Wednesday, November 14, 2012



5 games is too small of a sample size to get crazy, but it looks like Glen Grunwald and Mike Woodson knows what they are doing.  Here are 5 reasons the Knicks roster will allow this team to make some noise in the playoffs this season.

1) INTERIOR DEFENSE. Tyson is the reigning DPOY and second best interior defender in the league (Dwight Howard).  However, if the Knicks plan to keep him healthy and effective all year, he will have to play 25-28 minutes a game.  Once Rasheed and Camby are in shape and can run up and down the floor for extended minutes, the Knicks defense will be tough to grind down in the paint even with Tyson on the bench.  These 3 players are accountable, and with Mike Woodson's direction, will make sure the other interior defenders (Melo/Amare) stay consistent for 48 minutes.  

2) PERIMETER PLAY.  Brewer, Melo, Felton, Kidd, Smith, and Pablo are very versatile in regard to the different backcourt and wing match-ups the Knicks will need to defend across the league.  Throw Shumpert into the mix and the Knicks can really match up against any offensive juggernaut in this league with their depth and versatility.  Furthermore, this group of 5 or 6 guys (NOVAK) that can knock down 3s, not including Melo, which will stretch defenses and allow Melo to have room to utilize his skill set.

3) PG ROTATION.  Prigioni is playing better than anyone expected.  He's a savvy vet that plays sneaky defense, doesn't turn the ball over, and may even be able to knock down an open jumper.  Ray Felton is a field general that will give the Knicks every ounce of energy he can muster.  He can run the pick and roll, shoot the ball at times, and keep the offense flowing in a way Jeremy Lin never could.  He defers to Carmelo but is not afraid to take shots at the right time, and has the respect of every member of this veteran locker room. Jason Kidd knows how to win games down the stretch and keep the ball moving.  The best 5 on the floor at the end of game includes both Felton and Kidd. The intangibles that Kidd brings at the end of the game seemed to keep Melo and the rest of the team confident in their offensive system.  His contribution does not show up on the stat sheet, but will prove to be invaluable to the Knicks all season long.  

-Melo can score more effectively than anyone else in the league in spurts.  He had 5 points on two possessions that essentially allowed the Knicks to control the flow of the game.  The scary thing is he can sustain that type of production for 10-15 minutes at a time (see 2012 Olympics).  The Knicks can have a great flow on offense and defense, which is due to the savvy veteran presence across the board.  This bodes well for them in big games because teams play defense the entire way through and these vets will allow Melo to focus on the prize.  When he got T-ed up, he was arguing a bad call that warranted some questioning.  In previous years, Melo would lose focus or use the anger as motivation.  Leaders like Rasheed Wallace, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, etc. will keep Melo in the zone that the Knicks need to win big.  When Melo is hot, he can score with ANYBODY in the NBA and that's exactly what the Knicks need in tight games down the stretch.

-JR Smith is extremely streaky on offense.  IF JR was off tonight, the Knicks would have fallen behind in the 2nd and 3rd quarter after the initial surge in the first half.  I love his intensity on D, but he will go 1-12 at some point.  He's a great young player that should be a big part of the Knicks DEEP rotation for the next few years (until he becomes too expensive for the Knicks' cap).  However, the fact remains that if the Knicks want to win when Melo and JR are both off, they will need to find another way to score points.

-For the majority of the first three quarters of tonight’s game, the Knicks offense was having trouble keeping up with Orlando's hustle.   The Knicks have 9 guys that would start on the Magic, not including STAT and Shumpert.  JR Smith carried the Knicks before passing the baton to Carmelo in the 4th quarter.  If the Knicks want to contend for the 1 or 2 seed and home-court advantage in the playoffs, they need a consistent identity on offense.  This should essentially be running the pick-and-roll with Felton and Chandler.   Bottom line, if the Knicks can run the pick-and-roll with Felton and Chandler (and Amare when he comes back), defenses will have to choose between Melo operating in isolation or leaving the Knicks 3 point shooters open.  Glen Grunwald has done a great job of stacking the Knicks bench with shooters like Novak, Kidd, Rasheed (it will come), and more.

5) R E S P E C T.
-The difference between this year and last year is that this team's locker room does not have a polarizing figure like Jeremy Lin at the center.  These savvy veteran components of the Knick's locker room is not focused on next year's contract as much as they are on tonight's game.  Melo trusts the group of veterans that serve as the team's role players, which benefits them in two crucial ways.

-On the floor, Melo has faith that people will be in the right place and he will get the ball enough; therefore he will be able to isolate his focus on getting into a scoring groove and grinding down defenses with his extremely unique skill-set on offense.  Melo can score in more ways than anyone in the league because he's a fairly consistent shooter, can grind in the post, and uses the combination to draw fouls with a variety of head and body fakes that nobody else in the league has in their repertoire.

-Off the floor, the other veterans (Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby, etc) can teach the younger players (Iman Shumpert and JR Smith in particular) how to act as professionals and stay consistent in practice all year long.  Carmelo will be a key component of this leadership group, but the fact of the matter is that this team has a number of leaders that will keep everyone in check.

-Boston, Philly and Brooklyn.  Although they may not be as deep as the Knicks, Boston's first 7 players in their rotation are as good as any in the East.  Despite two convincing victories so far, the 76ers are factors and the Knicks are not miles ahead of them.  The Nets will take a bit of time to reach their potential, but once they put it together they will be a force.  The Atlantic division is stacked.

-Miami is the clear cut best team in the East and it is not possible to argue anything else until they get knocked off in the playoffs

-Chicago will be great again if Rose comes back. Big IF

-Western Conference is incredible.  OKC, LA, and the Spurs are elite; the Knicks are currently not in their class

-How is Amare going to fit into the equation?  His ego will have to be managed but he can be extremely effective running the pick and roll with Felton and is solid mid-range shooter.  As this situation develops, Mike Woodson will have to devise some sort of plan to keep him happy.  That being said, his happiness should not decrease the efficiency of their offense as a whole.

Thursday and Friday the Knicks are in San Antonio and Memphis, who are not comparable to Orlando. If the Knicks play like they did for the first 3 quarters of tonight’s game at all, they will get smacked.  To take an even higher-level view, we can't really tell how good the Knicks will be for another 15 or 20 games.  However, this is 6 game run coming up is a litmus test for a 5-0 Knicks team; 5 games on the road and 4 or 5 of the teams have the ability to make noise in the playoffs.

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