Steve Novak is a specialist.
He shouldn’t have to apologize for this. There are a lot of NBA players and athletes in all sports that are specialists. In baseball, you might have a guy who can’t really hit but is fast as hell and can be used as a pinch runner. If a certain situation presents itself, a pinch runner could change a game.
/Thinks about Dave Roberts in 2004, considers hacking off a limb
In hockey, there are some guys who are very good penalty killers and don’t really do much else. In some games that will become a big factor, in others, say when that player’s team takes only one or two penalties, they don’t have much of an impact elsewhere.
When you have a specialist on your team, in whatever sport, it’s up to the coaching staff to find the right spots in individual games to utilize his or her strength. Novak has been a Knick for two seasons now, and in both years he’s been a non-factor in the playoffs. This season he dealt with ill-timed back spasms, but even before he got hurt there wasn’t a sense that he was going to get much of a shot anyway.
That probably didn’t rub too many people the wrong way, and that’s because the general consensus around Novak this season was that he had a bad year, and if he’s not going to shoot 60% from three then he shouldn’t get a sniff of playing time. But did he really have that bad of a season?
The numbers: 20.3 mpg, 6.6 ppg, .425 3point %, 1.9 rpg
Nearly 43% from downtown certainly isn’t bad, as it registered 11th in the league during the regular season. It’s slightly below Novak’s career percentage of .433, and it was a precipitous fall from his .472 mark from the 2011-12 season. So it defintiely felt like a let down shooting year for Novak, even if it was still, statistically speaking, not all that bad.
Best moment: Probably back on November 28 when Novakaine had 19 points, going 5-of-7 from deep, and became the source of hilarity by stealing a ball at midcourt and having zero resistance, nothing in front of him, but opting for a safe layup instead of trying to dunk. “Well all have our limitations”, Novak said about his decision. Don’t we all, Stevie.
Lowest moment: Again, Novak’s inability to really make an impact in the postseason was a let down. There were certainly times during the second round series during the Pacers that seemed like Novak could help. While the Pacers were excellent at defending the 3, sticking Novak in the corner is still going to spread the defense a little thinner than if he’s not out there. Late in the series, Mike Woodson started to do this with Chris Copeland, a more versatile threat than Novak, and it worked.
All in all: It was mostly a “meh” season for Novak, but I personally don’t view him as completely useless like it seems a lot of people do. While the playoffs is where you want people to make a great impact, Novak is a solid regular-season contributor. Hit shooting ability is an asset and he helped the Knicks win some games this season because of it. And as for the defense thing, well, it’s a bit overblown, quite honestly. While nobody is going to say that Novak is a good defender, simply having him on the floor doesn’t mean the opposing team is going to suddenly break offensive records. There are stats for these types of things these days, and 82games.com tells us that the Knicks’ defense was about the same whether or not Novak was on the floor.
And it would certainly behoove the Knicks to find a way for Novak to have a bigger, more consistent impact, given that he’s owed over $10 million over the next three seasons. In today’s NBA, which is ever-increasingly revolving around the 3-point line, Novak should be able to be an asset. But the situations have to present themselves, Novak has to be put in a spot to help, and then he needs to execute.
Whether or not he gets the chance remains to be seen.