Now that the 2013 All-Star weekend is in the books and the second half of the NBA season is starting up it is time for a deeper look into what has made the Knicks so successful and where potential improvements could be made. There is little doubt that the road to the playoffs will pass through Miami and if the Knicks are to take down the Heat in a seven game series they will need to maximize their strengths on both ends of the floor.
The biggest issue to address is if the Knicks are getting the most out of their lineups. The current starting lineup: PG – Raymond Felton, SG – Jason Kidd, SF – Iman Shumpert, PF – Carmelo Anthony, C – Tyson Chandler has been extremely effective. Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd have been in this league a long time and both have remarkably high basketball IQs. They both have a strong understanding of how to set a proper pace offensively, force defenders to switch in a way that creates mismatches and get the ball in the hands of their playmakers. Playing with two point guards will also be important in their transition defense. When teams push the ball off a missed shot the Knicks will have two players who generally stay close to mid-court. This will help them interrupt an opponent’s flow on the fast-break which is something the Knicks generally have trouble contesting.
Most importantly however, their teammates trust their instincts as floor generals and are responding. Carmelo Anthony playing the power forward position has been the biggest difference in the Knicks success. His arsenal of offensive moves seems almost limitless and is currently averaging 28.6 points per game. Keeping defensive eyes focused on him allows for other players to get high-percentage opportunities to score as well.
he Knicks starting lineup is working but is it the best lineup they have? If the Knicks believed that JR Smith could have equal production as a starter he should replace Shumpert in the lineup. Currently the lineup composed of Felton, Kidd, Smith, Anthony and Chandler has the highest +/- for the season with 97.
This +/- is also more than double the Knicks second most successful lineup. Smith is also part of all three lineups with the highest +/- on the season. Although the expression, “If it is not broken, don’t fix it” can be applied to this situation the Miami Heat limit the truth behind it. Just because the Knicks lineup has been successful it does not mean that it will be enough for a run to the Finals when that run is likely to pass through Miami. Smith is averaging career-highs in points, rebounds and assists and his quickness makes him a huge help on the defensive end as well. Experimenting with Smith in the starting lineup may be something worth trying, but at the very least his minutes should be slightly increased.