The Knicks’ slow starts are no longer a trend, but a trait. Since beginning the season in near-dominant fashion, running out to an 18-5 record, the Knicks are just 14-14. Though many of their problems have stemmed from injuries and having to work new players in and out of the rotation, the Knicks have been pretty consistently out of rhythm since 2013 rang in, and Mike Woodson has found few answers to solve their arrhythmic play.
These problems could be traced back to Carmelo Anthony’s various absences, Jason Kidd’s gradual deterioration, Raymond Felton’s month-long absence, the continual injury bugs plaguing Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby, the rotational additions of Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, and the up-and-down play of J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, and Ronnie Brewer. Piled on over the course of a month and a half, these problems add up, and it’s showed in the Knicks’ play.
For awhile, the team was executing nicely on offense, but struggled mightily to get stops on defense. In the last game before the All-Star break, the Knicks smothered the Toronto Raptors’ offense, but couldn’t figure out a way to score the ball, shooting just 35% from the field and 36% from three-point range. Last night against the Indiana Pacers, arguably the most embarrassing loss of the season, the Knicks took a collective dump on the floor, shooting 33% from the field, 17% from downtown, and giving up 125 points to the seventh least efficient offense in the NBA.
It’s safe to say the Knicks are in a state of total ineptitude.
Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, with Ronnie Brewer no longer on the team, and no new roster additions on the radar, here are some lineups I’d like Mike Woodson to consider (assume Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace are still injured and out of the rotation):
1.) Raymond Felton – PG, Jason Kidd – SG, J.R Smith – SF, Carmelo Anthony – PF, Tyson Chandler – C
This above lineup has actually seen the court for a lot of minutes this season – 189, according to NBA.com’s lineup data. It doesn’t involve many changes from who the Knicks have been starting recently, but the one change is a fairly big one: moving J.R. Smith to the starting lineup.
Smith has been fairly productive as sixth man this year, and while moving him to the starting lineup may ruin his credentials for the award (he’s not going to get it anyway), it could potentially benefit the team. The above lineup has been very productive throughout the season. At first it would appear that their positive numbers may still be bolstered from the hot start in November and December, but in fact, this unit has been performing well all season long, even during this lackluster beginning to 2013.
In 47 minutes from January 1 to present day, the lineup of Felton, Kidd, Smith, Anthony, and Chandler has averaged an Offensive Efficiency of 128.6 and a Defensive Efficiency of 93.4 for a Net Rating of 35.2 (!!!). Furthermore, they shoot 47.6% from the field and 41.7% from deep., while allowing opponents to shoot just 39.8% from the field and 13.3% from deep. For the season, the efficiency numbers for this group has been producing at equally productive levels. In 189 minutes together for all of the 2012-13 season, they have an Offensive Efficiency of 122.4 and a Defensive Efficiency of 94.5.
This unit has been producing at incredible levels so far in 2013, and while Mike Woodson has been dead-set at keeping Smith as a bench player, the Knicks could potentially turn their fortunes by starting these five players.
2.) Raymond Felton – PG, Jason Kidd – SG, Steve Novak – SF, Carmelo Anthony – PF, Tyson Chandler – C
This lineup actually has the best Net Rating of any five-man unit that’s played more than 24 minutes on the season. While their sample size is small – just 30 minutes – their Net Rating of 54.3 comes from an Offensive Efficiency of 147.4 and a Defensive Efficiency of 93.1.
Jason Kidd has been ineffective all month, and Steve Novak has been streaky all year, but perhaps both players could benefit from each other’s presence; Kidd gives Novak a second playmaker (who is quite excellent at swing passes), while Novak could space the floor even more for Kidd to possibly get some rhythm back in his shot. Likewise, both players could benefit from the defensive attention that Carmelo Anthony draws, and from the attention given to the Felton-Chandler pick-and-roll.
Their solid defensive efficiency numbers would likely drop, because they’ll be replacing Shumpert with Novak, but thus far this season, the unit has defended capably, and their offense may be great enough to overpower any defensive shortcomings.
2.) Raymond Felton – PG, Iman Shumpert - SG, Chris Copeland – SF, Carmelo Anthony – PF, Tyson Chandler – C
The above lineup looks a little funky because it’s never been on the floor this season, at least according to NBA.com’s lineup stats. Initially, it seemed like a good idea to include Ronne Brewer in the lineup to replace Shumpert, but Brewer is packing his bags for Oklahoma City, so Shumpert will remain in the lineup.
The above lineup accomplishes three things: it keeps the three staples of the Knicks’ starting five, Felton, Anthony, and Chandler, in their respective positions; it moves Iman Shumpert back to two-guard, as he’s had very little success playing small forward; and it removes Jason Kidd from the starting lineup, where, for the most part, he’s been a non-factor in recent weeks. Meanwhile, it puts Chris Copeland in at small forward, and gives the Knicks a little more offense.
The stats support Copeland as a starter, or at least a regular contributor, to a degree. Copeland has only started six games this season, in which the Knicks have gone 3-3. In those six games, Copeland averaged 13 points, 3 rebounds per game, and shot 53% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc. In games where Copeland has played 10 minutes or more, the Knicks have gone 10-6.
The above lineup would remove an ineffective Jason Kidd, and move him to the bench where he could play against lesser quality opponents; it would move Iman Shumpert back to two-guard where he’s more comfortable, and could better help the Knicks’ weak perimeter defense; and it would give the Knicks an additional scorer who can create off the dribble and spread the floor in Chris Copeland.
Get to it, Woodson! Give these lineups a try!