One of the most interesting plays of the Knicks first preseason games was when Steve Novak dribbled up from the three point line and attempted a floater that rattled in and out. Without any context, this seemed like a meaningless play in a preseason game, but for Knicks fans, the play certainly elicited a response. Many of these responses were imploring Novak to never do such a thing, to stick to what he does best. So does this mean Steve Novak should only shoot three pointers?
It is an interesting conundrum; if Novak only shoots threes, he is one dimensional, but if he tries something new, he should stick to his comfort zone. Obviously, the Knicks do not want Novak handling the basketball, but at what point does he become too predictable. There are some that would argue his struggles in the playoffs were due to his lack of versatility. This premise fails to recognize the length and team speed of the Miami Heat, as well as the lack of point guard penetration for the Knicks. Ultimately, fans should have expected Novak to struggle against the Heat, especially when the Knicks were down to relying on Mike Bibby to run the show, who was no more than a below average spot up shooter.
Still, Novak’s struggles in the playoffs bring up an interesting debate: is Novak unplayable when he doesn’t hit his three point shots? The answer could very well be yes. An important part of this discussion is that he lacks a true position. Novak does display good effort defensively, but he often lacks the athleticism to compete with small forwards and the strength to compete with power forwards. His lack of strength not only hurts him defensively, but also in terms of rebounding, with a rebounding rate of just 5.9% this past season.
The question is, though, at what point do you stop playing Novak. Yes, he has only one dimension, but he may be the best in the league at that one dimension. Furthermore, the only period of the year where Novak was truly shut down was the aforementioned Heat series. Ultimately, Novak brings a dimension to the Knicks offense that they otherwise do not have and cannot afford to lose. While he did get shut down by the Heat, the fact that the Heat did have to gameplan to stop Novak should show that he is an important part of this team. Playing Novak definitely makes the Knicks a better team, so they have to hope that he does not get shut down like he did during the playoffs.
Still, it is not out of the question to whether Novak has reached his ceiling as a player. Can he really be a better three point shooter than he was last season? After all, he did lead the league in three point percentage. No one can truly expect him to do better than that. And if people do not want him attempting to do other things on offense, then there is limited room for growth. Where Novak can grow, however, is defensively. Novak’s limited defensive skills can, in many ways, be attributed to a lack of playing time. The hope is that as he plays more, Novak will become competitive defensively, but that remains to be seen.
Steve Novak has been a fan favorite since joining the Knicks, but it is important to note that he is no longer just an out-of-nowhere, minimum salary player. He is now under a four year contract and is expected to play a significant role for this team. It will be interesting to see how Knicks fans will react if Novak continues to show limitations, even if he is knocking down the three point shot.