Can Hakeem Turn Knicks’ Offense Into A Sweet Dream?

NBA Training Camps are set to open October 2nd, but our heroes in orange and blue have already gathered in an effort to build cohesion and hit the season running. Knicks reserve and sharpshooter, Steve Novak, revealed in early September that most of the team, including Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, is participating in a “pre-training camp” from September 10th until the team’s mandated one begins. This past week it was revealed that former Houston Rocket and Hall of Fame center, Hakeem Olajuwon, would be working with some of the players at the player-organized training camp. This comes after The Dream worked with Stoudemire at his ranch in Houston in August in an effort to improve STAT’s post game.

This is far from the first time Olajuwon has been sought out to help out current NBA players improve their post game. Washington Wizards center, Emeka Okafor, worked with Olajuwon during the summers of 2005 and 2006, while former Rockets center, Yao Ming, worked with Olajuwon during the 2007 offseason. Over the past three off-season’s, he has worked with Kobe Bryant (2009), Dwight Howard (2010) and LeBron James (2011). Using statistics from Synergy Sports, let’s take a look at the latter two and see if we can find differences in their post games before and after their training sessions with Olajuwon.

Dwight Howard: In the season prior to working with Olajuwon (2009-10), Howard was involved in 1,051 post-up plays in 96 regular season and playoff games played (an average of 10.9 plays per game). Of his 964 field goal attempts that season, 611 came from post-ups and he shot 52.4% from the floor in those scenarios. His 0.9 PPP (points per possession) from post-ups ranked him 67th in the NBA.

The following season, after working with Olajuwon during the summer, Howard saw a slight improvement in his post-up numbers. While his post-up shooting percentage was lower in 2010-11 (50.6%), he attempted 104 more shots from post-ups (715) than the season before and was involved in 62 more post-up plays (1113) than in the prior season, despite playing in fewer games (84). His 0.93 PPP from post-ups in 2010-11 ranked him 56th in the league, an 11 spot jump from the prior season.

Last season, Howard’s field goal percentage from post-ups again took a dip (49.9%) and his PPP was 0.88. He averaged 12.2 post-up plays per game, a drop from 13.25 in 2010-11. However, he still finished 55th in the league for PPP off post-ups. Howard did suffer from a bad back last season – one that required surgery and forced him to miss the playoffs. Might that, along with the truncated lockout schedule, have anything to do with his diminished post-up numbers?

LeBron James: Two seasons prior to working with Olajuwon (2009-10), James was involved in just 152 post-up plays in 87 games played (1.7 post-up plays per game). However, in the few times James attempted a field goal from a post-up, he was very efficient, shooting 52.9% (55-for-104) and ranking 14th in the league in PPP from post-ups (1.08). The following season was almost a mirror image of 2009-10, as James was involved in 205 post-up plays in 100 games (2.05 post-up plays per game). He shot 54.4% in post-up situations (86-for-158) and his 1.04 PPP from post-ups ranked him 17th in the NBA.

After the 2010-11 season, James had his sessions with Olajuwon and the change was evident. He was involved in 325 post-up plays in 85 games (3.8 post-up plays per game). However, while he was involved in more post-up plays than in any of the past two seasons, his field goal percentage from the post dropped to under 50% (49.4%) and his PPP of 0.94 ranked 25th in the league, 8 spots worse than the previous season. As with the case with Howard, could the drop in field goal percentage be attributed to the grind of last season’s lockout schedule or with the fact that James almost equaled his post-up attempts last season (325) from the prior two seasons combined (357)?

While Howard saw a jump in the number of post-up attempts he had in the season directly after his work with Olajuwon, his field goal percentage dropped in three consecutive seasons from the post. As for LeBron, there’s no doubt the work with Hakeem had something to do with the huge jump he had in terms of post-up usage, he shot less than 50% from there last season and saw his PPP drop as well.

So, can the Knicks offense improve with some help from The Dream? It’s hard to tell, but they will be learning from one of the greats. So while Knicks fans dream a little Olajuwon tutelage can cure the Knicks offensive blues, it’s going to take more than that to get this team running as well as the well oiled machine we all want it to be.