Why The Knicks Will Dominate With Carmelo Back

If you really believe the Knicks are going to struggle when Carmelo Anthony gets back, you’re likely one of the idiots who believes that having Russell Westbrook hurts the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Let me know how that works out for you.  It’s also highly probably you don’t think the Heat are title contenders.  Please note, for the record, that I don’t enjoy people like you who share asinine ideas like that.  Alas, let’s make an attempt at an insult free analysis of why the Knicks are going to be excellent when Carmelo gets back, which could happen as soon as tonight.

It is no secret that Mike D’Antoni prefers an offense that revolves around the use of the pick-and-roll.  Duh.  When Carmelo gets back that’s not going to change, most especially with the recent success they’ve had running it with Lin.  Carmelo understands this.  Expect the Knicks to still start a vast majority of their possessions with a pick-and-roll utilizing Tyson Chandler.

As you may have noticed recently, most especially in yesterday’s game against the Mavericks, teams are starting to key on Lin in order to disrupt the offensive flow.  The preferred method used by Dallas was to double team Lin as soon as he ran the first pick-and-roll.  It usually resulted in him having to pull back to reset the offense or send a long pass over to the wing where a Dallas defender was waiting to intercept.  You can see it briefly here at the 5:09 mark of this clip (no need to keep watching after ten seconds or so):

Note that Steve Novak’s defender, Lamar Odom, chooses in this instance to protect against the rolling Knicks player, Jared Jeffries.  This opens up Novak for the pass to the wing and eventually he creates an isolation bucket through a pump fake and Odom’s being off balance.  Steve Novak, in that lineup, is playing the three.  He replaced Bill Walker who was injured late last week. 

Bill Walker replaced Carmelo Anthony.

Before Lin’s emergence as an elite pick-and-roll point guard, teams that played the Knicks were keying on Carmelo because of the lack of ball movement within the Knicks half court sets.  They’d often double team him or simply rely on the low percentages that come about as a result of forced shots from isolation offense.

Now, teams will have a huge decision to make when playing against the Knicks.  Will they fall back to using a help defender to limit the game of Carmelo Anthony?  Or will they continue to double team Lin off the pick-and-roll?  This is a HUGE question that I guarantee you is driving opposing head coaches crazy right now.  On the one hand, Lin is no where near the talent of Anthony, but he has proven he can consistently kill teams on the pick-and-roll.  To not give him his proper respect might be a quick death sentence.  On the other hand though, doubling Lin means that Carmelo Anthony has a 100% guaranteed one-on-one matchup coming off the result of a cut to the ball (rather than a post up).  There are maybe two guys in the NBA who can guard Carmelo Anthony with no help, especially if they’re off balanced like Odom was in that clip.  He’s going to be a huge beneficiary of Lin’s recent success.

Another important element to point out is that the Knicks still have options when they face a team strong enough to play a standard man-to-man based defense (think: Bulls, Heat).  This point was brought up by SI’s Zach Lowe in a blog post last week.  Lowe verifies that the Knicks will still start possessions with the Lin/Chandler pick-and-roll.  However, sometimes that just doesn’t work and New York is forced to reset the possession with about 12 seconds left in the shot clock.  At that time, it’s likely not a good idea for Lin to continue to hold onto the ball and wouldn’t you know it, Carmelo Anthony is going to be the guy he passes to.  What the Knicks can then do is utilize the same tactic LeBron and D-Wade use whereby the two most talented offensive players on the floor play pick-and-roll.  Only in this case it will be Carmelo and Amar’e.  You can see what a problem this will be for teams in this video evidence:

As Grantland’s Sebastian Pruiti describes this play, “No defense would allow Anthony to come off a screen untouched, so Kris Humphries, Stoudemire’s defender, hedges hard at Anthony and traps him before he starts his dribble. This is a perfect opportunity to slip the screen, and Stoudemire, being the fantastic roll man that he is, reads it perfectly and slips to the rim with space. The result is an easy finish.”  While you might be right in wondering aloud why in the hell the Knicks don’t run this option 20+ times a game, I can guarantee you that you’ll start to see more of it in the future.

The final argument in Carmelo’s favor is that he perfectly embodies the NBA definition of a go-to scorer.  Every NBA champion in history has had one of these guys.  A simple way of describing them would be that they can score points no matter what the other team throws at them.  Good examples include Kobe, Dirk, and Durant.  As tends to be the case in playoff series, teams that succeed often have a player who can bail them out when the elite playoff defenses come out to shut down the normal flow of the offense.

Carmelo Anthony is probably the most gifted scorer in the game and so long as he’s willing to let the offense start off by flowing through Lin, the Knicks are going to be great.  I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but they actually have a roster that looks like it could contend for a title.  Carmelo is the superstar, Amar’e is the pseudo superstar who can score and rebound, Tyson Chandler is the defensive anchor, Landry Fields is an athletic wingman and an above average defender, J.R. Smith is the irrational confidence guy off the bench/sixth man, Jared Jeffries can relieve either Stoudemire or Chandler without being too much of a liability, and Steve Novak/Bill Walker can knock down open threes.  And of course all of this keys off of the distributing/unselfish play of Jeremy Lin who is more than happy to oblige.  When you throw in whatever Iman Shumpert can give you, that’s a team that has every traditional key role filled.

Holy crap.  The Knicks are title contenders.