Being realistic, all a team needs on defense is one great player to set the tone. The Celtics, who are placed on a pedestal as the paragon of NBA defense, don't exactly have a team full of defensive savants. Ray Allen has been considered a defensive liability his entire career. Paul Pierce, as much as he is lauded for stopping LeBron and Kobe in the playoffs, has never garnered a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd team all defense selection in his career. The key to that team is Garnett. He's the guy who came in with a reputation for outstanding defense, and made everyone step their game up. My question is, why can't Billups do that here? None of the players are malcontents like they were in Denver (see Smith, JR and Martin, Kenyon), and even though he's lost a step (similar to Garnett), he has a reputation as being a great leader and was a Finals MVP on one of the best defensive teams of the last decade. If Billups can instill a sense of defensive pride in this team, they have the ability to be a very good defensive team, and they showed it last night.
Monday, February 28, 2011
The idea that this "new" New York Knicks team could not play defense always struck me as ridiculous, and fortunately last night may have put that argument to bed. To suggest that players like Amar'e and Carmelo can't play defense is ludicrous. Anyone who watches the NBA would agree that Amar'e and Carmelo are in the top 5% of athletes in the entire NBA, possibly even higher. It's not that they somehow can't transfer their prodigious athletic gifts from one end of the floor to the other, it's that they usually didn't have the "want" to. As any person who has ever played basketball knows, there are very few tricks to making defense easier. Carmelo has no equivalent of his devastating spin move on offense that can get him an easy possession on D. What does make it easier is that the concepts aren't as difficult to learn. This team is going to take several weeks to jell together offensively. D'Antoni runs a very successful but complicated system that takes a group of players weeks, if not months, to perfect. This Knicks team last night looked like they realized that for now, their individual parts are better than their whole on offense, and they needed to pick up the slack somewhere else. All of a sudden, the forwards were aggressively hedging on screens, Melo's hands started to get into the passing lanes, and switches on picks were happening with ease. And because the stars were working hard, the role players also played to their potential. Williams again put on his exhibition of guarding every spot from the 3 through the 5 effectively. Douglas and Carter frustrated the Heat guards into poor shooting nights and 9 turnovers. And on the most pivotal possession of the game, Melo played defense with his legs, forced LeBron to take an extra step on his drive, and STAT put the Heat's last realistic chance on ice (I'll take LeBron shooting a clutch three any time any day).
Posted by patguth321 at 11:14 AM
Thursday, February 24, 2011
If anybody had any delusions of watching Amar’e and Melo blow the doors off of the Garden with 30 each last night, last night was a reality check. This is an almost completely new team that were it not for a hell of a performance from Toney Douglas, would have lost the 10th best team in the Eastern Conference last night. Now I know there’s a lot that you can attribute to nerves, so I’m not going to go too deep into analysis for last night, but I feel that there are a few things that you can definitively point out about the Knicks new rotation.
The fears of Melo being a ball stopper may be founded:
Again, maybe this changes with time, and maybe you don’t really want it to change because that’s just the type of player Melo is. But it could present a problem. Clyde was especially critical of Melo on this front. The Knicks would get some good ball movement going on the offensive end, swing it around to Melo and. Post up, a few jab steps, jumper. When these are going in, it’s great, and it opens up the floor for everyone else. But there are nights like last night where Melo needs to realize that a) he’s having a tough night from the field and b) Amar’e was shooting it pretty well. Use your stature as a top scorer in the NBA to get Amar’e some good looks, and shift the attention away from you. Clyde was talking about how when played with Earl Monroe, the person who got the last shot was whoever was having the better night. That’s how this system would work in a perfect world. Whoever is having the on night should take the lion’s share of the shots, and as the defense begins to shift to them, even out the distribution.
Shawne Williams is more than a spot up shooter:
I really hadn’t taken notice of it until the last Heat game where Williams did about as good of a job on LeBron as you can do, but Williams is a terrific defender. He did everything from guarding Bogut last night, to matching up with Keyon Dooling at one point and being quick enough to draw an offensive foul. He brings the same defensive intensity that Toney Douglas does, with a swiss army knife versatility. Those two off the bench with Stoudemire-Anthony-Billups was unquestionably the best defensive lineup last night. This lineup obviously doesn’t match up well with every team (Williams obviously can’t guard Howard or Perkins). But Chicago stands out as a fit for this lineup with Williams neutralizing Noah’s quickness and Douglas on Derrick Rose.
Billups can make this system work
He’s clearly much more of a “methodical” worker than Felton, but a line of 21/6/8 doesn’t lie. You could tell he was definitely a little too hyped up for this game because all of his jumpers were long, but he hit Stoudemire with two very nice passes inside, and was flawless from the charity stripe. The offense really isn’t going to fly down the court anymore, but Billups provided the steady hand at the point everybody expected last night. He’s also the best person to get the most out of Toney Douglas as a point guard going forward, which leads into…
Toney is going to get more minutes, and that’s a good thing
Obviously not every night is going to be like last night, but I believe going forward his shooting percentages are only going to rise. He’s now playing with two players who demand double teams, and a third player who’s the best shooter we’ve had all year. Even if he’s just out on the court with 2 of those guys, Douglas is going to get more open looks. For a guy shooting 55% from the field and 46% from three this month, that can only be good. He frustrated Jennings and Dooling all night, even occasionally picking up full court. On nights where Melo or Stoudemire have it going, he could be a key factor in keeping up the defensive intensity and knocking down the open shots that used to go to Gallo (who was underperforming from three) and Chandler (who shouldn’t have been taking those shots anyways).
Posted by patguth321 at 7:57 AM
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Before I write the rest of this, I want to make this very clear. I usually, and I mean 99% of the time, do not agree with Stephen A. Smith on sports topics. For whatever reason, his takes are usually a little radical for me. And maybe I’m just saying this because it’s been such a long time since the Knicks were relevant, but I firmly believe that even with just this trade, and a big man pickup (Earl Barron or another warm body for rebounds and fouls) the Knicks can be a top 3 or 4 team in the eastern conference by the time the playoffs roll around – this year.
To combine Carmelo and Amar’e on one team is to combine two top 5 offensive talents in basketball. LeBron and Durant are the only two players you can really put ahead of them. The only devil’s advocate argument is Wade. I think Amar’e is more difficult to matchup with mainly because of the unique challenge he presents power forwards with his range. Shooting guards are a lot more comfortable with having to guard Wade in the 15-18 foot range, not a lot of power forwards can challenge Amar’e on his jumper for fear that he’ll blow by them for an easy basket and possibly a foul.
Melo is just a more efficient scorer than Wade period. Carmelo is demonstrably better free throw shooter than Wade, and over his career a much better 3 point shooter. Wade’s most effective getting his points slashing to the basket for easy layups, and he can occasionally get hot from mid range. Melo can get it from everywhere, he’s not the athlete Wade is but he’s got a much better post game and expends less energy getting his points. I also look at their ceilings. Their best months in terms of shooting percentage are December for Wade (54/40/74) where he averaged 27.9 points per game, and Carmelo’s currently blistering February (53/46/87) where he’s averaging 31 points per game.
Now, to address the losses. What the Knicks really lost was manpower. Chandler, Gallinari, Felton. They were all nice pieces, the most difficult to replace of which I still believe to be Felton because he had meshed in D’Antoni’s system so well ,and had developed a good chemistry with Amar’e. As I previously discussed, Chandler was a very hot and cold athlete who still hadn’t figured out the most efficient way to tap into his potential (driving to the basket).
I was not as upset about giving up Gallinari as most. He has shown flashes this year of getting to the basket more and taking advantage of his outstanding free throw shooting, but I truthfully don’t think his ceiling is much further up. He can be a nice spot up shooter for a good team, but nothing more, and his presence on the court took away as much on defense as it yielded on offense. His athleticism will always limit him, and I don’t think he can shoot or rebound at the level Dirk does because A) he’s just not as talented, and B) the fact that he was out for almost a full year with a back injury concerns me greatly.
Although I think Billups is a downgrade from Felton over the course of a full season, and a step slower, I’ll live with it. The Knicks do need to find a serviceable back up point guard for the rest of the season, simply because Billups is not capable of playing the minutes that Felton did. However, it was and now really is a foregone conclusion from most Knicks fans that this team will be making the playoffs. And for that time of the year, assuming both are healthy, would you rather have a 34 year old Chauncey Billups or a 26 year old Raymond Felton? I’ll take Billups every time, and last year’s playoffs provide evidence. Both guys lost in the first round with their respective teams last year but Billups averaged 9 more points and 1.5 more assists while shooting at a higher clip from the floor and the line. And in their worst games, Billups went for 17 and 11 assists in 37 minutes in a loss to the Jazz, and Felton went for 4 and 4 in a loss to the Magic. I know it’s different offensive systems, but very simply, the big players come to play in the big games, and Felton almost completely disappeared for two playoff games, while Billups’ worst outing was a bad shooting night and still a double double.
What really interests me in this deal is what the Knicks got back. I’ll say what everybody has been saying all day: getting Corey Brewer from Minnesota is a steal. Timberwolves fans, as bad as their team is, are very sad to see him go. He’s long, and had a nice year last year before regressing somewhat this year, but he gives the Knicks something they’ve been lacking. Solid off the bench defense. Everything I’m seeing on Timberwolves’ blogs say that this is a guy that works his ass off on defense and can provide some athletic fireworks and rebounding on offense.
With this roster, there’s a good chance he’s our best on ball defender. Like I said about Fields in my last post, Melo is a gifted scorer but his ceiling on defense is effective. Wouldn’t you rather not have Melo wasting his energy on the defensive end keeping up with Paul Pierce or LeBron, and focus more on what he’s great at? The same goes for Renaldo Balkman to a lesser extent. Rebounding, defense, and length giving the Knicks the ability to rest their two stars on the defensive end against most teams for stretches.
Now think, who are you afraid of in the playoffs with this team? Team by team. Atlanta has never scared me, and never will, Orlando presents a problem with Howard in the middle, Chicago relies a little to heavily on Rose for my liking, and I’ll take the Knicks at 3 of the 5 positions. Boston and Miami are both better teams who I would take in series over this team, but the 1-1a punch that we have can put a scare in them if they’re on, something the Knicks couldn’t say yesterday. Pick up Earl Barron for some depth inside (don’t discount him; 11 and 11 in April last year including a 17 and 18 gem against Boston) and you now have a team with two world class scorers, and role players more suited to our strengthening our weak areas instead of fortifying our strengths. If we get the Heat, Celtics, or Magic in the first round, maybe we get bounced after getting a game or two, or maybe we pull off something big. But if we get anybody else? That’s a win, and with a little momentum for two unbelievable scorers, who knows.
Posted by patguth321 at 1:44 PM
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
It’s 15 days away from the trade deadline, and what has been a foregone conclusion all season will hopefully be happening soon. Some terrible NY rapper will have his opportunity to remix Wiz Khalifa and make a “S.T.A.T. and Melo” song (see what I did there?) Melo wants New York, New York wants Melo, we’ve established he wants out, now we’re just bargaining on the price. But at what point does the price become too steep?
The deal supposedly on the table sends Carmelo to the Knicks in exchange for Wilson Chandler, a Timberwolves first round pick, and Corey Brewer. Anthony Randolph would go to the Timberwolves, along with Eddy Curry’s expiring contract. I think in everybody’s mind, this is a steal. Anthony Randolph looks like a kid whose dog got hit by a car at the end of the bench every game. Chandler is a nice piece, but everything he does well, Melo does better (except defend, but that can be replaced with a defensive specialist this summer-Tony Allen?) And the idea of getting rid of the guy who shows to every camp overweight by more than I way total has to be cathartic to every Knick fan.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it will go this way. Denver has been less than enamored with Chandler since the Knicks floated his name in Melo talks this summer. His very recent complaints about his ankle raise the red flag of an injury risk. He’s had three surgeries in three years, and I don’t believe that’s the only issue.
Chandler has a bad relationship with his outside shot, he can’t get away from it, and his December only exacerbated the issue. In December, Chandler caught fire and shot 43% from three, which was great in the short term because he became the 2nd scoring option we needed when Felton had off nights. But for his career, Wil is a 28% 3 point shooter, and the farther away December gets, the more his good shooting seems like an aberration. January showed a HUGE drop off, where he shot a terrible 29%. I don’t think he’s that bad, but I think that’s closer to what to expect of him than December. The most maddening part about him as a player is that he doesn’t need to shoot outside nearly as much as he does.
Anyone who’s watched a Knicks game in the past 3 years can tell you Chandler is good for at least one spectacularly athletic finish around the hoop per game. He has a deft touch on floaters and layups inside of 10 feet, and he’s an 80% free throw shooter, and yet in the 28 games he’s played from December until now, there were 10 games in which he didn’t even take a free throw. He’s depriving himself of possibly the most effective part of his game. If he’s not picking up on that in his third year in the league (whether it’s his own decision or that of the coaching staff), there’s a chance that he may not fit in this system. Combined with his injury risk, I’m fine with letting him go.
Another subject entirely is Landry Fields. With the deal as it is, if I had the choice of including Fields in the deal or rolling the dice and waiting until the summer, I would definitely opt for the latter. Fields’ closest NBA comparison in my mind is Shane Battier: the quintessential glue guy who you can be confident will not make mistakes when he’s on the floor. He was supposedly not a great 3 point shooter coming out of college, but he’s shooting 39% this year. He was not a great college foul shooter, but he shot 91% from the line last month.
Championship teams need a guy like Landry Fields. The Lakers had Ron Artest, and previously Trevor Ariza. The Celtics had James Posey and Tony Allen. You can’t underestimate the benefits of letting the guys like Amar’e, Gallo, and Felton focus on scoring and leading the team on offense, and Fields will take a load of their shoulders on the other end while being minimally invasive when they run the offense.
Fields provides everything that Melo does not, and is continuing to get better in almost every statistical category as the season goes on while Chandler is tapering off. Chandler is still neglecting the best part of his game in year 3. Fields knows his limitations in terms of what he can and cannot do, and he figured it out in less than a year. And as Spike Lee said in a recent interview, and as Fields' stats show, it's apparent that he's done work on some of his less refined areas (shooting), which is encouraging work ethic from a rookie. People need to stop thinking of Fields as a great steal, it's the wrong moniker and somewhat demeaning to the player he's become. He's a good player, and although he has some athletic limitations, I believe he can definitely surpass all of the players that I previously compared him to in terms of on court impact.
Apparently the Knicks are talking about taking on Chauncey Billups and sending Raymond Felton to Denver. I’d like to dignify this thought with no more than an “Oh please god no”, but to expound on that point, Billups is a temporary solution to a long term problem. He may have better shooting numbers than Felton, although I think the difference at the line is negligible, but he’s a full 8 years older. Billups, in his prime, played in the textbook definition of a half court offense in Detroit, and he was very good at what he did. Although in those days he was known for his defense, that has seemingly gone the same way as Jason Kidd’s formerly revered skills. It’s no fault of his own, but he’s a step slower, and putting him on the floor instead of Felton would make the starting unit even weaker on defense.
Felton’s recent struggles don’t mean that he’s not the point guard who carried the Knicks for certain games during the first quarter of the season, it means the guy is tired. D’Antoni needs to give Toney Douglas a realistic shot to prove that he can run this offense, by playing him on the floor by himself, instead of with Felton as his drivers ed teacher at the other guard spot. If he can do it, the Knicks have a very solid back up PG who has been tenacious on defense since his days in college. If not, there are plenty teams who would be willing to play Let’s Make a Deal with Donnie Walsh for TD’s services.
Trading Felton, who was a big reason why we’ve been so successful, for an aging Billups will do nothing to alleviate the Knicks guard problems. There will still be no reliable backup, and the new starter will be an older, less athletic version of the incumbent, not to mention a downgrade on defense at this point in his career. So to conclude, please James Dolan, put the gun that you’re jamming into Donnie Walsh’s back down and trust his judgment on the long term interest of this team.
Posted by patguth321 at 9:19 AM