It’s October again, and we’re two weeks away from the NBA season. One of the most controversial and consistently bad teams of the 21st century has another rollercoaster season ahead of them. There are many expectations and misconceptions going into this upcoming season for the New York Knickerbockers. Due to the fact that I spend more time watching Knicks film
and less time partying than J.R. Smith, I have decided that I am the perfect specimen to straighten some things out:
What starting lineup will Derek Fisher come up with?
The starting lineup for the Knicks is going to change constantly all season, and you can credit that to inevitable injuries, and inconsistency. What I’m curious to see, and what everyone should be looking for, is their crunch time lineup, in other words, the lineup that plays during close games at the end of the 4th quarter. Our new beloved coach, Derek Fisher, has a tricky job ahead of him in figuring out the best five players that can produce together when it matters the most.
This is such a hard task to accomplish because coach Fisher isn’t playing NBA 2k15. In NBA 2k15, I just put the five most talented players on the court together, and I dominate. In real life it’s not about putting the best players together, it’s about putting the best fit together.
I would put Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, and Samuel Dalembert as my crunch time lineup. This lineup is NOT my prediction, but rather what I think is the best lineup possible. This is a good 3-point shooting lineup that can run in transition and although it’s not the greatest defensive lineup ever, it’s really tough to find five guys on this team who defend well and won’t hurt you on the offensive end. The locks for crunch time are Calderon and ‘Melo, that I can guarantee. The rest is up in the air.
Everyone needs to shut the hell up about the Triangle Offense.
President Phil Jackson has implemented the triangle offense for the Knicks to run this upcoming season. The triangle offense is a motion-based offense that helps players get easy off-ball buckets. Although the triangle has been a historically great offense that has led Phil Jackson to winning 11 championships, and moving the ball will help the Knicks’ half-court offense, ball movement is not even close to the Knicks’ biggest issue.
I know what you might say, “Last year the Knicks ran an isolation-based offense. The ball was stagnant, and if Carmelo didn’t score, they lost!”
Newsflash: If Carmelo SCORED they lost!
One may argue again, “The championships don’t lie, Phil Jackson has proven this offense is the key to winning.”
Okay, well what did the Phil Jackson Bulls and Lakers have in addition to the triangle offense (besides having Jordan, Kobe, Pippen, Shaq, Rodman and Gasol)? A superior, and suffocating defense that the Knicks will not come close to having this season.
Everyone is quick to forget that the 2012-2013 Knicks won 54 games. The 2012-2013 Knicks ran a Mike Woodson isolation-based offense. So how come it worked two years ago, and last year they got destroyed?
According to http://www.teamrankings.com/nba/stat/defensive-efficiency?date=2013-06-20 , the 2012-2013 Knicks ranked 13th in defensive efficiency in 2012-2013. That’s slightly above the league median, and the Knicks ended up being the second best team in the Eastern Conference.
Fast forward to the 2013-2014 season: the Knicks ranked 23rd in defensive efficiency. No one can say it better than Walt “Clyde” Frazier: “Defense creating offense.” It’s simple, the more stops you get, the more likely you score on the fast break. Defense is so important, and that is why I hope guys like Jason Smith and Quincy Acy outplay Amar’e and Bargnani (by the way, Amar’e and Bargnani will make a combined 35 million dollars this season).
If Coach Fisher wants to get a stop on the defensive end, he should put in Calderon, Shump, ‘Melo, Jason Smith, and Dalembert. This lineup is the best possible defensive production that Fisher can get out of this Knicks squad, leaving Calderon as the only weak link.
Shump would guard the opposing teams’ best wing guy. Although Shump had a sub-par defensive season, that was only off the ball, working with Woodson’s switch-heavy defensive scheme. Shump has always proven to be a great on-ball defender with his long arms and quick feet. With proper guidance, he can be one of the top wing defenders in the league.
Carmelo can guard the next best wing guy; anyone who says that Carmelo Anthony is a bad defender does not watch games and listens way too much to the media. Carmelo is underrated on defense and consistently makes plays on the ball. He’s not a stud by any means on the defensive end, but I would safely categorize ‘Melo as an above average defender.
Jason Smith is a guy whom I haven’t watched enough of yet, but I’ve loved what I’ve seen so far this preseason. He can contest at the rim, and he is smart against the pick and roll. He actually understands how to hedge and still return to his man during a pick, which I have never seen Amar’e or Bargnani do in their lives. In plain English, this means that during a pick, Jason Smith can effectively contain the ball-handler from driving to the lane, and then run back to his man without leaving an open lane to the basket, thus, making that pick useless. Not to mention he has a consistent 15 foot mid-range jumper, leaving just enough space to allow ‘Melo to create on the offensive end. It’s still very early, but I don’t think it’s crazy to say Jason Smith is the Knicks’ best two-way big man.
I don’t need to go into as much detail into Dalembert’s ability to play defense, as he’s made a living off his defense and rebounding for over a decade. Dalembert is without a doubt the Knicks’ best interior defender. My only concern with the 6’11 shot blocker is his health, but that’s my concern with literally every big man on the Knicks, so I can’t single out Dalembert on that aspect.
I don’t mean to bash on Amar’e, because his injuries have set him back, but at the same time you have to factor in how bad of defensive player Amar’e truly is. He can have a good offensive game and is guaranteed to have a bad defensive game. For every highlight block he makes, he blows a rotation at least twice as much.
As for Bargnani, he’s guaranteed to disappoint you on both ends of the floor.
It’s safe to say that the Knicks are not winning a championship this season, so what’s the plan?
This summer, the Knicks invested 124 million dollars into a top three scorer in Carmelo Anthony. Over the last couple of years, Knicks owner, James Dolan, thought it was a good idea to build a top three scorer with… scorers. The good news is that Dolan will be focusing more on his singing career this season, and allow Phil Jackson to do his job. Expect Jackson to try to get rid of Amar’e, Bargnani and J.R. this upcoming season and make room for defensive minded players.
Amar’e and Bargnani, once again, combine for 35 million dollars this season, but they are expiring contracts, so during the trade deadline, teams will be interested in trading for their contracts. J.R. Smith, on the other hand, still has 12 million left for the next two years. Granted, he has the option to opt out his last year, but I doubt he will, as no team wants a player who has such incredible inconsistencies both on and off the court for more than what he’d get paid if he were to opt into his final year. I can only hope that he has a good season, not only for the Knicks’ success, but also because he’s in a contract season and I hope a poorly managed team like the Nets or 76ers will sign the blunt smoker to an even dumber deal than what the Knicks signed him to.
Next offseason the Knicks will be making a run for former defensive player of the year Marc Gasol, but I expect the Grizzlies will resign him. If the Zen Master can successfully build a defensive juggernaut around Carmelo Anthony, it will be obvious that he is the second coming of Jesus Christ or maybe just the implacable Buddha.
The Knicks are playing in a horrible Eastern Conference, so how much does defense actually matter in the regular season? We’ll see. With Jose Calderon providing a major upgrade from Raymond Felton at the point, the Knicks should reach the sixth to eighth seed on the playoff ladder.
One thing I promise:
Clyde is going to say “Knicks with the Swiss Cheese D” a whole lot this season.