in the East. Having one of the …

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4 Players the New York Knicks Need to Step Up Next Season

Certain aspects of the New York Knicks‘ 2014-15 season are a given, like Carmelo Anthony scoring about two dozen points per game, Jose Calderon hitting three-pointers with accuracy or Iman Shumpert playing solid on-ball defense. Other things remain a complete mystery, especially regarding how the rotation will shake out around the new offense.

Each of the four players discussed below have locked up a roster spot for the year, though they project to be on the margins of the rotation. However, due to quirks in the depth chart, they can ingratiate themselves to the coaching staff and merit increased playing time through a variety of factors.

If these four can give effective minutes to head coach Derek Fisher, the Knicks will have a much more feasible scenario for playing postseason basketball in 2015 due to a balanced rotation.

 

Cole Aldrich, Center

Cole Aldrich offers considerable ability in one area where the Knicks remain sorely deficient: defense. In 2013-14, the Knicks ranked 24th in points allowed per 100 possessions, per NBA.com.

Since the New Orleans Hornets drafted him 11th overall in 2010, Aldrich has played in 135 NBA contests, averaging 7.7 minutes per game. He’s well on his way to becoming fully fledged as a journeyman, but he may carve out a place in New York. Over 46 games for the Knicks last season, he averaged 3.3 blocks per 36 minutes.

Veteran Samuel Dalembert, 33, projects as the team’s starting center, but he has not eclipsed 26 minutes per game since the 2007-08 season. In his last two seasons, he clocked 16.3 and 20.2 minutes per game.

Someone will have to pick up the slack, and Aldrich’s shot-blocking makes him a better backup center than other subpar defensive options in Jason Smith, Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani—all of whom can shift to the 4 with their scoring abilities.

As a defender, Aldrich shows no fear when facing elite players:

B/R’s Fred Katz wrote about one play in particular, where Aldrich blocked DeMarcus Cousins in March, displaying discipline in the paint underneath a pick:

Cousins’ feet leave the floor before Aldrich’s, not only showing the Knicks center’s ability to understand tendencies and fundamentals but also displaying an underrated athleticism, an ability to end his momentum as he gets to the restricted area and propel forward to stuff a dominant player at the rim.

Aldrich’s defense will justify his playing time as backup center, and there should be plenty of minutes going around with Dalembert starting.

 

Shane Larkin, Point Guard

The case against Larkin is fairly obvious. ESPN New York’s Ohm Youngmisuk put it bluntly: “Shane Larkin, the other point guard that came in the [Tyson] Chandler trade, will have to prove himself in order to get minutes. Even then, he’s 5’11″ so his size hurts defensively.”

By the same token, Knicks rookie head coach and five-time champion as a player Derek Fisher stands at just 6’1″.

Larkin turned in a strong showing through five games at the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.0 steals.

His play earned praise from Fisher, who stated per NBA.com: “I’ve always been impressed with Shane, even before getting the chance to coach him, and he was just great these last couple of weeks. … In a lot of ways, he was our most stable and consistent performer.”

Larkin had recently caught the eyes of scouts with strong play in the D-League last season for the Texas Legends.

Even if Larkin does not ultimately fit into the rotation for New York, he can increase his trade value by flashing that Summer League ability during the NBA season. Larkin’s name already came up in offseason trade rumors shortly after the Knicks landed him.

Strapped as they are for draft picks or trade assets, the Knicks must maximize the potential of any and all bargaining chips. The only other point guards on the roster are Calderon and Pablo Prigioni.

The Knicks have hung onto Larkin for now, and they will look to get something out of the talented young guard, his compact stature notwithstanding.

 

Quincy Acy, Power Forward

The NBA credentials of Amar’e Stoudemire and Jason Smith have been established already, but the Knicks acquired another option at forward by trading guard Wayne Ellington to the Sacramento Kings. In return came Quincy Acy, a second-round draft pick for the Toronto Raptors in 2012.

Acy does not have much of an offensive game to speak of, but he brings a stout 6’7″ frame to the frontcourt and can provide physical defense, plus strength on the boards. Acy gained a reputation for his large beard as a rookie, but his subtle value can be more difficult to discern.

He’s never started in the NBA and averaged 12.9 minutes per game in two seasons.

Precisely that lack of playing time highlights his value when on court. For his career, he averages 8.7 points, 8.9 boards, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per 36 minutes, via Basketball-Reference. The Knicks would revel in that from a starting forward opposite Anthony.

Injury concerns abound in the frontcourt for the Knicks with Stoudemire and Smith, not to mention Andrea Bargnani recovering from an elbow injury.

If one or two among that group end up as walking wounded once again, Acy could be forced into increased action, and the offense could likely afford that compromise thanks to Carmelo Anthony and the team’s stable of scoring guards.

 

Travis Outlaw, Small Forward

Once upon a time, from 2007 to 2009, Travis Outlaw efficiently averaged around 13 points per game for the Portland Trail Blazers for two entire seasons, playing 163 games in total. In each of the five seasons since, he shot worse than 42 percent from the field.

His scoring average has tumbled below six points per game during the last three seasons, partly owing to diminished playing time but mostly owing to the various injuries plaguing him for the past five years, including a broken foot and a broken hand.

To his credit, Outlawalso part of the Ellington tradepossesses the veteran experience afforded by 11 seasons in the league, and he must bring that to bear in subbing for Carmelo Anthony when the call comes at small forward.

However, last season with Sacramento, the offense scored 3.9 more points per 100 possessions with Outlaw off the court, while the team’s defense improved by only 1.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, per Basketball-Reference.

Outlaw will need to be a net positive in relief duty, or he will find his minutes pilfered by second-round rookie Cleanthony Early.

The Knicks lack depth at small forward, with a roster full of big-bodied power forwards and medium-bodied shooting guards. Acy lacks the quickness to play the 3 with regularity, with his body reminiscent of Ivan Johnson or Reggie Evans, so a lot is riding on Outlaw and Early.

Early’s opportunity sits in front of him, but the team’s margin for error is very thin for achieving goals like a playoff appearance. Early’s inevitable rookie moments could render him unpalatable despite the high ceiling he showed with the 35-1 Wichita State Shockers last season (48.4 percent shooting, 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game).

If Outlaw encounters injury or ineffectiveness, that will leave the team with few reliable options at the position, outside of shifting Iman Shumpert to reserve small forward or starting three guards and playing Melo at the 4.

Whether or not Early plays well is gravy considering the team drafted him at No. 34, and many rookies take time to develop.

By contrast, playing on an expiring contract and beginning the regular season at age 30, Outlaw cannot waste any time in proving his continued worth as an NBA player.

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New York Knicks: Success Might Depend On J.R. Smith

J.R. Smith, the shooting guard for the New York Knicks is a polarizing character. You can love him or hate him, respect him as a shooter or see him as a “chucker.” Often you marvel at his offensive prowess only to be let down with silly defensive lapses. Just when you think he is maturing, […]
New York Knicks: Success Might Depend On J.R. Smith – Hoops Habit – Hoops Habit – Analysis, Opinion and Stats All About The NBA

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5 Teams That Will Give New York Knicks Biggest Problems Next Season

If the upcoming season’s strategic transition wasn’t difficult enough for the New York Knicks, a deeper Eastern Conference is going to make a run at the playoffs even tougher.

Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler and Mike Woodson are out, and Jose Calderon, Cleanthony Early and Derek Fisher are in. But the Knicks are still an offense-first team with a porous defense, and their chances of immediate improvement seem slim.

In ESPN’s summer forecast, analysts projected New York to go 37-45 and finish 10th in the East. That would give the Knicks an identical record to what they posted in 2013-14 but one slot further down in the standings.

A crop of stronger foes has as much to do with the Knicks’ prediction as any feeling that they have made lateral moves this offseason. While the East appeared to be the Miami Heat and everyone else for much of last year (especially when the Indiana Pacers imploded), the East’s middle class has built on late-season progress and offseason pickups and will enter 2014-15 significantly more formidable.

Important note: By focusing on that middle class, we’re just accepting the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls, the new beasts of the East, as given headaches. Their smackdowns of New York won’t come as any shock, and they won’t be the Knicks’ direct competition for a playoff spot.

With that disclaimer, let’s start with a team that bolstered the Eastern playoff fringes, unexpectedly dropping down to that uncertain territory as the rest of the conference improved over the offseason.

Begin Slideshow

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For JR Smith, It’s Now or Never to Succeed with New York Knicks

It’s tough to say without smiling crookedly, but this Phil Jackson triangle offense might actually help lift J.R. Smith‘s game.

It better for Smith’s sake. I’m not sure how long he’ll last under Jackson after the All-Star break if the New York Knicks have broken down, again, and Smith’s shot chart looks like a worn-out dartboard. 

The window of opportunity is closing for Smith in New York—the opportunity to prove he’s more than just a streak scorer or unpredictable microwave.

Cue the triangle, the last real hope for curing his erratic offensive attack.

On paper, it’s a system that should play right to Smith’s strengths and hopefully minimize his weaknesses as a shot-selector. 

The triangle emphasizes ball movement and off-ball player movement—two motions that don’t occur when Smith or Carmelo Anthony are sizing up their men before falling back into long, two-point hero shots.

Instead of heavy one-on-one action, something Mike Woodson’s offense often called for, the triangle should result in a lot more catch-and-score chances.

And only seven players in the entire NBA averaged more points per game shooting off the catch than Smith did (6.8) last season, according to NBA.com. He hit a rock-solid 45.6 percent of his spot-up jumpers and 46.5 percent of his spot-up threes, which ranked No. 4 in the league behind Kyle Korver, LeBron James and Stephen Curry

On the other hand, Smith hit just 33 percent of his pull-up jumpers, a shot he’s gone to frequently despite his poor conversion rate. 

If the triangle works according to plan, we’ll hopefully be seeing less play off the dribble and a lot more shooting in rhythm. 

Maybe the intensified competition at the 2-guard position in New York will also provide some additional motivation. Tim Hardaway Jr. isn’t a rookie anymore, while Iman Shumpert will be targeting a bounce-back season.

All three should be competing for minutes, or even a starting position, something Smith has expressed desire in winning, under new coach Derek Fisher. 

Outside of his experience, Smith’s underrated passing might actually give him an edge in the triangle. His lack of willingness to give the ball up is another story, but in terms of hitting the open man, he’s the superior passer on the depth chart. 

Smith averaged a career-high three assists last season, while Shumpert dished out only 1.7 a game and Hardaway struggled as a creator and ball-mover. 

Everything seems lined up for Smith, between the new coaches and system, an incident-free offseason and a heavy workload that’s up for grabs. 

But he’s running out of chances to shine in a featured role. Where else could he pose as a No. 2 option for a marquee franchise?

He probably won’t get another opportunity as good as this one, assuming he values the spotlight.

Ironically, the Knicks need Smith just as much as he needs them. They were 18-12 last season when Smith shot over 45 percent. When he didn’t, they were 16-28. 

The Knicks won 54 games in 2012-13 behind Smith’s 18.1 points per game—a career best. That was before he shot 28.9 percent in a second-round series playoff loss to the underdog Indiana Pacers

He’s been the team’s X-factor, which for the Knicks is far from ideal considering his inconsistent approach. But they’ve been desperate. With the Knicks paying Amar’e Stoudemire $20 million a year, they don’t exactly have the flexibility to go out and make seamless roster upgrades. 

However, Stoudemire’s contact, as well as Andrea Bargnani’s, comes off the book next summer, when the team is expected to hit the reset button. And it would be hard to imagine management including Smith in its long-term plans if he implodes under Jackson next season, though it would likely require a trade to move him, given Smith’s 2015-16 player option.

For what it’s worth, he’s been saying the right things this offseason. 

“Be a leader,” Smith said in an interview with ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Begley at his foundation’s annual golf fundraiser. “We’ve got so many younger guys around. A lot of the older guys left within the last two years. So be more of a leader and help out.”  

Begley thinks Smith has the experience to take on a leadership role in Year 11. 

Entering his final NBA season under 30 years old, this could end up being the most important one of Smith’s career—one that could make or break his team’s season and ultimately his individual value across the league. 

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New York Knicks: Trading For Scola, Watson and Copeland

New York Knicks: Trading For Scola, Watson and Copeland
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
NY Gets: Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson
Boston Gets: Andrea Bargnani, 1st round pick (Indiana) and 2nd round pick (NY)
Indiana Gets: Jeff Green and Shane Larkin
Yes, this is hypothetical, but you try having your job writing about the NBA with zero going on in the league; it’s ridiculously difficult, more so with a staff of 7 men and 1 woman. I apologize for that, but if you were thinking of emailing me calling me names just understand my pain. This is a 3 team trade, again hypothetical, but it would help each of these Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are looking for assets to rebuild, the Pacers have to find a go-to perimeter scorer with Paul George injured and with Lance Stephenson in Charlotte and they lack a young talented point guard and the Knicks have to make the playoffs and to keep cap space and with this trade they get 3 excellent role players, each free …

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New York Knicks: What is the Knicks’ Biggest Weakness?

New York Knicks: What is the Knicks’ Biggest Weakness?
By Troy Tauscher: Staff Writer/Hoopstuff…
As one of the most storied franchises in American professional sports, the Knicks’ 2014 season was, to put it simply, a massive disappointment. The decimating coaching and injury issues destroyed the Knicks’ prospects for a successful season. So did their lack of defense. As the offseason winds down, they find themselves is a very similar situation, where their defense will be a major roadblock.
Yes, they acquired Samuel Dalembert but it’s not enough. The Knicks’ issue is that their roster has a lot of players who simply don’t like to play defense. JR Smith, Amare Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, and yes, even Carmelo Anthony are all pretty bad on the defensive side. When your core is defensively atrocious, one or two role players can’t solve it and they also ditched Tyson Chandler, their best defender. With $90.1 million in contracts, there’s not much New York can do about their lack of def…

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Will It Really Be That Hard to Fix New York Knicks’ Defense?

Last year’s New York Knicks defense was a mess. Good thing the current squad has a new cleaning service. 

The Knicks switched up management and coaching staffs this offseason, making the jump from Mike Woodson to Derek Fisher on the bench and adding Phil Jackson to oversee all things basketball. And if there’s one part of the game coaching can seriously impact, it’s defense.

For now, the Knicks coaching staff is a relative unknown. It’s hard enough to evaluate coaches from afar without seeing them in practice and off the court. It becomes nearly impossible to make those sorts of judgments about a guy like Fisher, who’s never coached a game in his life.

What we do know about Fisher and Jackson though, is that they aren’t Woodson, who watched the Knicks plummet to a bottom-of-the-league defense last season.

The 2013-14 Knicks finished 24th in points allowed per possession. On top of their lack of defensive personnel, they were one of the worst-communicating defenses in the league.

Woodson implemented a defense that switched almost as much as his mind did. The Knicks would change up defenders on screens as often as any other team in the league. But after two months of coaching a defense that switched like a light panel, Woodson told ESPNNewYork’s Ian Begley at the end of December that there would be changes:

I don’t want to switch. I’ve always wanted to put the emphasis on our perimeter guys to guard perimeter players. Bigs are supposed to guard bigs and when there’s some breakdowns there is supposed to be help. It’s a team defense. 

We’ve had our problems in that area. Those are things that were trying to correct because if we do it right, and we have … it works. I’ve just got to get us going a little bit more consistently.

There was one problem, though: After Woodson made those comments, the Knicks kept switching on screens…sometimes. Because of that indecision, guys often ran to the wrong spots on defense. It wasn’t uncommon to see one Knick switch and the other continue to defend the same man, leaving a dribbler, a screener, or an off-ball cutter wide open. And on the whole, the team continued to switch indiscriminately on picks.

This strategy can work on certain rosters. You need athletic, versatile and intelligent defenders who are capable of guarding both bigs and wings. But the Knicks, whose big men last year had questionable court awareness and whose guards struggled to fight through screens and find the right spots to defend on the court, didn’t have that sort of flexibility.

Want to set a defense up to fail? Take a group that communicates poorly and put them in a system that relies on communication more than anything else.

Thus was the problem with the Knicks. But some of that can change this year, even though Derek Fisher’s team has probably downgraded its defensive talent after trading Tyson Chandler away to the Dallas Mavericks

As much as Chandler struggled last season, he was still one of the Knicks’ best defenders when he could stay on the floor, and he was surely one of their best communicators. But defense is the end of the floor a coach can affect most, and Fisher has a shot to help a team that struggled with its execution last season.

We still don’t necessarily know what kind of coach Fisher will be in the upcoming season, but we did get a taste of his philosophies from the summer Knicks.

The Knicks implemented a basic ICE pick-and-roll coverage during summer league, shying away from the aggressive switching that became a Woodson staple. The strategy, possibly the most-common pick-and-roll defense in the league, drives ball-handlers to the out-of-bounds lines and lets big men comfortably sag back.

As Knickerblogger’s David Crockett (no, not that Davy Crockett) wrote in July, a more traditional man defense will probably be in the cards for this team:

Keep in mind that you’re likely to see pretty vanilla defensive scheming in Summer League for any number of reasons. So, a switching fetish is not out of the realm of possibility once the season starts and Calderon starts yelling “Git that!” at the sight of the first high ball screen. But still, based on what I’ve seen in a game-and-a-half my impression is that Fisher’s Knicks will play a fairly traditional man defense.

Guards will be expected to stay with their assignment, fighting through screens and such. Bigs will still help on drivers, but without the incessant auto-switching. The team has added Sam Dalembert, Jason Smith, and (technically) Cole Aldrich and Melo through free agency and trade. Add STAT and Bargnani to the frontcourt. Then take away Tyson Chandler. That’s a strong signal that the team will play pretty traditional man.

Still, the Knicks don’t really have the personnel to execute many of these sets to an elite degree. 

How many distinctly above-average defenders does this team have? Iman Shumpert? Cole Aldrich, who has never averaged double-digit minutes a night in his career?

Samuel Dalembert—acquired in the Chandler trade—is capable. So is Jason Smith. And other than that, there isn’t anyone expected to be in the rotation who has shown an ability to guard on a consistent basis.

Lineup combinations are going to mean as much for defensive performance as anything else. The Knicks probably need a big who can defend on the floor at all times.

Bold statement, right?

Last year’s lineups were a little funky at times. Pre-Andrea Bargnani injury, the Knicks would often leave themselves without a rim-protector on the floor, playing Bargs at the 5 and pairing him with Carmelo Anthony or even Amar’e Stoudemire, who still has offensive value but is a revolving door in pick-and-roll defense. Those units yielded disastrous results. 

If the Knicks continue to play Bargnani at the 5, the defense will probably struggle, even though his skill as a post defender can be overly criticized. The Italian doesn’t have mobility in the open court and tangles his ankles up off the ball like he’s tripping over shoelaces. 

That’s how the Knicks allowed 107.0 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor last season. The problem increased even more when Stoudemire, another non-defender, shared the court with him. The Knicks gave up a whopping 112.6 points per 100 possessions in those scenarios. 

Let’s put that in perspective.

NBA.com team statistics date back to the 1996-97 season. If strung out over a full season, a 112.6 defensive efficiency would be the worst for any team over that stretch.

Lineup choices could make or break this team. It’s partly why, as I wrote about last week, Aldrich might deserve more minutes on this roster than he’s ever received in the past.

With a new philosophy, the Knicks can get better. But even if this becomes one of the best-coached teams in the league, the Knicks non-defensive roster puts a relatively low ceiling on their ability to guard.

 

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com, WashingtonPost.com or on ESPNTrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of Aug. 28 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com

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Who Should Start at Power Forward for New York Knicks in 2014-15?

Throughout the 2013-14 campaign, “Carmelo Anthony at the 4” became a rallying cry for fans of the New York Knicks, desperate as they were for some silver bullet capable of turning their team’s wayward season around.

But while Melo was able to use his new positional dominance to author arguably the two best seasons of his 11-year NBA career, the Knicks themselves sputtered to a playoff-less stall.

Now, with a new triangle-inspired regime at the reins and Anthony’s offseason regimen yielding a distinctly small forward frame, the question is bound to be raised anew: Who, exactly, should be New York’s starting 4 come opening night?

As currently constituted, the roster features five legitimately viable candidates: Andrea Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudemire, Jason Smith, Quincy Acy and Anthony.

Out of that group, Stoudemire seems the most likely candidate to come off the bench. Not because his past production warrants it, mind you, but rather because Stoudemire’s significant injury history will likely compel head coach Derek Fisher to adopt a minutes-management approach similar to the one previously used by Mike Woodson.

Unless, of course, Fisher and his staff take the opposite approach, namely using Stoudemire as often as they see fit, why with the former All-Star forward’s contract set to expire at the end of the season. Still, given STAT’s strong finish down last year’s stretch, limiting his minutes makes the most sense for all involved.

That Stoudemire remains one of the most woeful one-on-one defenders for his position anywhere in the league all but seal’s his fate on this front.

Bargnani presents a similar strategic conundrum: Is Fisher willing to live with the Italian forward’s woeful D for 30-plus minutes per game? Considering he authored far more efficient stretches at the 5 than at the 4 a season ago (per 82games.com), it seems Bargnani—likewise an expiring contract—would be best suited either as the starting center or one of the first bigs off the ‘Bocker bench.

For all his grit and gusto, Acy, whom the Knicks acquired along with Travis Outlaw in an August 6 trade with the Sacramento Kings, isn’t exactly starter material, having failed to tally more than 14 minutes per game in each of his first two NBA seasons.

Next up is Smith, whom the Knicks inked to a one-year deal on July 18. Good but not great, steady but not spectacular, Smith stands as a viable—if not overly exciting—power forward option. The reason: His offensive versatility makes for an intriguing fit in the triangle, geared as it often is toward the very mid-range jumpers Smith has made a career calling card of sorts.

Here’s Posting & Toasting’s W. Scott Davis:

Midrange jumpers and deep twos aren’t exactly the favorite shots of modern offenses, but in the Triangle, Smith’s ability to can those looks could be helpful. Whether he’s acting as a center or power forward next to guys like Dalembert or Aldrich, Smith can space the floor, stretch a defense, and potentially open up other looks on the perimeter or inside.

Which brings us back to Anthony. Pitted against the aforementioned names, Anthony would seem a no-brainer as the Knicks’ starting 4.

However, as ESPNNew York.com’s Ian Begley recently posited, New York’s triangle transition could mean a decreased emphasis on the game’s traditional positional taxonomy:

That positional argument, though, may be less relevant this season because of the triangle. Anthony will be asked to take on a different role in the triangle and his function will be different as a small forward this season than it was last year in Woodson’s offense. Also, in the triangle, each player on the floor may be asked to fill multiple roles on the offense and may not be locked into a traditional position at all times. So the bigger issue this season will be who Anthony shares the floor with and which role he’s asked to fill in the triangle.

From New York’s perspective, what position Anthony plays is far less important than where he chooses to operate in Fisher’s system.

Speaking to ESPNNewYork.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk and Begley Tuesday, Iman Shumpert—believed by many to be the team’s starting 2—echoed some of the philosophical points of Begley’s analysis:

The way it’s set up, you can start three guards, it really doesn’t matter. Everybody’s going to get touches, everybody gets opportunities to cut. It’s constant action going on. So I think that I’ll be able to capitalize on that and I’ll be able to use my athleticism a lot more than standing in the corner.

Still, that doesn’t mean Phil Jackson—Knicks president, triangle guru and steward of New York’s latest rebuild—doesn’t have a preference for where the golden calf gets slotted.

Indeed, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Jackson “sees Anthony more as a starting small forward this season,” with Berman positing the All-Star forward’s recent workout regimen as a reflection of that design.

For clues as to who, exactly, stands to replace Anthony at the 4, it’s instructive to look at the personnel strategy that appears to have informed Jackson’s first few moves.

Between Samuel Dalembert (acquired along with Jose Calderon in the Raymond Felton-Tyson Chandler trade), Smith, Acy, Bargnani, Stoudemire and Cole Aldrich, the Knicks have made a concerted effort to bolster their frontcourt ranks.

That, in turn, suggests Jackson might be looking to duplicating the kind of super-sized post platoon that marked much of his stint—and five championships—with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Between Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and (a healthy) Andrew Bynum, Jackson placed a high premium on the two-fold factor of size and skill. And while no one would suggest Smith, Bargnani and Stoudemire might rival that trio’s triangle prowess, the writing seems all but on the wall: Position-less philosophy aside, Anthony should be paired with the best combination of brawn and brains.

Assuming Fisher goes with either Bargnani or Dalembert at the 5, that leaves Smith, Stoudemire or Acy to man the starting 4 spot.

Of the three, Smith offers the best collection of triangle-ready skills. Which is why, as things stand today, the former New Orleans Pelican seems most likely to become New York’s full-time starting power forward.

He might not incite many cheers or sell a lot of jerseys, but on a team approaching the upcoming season as a bridge between eras, Smith—while perhaps forgettable—is by no means an unstable pier.

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