Every week, Dave Nowinski will be taking a look at the team’s coaching performance. There’s not too much left to be said about Mike Woodson’s season, but Dave will also keep us updated on what’s sure to be a transformative offseason. Here’s how Woody fared last week:
Mike Woodson had a stellar week of coaching. The Knicks were able to beat three playoff teams (Raptors, Bulls, and Nets). With Phil Jackson ardently watching these games, the final part of the season is Mike Woodson’s audition for coming back as head coach. Unfortunately, the past three games will not provide Woodson any relief from the coaching hot seat. The Knicks had an impressive week of basketball, but to adequately analyze Mike Woodson’s coaching acumen, it is necessary to review his performance over the whole season.
Mike Woodson’s offensive system has provided Knicks fans with constant frustration throughout the season. Instead of modifying the drive and kick offensive system to the talents of the roster, he has been determined to make it work. The system focuses on dribble drives that should lead to open threes, and possible layups. The problem with the offense has been the Knicks lack of point guard production. With point guard Raymond Felton having a disastrous year, the system is unable to succeed without his penetration. Felton is shooting under 40 percent and averaging only 5.6 assists a game. Woodson could have remedied this constant issue by relying on more set plays and scrapping the free-wheeling dribble kick offensive system.
Without penetration, there are secondary issues that arise from Woodson’s drive and kick offense. The Knicks lack of free throw shooting has been a concern that has plagued them all season. As a team, the Knicks are shooting 15.5 free throws per game, which is third worst in the league. Despite their lack of aggressiveness, the Knicks have made 76 percent of their free throws which is 13th best in the NBA. Woodson’s system depends on the three (the Knicks shoot 25 threes a game) and forgoes scoring easy baskets around the rim.
The flaws of the offensive system have hindered the development of Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. Both players had disappointing seasons. Shumpert and Smith have the potential to affect the game in multiple areas, but have instead relied on shooting threes. There reliance on three is encouraged in Woodson’s system, and helped developed bad habits in each player’s skill set. The two players shot a combined nine-plus threes a game. At their best each player is attacking the rim, and their drives open up their ability to hit threes through the flow of the offense. Woodson’s offensive principles have failed, and it has hindered the potential of Smith and Shumpert.
To be fair, Woodson’s roster has been plagued with injuries. Smith, Felton, Andrea Bargnani, and Kenyon Martin have all been hobbled with injuries and have forced Woodson to constantly shuffle the starting five. This has created chemistry issues on the court. Despite the roster limitations, Woodson’s offensive ideology has failed. His failure of coaching on the offensive end of the floor has been the ultimate detriment to the Knicks disappointing season and led them to miss the playoffs.