New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson has certainly been the topic of turmoil since the beginning of this season. After finishing last year with a record of 54 wins and 28 losses, which included an 11-4 start to the season (6-0 at Madison Square Garden), and an 8-2 finish in April, most Knicks fans were excited to see what this year’s younger squad would be able to bring to the court. Through 35 games this year the Knicks have already lost 22 games, while all of the blame can’t go on Woodson, he is one of the major reasons for this seasons slow start.
Mike Woodson’s coaching philosophies are a bit puzzling, including his constant isolation offense (which is not run through just Carmelo Anthony), his constant switching and trapping defensive scheme and in my opinion most troubling is his unwillingness to play rookies and younger players. Simply put, Mike Woodson is entirely too loyal to the veterans on his team.
We all witnessed what happened when Mike Woodson benched former 6th Man of the Year J.R. Smith against the Miami Heat on January 9th, 2014. Smith is by far having the worst season of his roller coaster career including 11.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and a PER (player efficiency rating) of 9.91. Considering the league average PER is set at 15.00, that should give you all the indication you need that Smith isn’t right this season. The question though is about if his struggles are physically, mentally or a combination of the two, but that’s a debate for another article.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert held down the shooting guard position against the Heat and they should continue to be the rotation as long as J.R. Smith is using his free time to tweet at people hating on him and untying shoelaces on the court. Now before everyone goes crazy, I’m not saying the Knicks couldn’t use Smith, but there is a reason no one else offered him a contract in free agency. As long as he is shooting the way he is now and also killing the Knicks defensively with his poor perimeter defensive effort, he should ride the pine. Why? Simple, because the Knicks have two shooting guards they can develop to take over his role if they decide to part ways with the incumbent Smith.
Iman Shumpert has been a starter for most of his time since being drafted by the Knicks in 2011. He has the athletic ability and defensive tenacity to be a very good player, if the Knicks coaching staff and brass can keep his confidence level up and keep him part of the offense. At just 23 there is no reason to think his game can’t improve.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is a player that has surprised everyone, probably even the coaching staff, with his consistent play this season. He is going through a little slump lately from behind the three point line, but he’s a spark off the bench, one that the Knicks have needed all season on the second unit. Hardaway Jr. still needs to put on some muscle, work on his defense and be better with his shot selection including getting to the rim more, but again just a 21-year-old rookie with a high ceiling.
The second part of my argument for why head coach Mike Woodson is too loyal to veteran players is the clog at the point guard position he will have once everyone is healthy. Raymond Felton is the starter for now and apparently seems to be much healthier than he was to start the year, but we know who he is as a player at this point and for all the good things he can do offensively he can be a nightmare defensively. As long as he in healthy, shooting well and contributing to ball movement he should be the starter.
Pablo Prigioni is without a doubt a fan favorite, but at 36-years-old, how long can the Knicks expect him to produce at a high level before his body eventually wares out? Beno Udrih has had an up and down season, but for the most part he has been decent offensively and struggles defensively. As a team the Knicks point guard situation looks grim when Felton is in and out of the lineup, but Toure Murry has had flashes of brilliance on the court.
When Mike Woodson puts Toure Murry on the floor with Iman Shumpert there is a noticeable difference in defense, particularly on the perimeter. Murry is a combo guard learning the point guard position, but at 6’5″ he has the size to defend the Russell Westbrook’s, John Wall’s and Rajon Rondo’s of the world, but of course he is a rookie and still learning. The Knicks most underlying issue since last season has been perimeter defense, when they play quick, speedy and taller guards they struggle to contain them. Murry needs to continue to get minutes once everyone is healthy, he is the one point guard that puts constant pressure on ball handlers.
Am I saying Murry is the point guard of the future? No, but his development could mean it’s one less position the Knicks would desperately need in the near future and he could be a nice stopgap or develop into a decent point guard.
Last but not least I’ll present an argument for big man Jeremy Tyler. Tyler made his presence known in the summer league and if it weren’t for an injury setback he arguably would have made the Knicks roster to start the season. He has since been brought back to the roster only to not see a minute of playing time since being re-signed almost two weeks ago.
Mike Woodson could be letting Tyler get some practice reps in before getting him some playing time so that he could become familiar with his teammates on the court. At 6’10″ Tyler can play either the power forward or center position. He has a decent jump shot from within 15 feet, a solid rebounder and explosive when finishing around the rim.
Two big men on the Knicks roster have been consistent this season, Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin. We all know what Tyson Chandler brings on the court, he does all the dirty work for the Knicks and is their defensive heart & soul. Kenyon Martin has done a bit of everything from blocking shots to playing some point forward. However, both have spent time injured so far.
Surprisingly the duo of Andrea Bargnani and Amare Stoudemire haven’t been injured (knock on wood). Both have had an up and down season so far as each has been a pivotal part of the offense on different nights. Both have the same issue though, they are poor at rebounding the basketball and both play very poor help defense. Those issues have plagued the Knicks all season.
Mike Woodson should insert Jeremy Tyler because he could have the same spark that Tim Hardaway Jr. and Toure Murry have brought at times this season. The Knicks have lacked explosiveness at times and don’t attack the rim nearly enough. Tyler can do both of those things. He can bring a change of pace to a font court that seems to need energy on nights that Martin and Chandler are both out.
It might be time for a youth movement for the New York Knicks. Mike Woodson usually sticks with his veterans, sometimes to a fault, but he has to learn that maybe a change in energy is all this team needs to right the ship. Hopefully all of these young players that I have previously mentioned get more time on the court other than garbage time, because taking the time to let these guys figure out the NBA game will be important, especially given the Knicks lack of future draft picks. They could be the future of the organization.