The New York Knicks have been blessed with an extremely deep team – even Mike D’Antoni stretched his usual 8-9 man rotation – but with the playoffs starting, the rotation will shrink… The question is, who will make the cut?
Baron Davis: With Jeremy Lin still recovering from a torn meniscus, the Knicks’ roster lacks a play-off capable point guard, but luckily for Baron, he’s the closest to such a player. Baron Davis should start every game the Knicks play this postseason, but that doesn’t mean he’ll play starters minutes. Personally, I see him starting and playing 15-20 minutes, which – hopefully – will limit his reckless play and keep him fresh (Boom Dizzle is 33).
Iman Shumpert: The rookie out of Georgia Tech has impressed many in his first year. He’s been touted for his superb isolation defense – he forces turnovers on 24.3% of the isolations run on him – as well as his ability to contribute on the offensive side of the ball. While I don’t see Baron playing starters minutes, I think as long as Shumpert is free of foul trouble, he’ll play as much as humanly possible. While Lebron is a poor matchup for him – based on size – Shump could spend some time on Leborn, but most of his job will be locking up Wade. Against such a talented team, defense is key, and since Shumpert is one of the Knicks’ best defenders, expect to see a TON of him against the Heat.
Carmelo Anthony: #MeloGod. His performances throughout the month of April have had me wondering if he’s truly human. When he’s hot, he’s hot. Luckily for the Knicks, Melo has been on FIRE and hopefully that offense can continue flowing through the playoffs. Melo’s main criticism comes on the defensive side of the floor, but he also happens to play his best against Lebron James – his fellow ’03 draftee. For this reason, the Lebron – Melo matchup could become as entertaining as a heavy-weight boxing match – punches being thrown and punches being absorbed. For the Knicks to beat the Heat, Melo will have to be really, really good and given the opponent – and the timing – I think we can trust Carmelo.
Amare Stoudemire: In 2010, when the Knicks missed out on Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, they signed Amare Stoudemire. Even if Melo has taken the reigns of this team, Amare wants to win this series badly. He’s coming off of another back injury, but from what we saw against the Bobcats, he should be fine. If he can hit the mid-range jumper on offense, he’ll help space the floor. No matter if the shots falling or not, he’ll be involved on offense, but like Melo, Amare needs to have a good defensive series, which, unfortunately, I don’t know is possible. At times, one might think that a cardboard replica of STAT would be a more effective defender than Amare himself. Given the situation, I believe that Amare will step up his defense – I’m not saying he’ll be great, but I think he’ll be acceptable.
Tyson Chandler: Our Defensive Player of the Year – and probably the league’s – is as consistent as players get. He led the league in FG % with a ridiculous 67.9% (third highest in NBA history), averaged 11.3 points and 9.9 rebounds a game. Last year, when the Mavericks defeated the Heat in the NBA Finals, many would attribute the victory to Tyson Chandler, who was the anchor of the zone defense that gave Lebron James and the Heat constant fits. Tyson isn’t an offensive powerhouse, but he’s efficient. He’s a HUGE player for the Knicks in this series, as the entire defense revolves around him. I’m very confident that Tyson Chandler will step up to the plate and lead the Knicks’ defense.
Now, onto the reserves… Each one of these players is, in there own way, an X-Factor to the series.
JR Smith: Though he’s a head case, there are few players more talented than JR Smith coming off the bench. With JR, the Knicks instantly get a shot of energy and offense, as well as solid defense. Recently, JR has been playing some point guard for the Knicks, and believe it or not, he’s done pretty well. I mentioned that I don’t think Baron Davis will play too much, and JR Smith is the reason why. I think that a JR Smith – Iman Shumpert backcourt will be the most popular one, due to great defense, size and adequate ball handling. There’s good JR and there’s bad JR. As he’s an X-Factor in this series, the Knicks will need the good JR to show up against Miami.
Landry Fields: Landry, who was recently demoted to the bench, can be a very solid player, but has lost all confidence surrounding his offensive game. His shots are lasers. As soon as the ball leaves his hand, you just know it doesn’t stand a chance getting into the hoop. But, he does contribute. Landry’s a glue guy. He’ll grab an offensive rebound, run cuts, make the double-team. If Landry is able to be effective – on the offensive side and defensive side – Melo and Shumpert will be able to get some rest, which will prove valuable as the games and series continue on.
Steve Novak: Give him the ball behind the three-point line, and more often than not, the Knicks will gain three points. Novakaine has proven to be an elite shooter – possibly the NBA’s best – and could torch the Heat, considering they’re the fifth worst team defending the three. The beauty with Novak is that he only needs a split second to get his shot off. The Heat have a similar player in Mike Miller, but it would be an insult to Novak to put them in the same category. So I retract that statement. Hopefully Novak will be able to knock a few threes down every game, which could either build on momentum the Knicks have or turn the game around… One three at a time.
Jared Jeffries: Jared! He’s been out for more or less the last month rehabbing a sore knee, but he should be ready to go – with a knee brace – against the Heat. Jared does not play offense too well. The Knicks should actually try to keep the ball away from him, but he does play defense and draws charges. He’s proven to be a good backup for Chandler, as well has Amare, depending on rest schedules. There is NOTHING like Jared Jeffries drawing a charge, so I hope to see him do so against the Heat.
I think Woodson will keep the rotation at 9, unless there is some foul trouble (Bibby for guards, Harrellson for forwards/center). This team has a lot of talented players and a ton of potential X-Factors. It’s going to be a fun series with multiple variables for both teams! Let’s go Knicks!