Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Knicks can be good.

         Until the Knicks made the deal for Melo this past season, I wasn't a fan of Mike D'antoni's. I didn't think he had the defensive know how to make the Knicks truly successful. But give credit where it's due. He took a bunch of players, add one Amar'e Stoudemire and a Raymond Felton, and he delivered a fun to watch, dangerous ball club. They were dangerous, not only because of Stoudemire's MVP like first half, but because on any given night Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari could step up and be that X-factor. Felton developed a great chemistry with his players and played like an all star point guard. They all fit into Mike D's system. That's all changed.

         Add Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups and you should automatically be better, right? That wasn't the case. Donnie Walsh doesn't like to make wholesale changes mid season and disrupt a team's chemistry, and he was right. Billups never meshed with Amar'e. The pick and roll that Felton effortlessly executed was gone. Stoudemire became stagnant. The free and easy looks at the rim were gone. Sure he was a bit run down from the minutes he played early on. But he also just wasn't getting to the spots where he could be dangerous again. Melo's shot selection also left a lot to be desired. It wasn't all his fault. Mike D loves the three. Melo is good enough to hit it, but that isn't his game. The loss of Chandler and Gallo was huge. Speed and the ability to spread the floor was gone. The Knicks acquired the type of player you need to get should they ever become available. But they opened up new holes.

         Looking forward, a new CBA and a potential lockout can have a huge effect on the Knicks future. Adding a Chris Paul to form a big three might not be possible. We need to look at the Knick's strengths. In Amar'e they have one of the most dominant low post players in the east, maybe the league. He's strong, quick and agile. He can also shoot the ball very well. Over on the wing you have potentially the most dangerous mid range shooter in the game. Melo's game from 18 feet is scary dangerous. But coming over to the Knicks, on many nights we did not get to see that aspect of his game. In the post he's just as dangerous. He overpowers many of the players that guard him and he's quicker. Forcing him to play beyond the arc is simply stupid. What these two need is a coach and a system that can make them more efficient. Moving without the ball, a system based on ball and player movement (something that Miami sorely lacks with the ball in Lebron's and Wade's hands 90% of the time). A system that puts these two offensive juggernauts into their comfort zones. The blueprint for this exists. It's called the triangle. It started with Michael Jordan coming around curls for open mid range jumpers. Use of footwork and back picks for open looks. And of course operating out of the low post. The blueprint was then molded to work with two offensive stars. Kobe and Shaq, but more appropriately Kobe and Gasol. Mobile, quick players with many weapons. The mid range games, the low post ability, it's all been done before. Surround them with actual shooters to spread the floor. Last year the Knicks took everyone and had them shoot the three. They wont get away with that two years in a row. Role players who have great fundamentals and who know their roles. Phil Jackson wouldn't hurt either. You do not need a long term commitment from him. You didn't sign Amar'e to win seven years from now. The Knicks need to win now. Phil has always been one to live in the moment, a man who loves the journey and would see coming to the Knicks as his career coming full circle. It's not out of the question.

          Offense alone will not make the Knicks contenders. They still lack a serviceable big (Marc Gasol?). They need a quality ball handler in the mold of a Lamar Odom or Andre Iguodala. They can also wreak havoc on defense. They can add reliable outside shooters. The Knicks hope that last year's surprise rookie standout Landry Fields casts aside his end of season struggles and develops tremendously over the off season. Chauncey Billups also needs to put aside his game and develop one that fits this team. He is aging, his healthy will always be in question, and his athleticism is fading. A serviceable backup wouldn't hurt either. The Knicks have the potential to be good. The NBA needs them to be good. The front office just needs to be very intelligent with their next few moves.

Daniel Mazler

Twitter- @DMazzle

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