Harris DeckerWe’ve been discussing this at great length over the last few days. The general thought is that there has to be an end to this horrible play. After all, this team isn’t constructed that differently from the team that won the Atlantic Division just one year ago. Yet, as each day passes, it seems less and less likely that the Knicks will turn things around.
At this point, I’m not even sure firing Mike Woodson would do a thing to turn it around.
Turning around this runaway ship is a tall task and it has to come from the role players. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, undoubtedly the two most talented players on this team, are doing what they can. But they can’t do it all. There are three players that can turn this around and if they want the Knicks to win, they have the ability to get it done.
Those players are Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert and Andrea Bargnani.
At key positions and with key abilities, these three playing better is the only way the Knicks season can get turned around. Unfortunately I don’t have high hopes for that to happen.
Felton’s assist numbers have trended down since his career high in ’10-’11 with the Knicks (the first time). That year, he averaged 9 assists per game. This season he’s just over 5. For a starting point guard in the NBA, this is an unacceptable number, especially with guys like Anthony and J.R. Smith on the team. Both of those guys are great scorers and even an average point guard should rack up numbers getting the ball into those hands. It might be drying up quick for Felton.
The key to Shumpert helping to turn things around is on the defensive end. He showed in years past that he can be an elite outside defender but the eye test is failing him this year. While Felton’s key is based on statistics, Shumpert’s can be seen by any pair of eyes watching a Knicks game. He is allowing players that he is guarding to shoot over 50% from the field and has been beaten badly game after game. He has the ability to be a better defender if he can get out of his own head. His offensive game has suffered this year as well but in order for the Knicks to turn things around, Shumpert needs to return to being an elite perimeter defender.
Finally, there is Bargnani. The new man on the court for the Knicks, we’ve seen a roller coaster of a season so far. There are games when you think he’s finally in the groove, hitting outside shots and even driving to the basket. The key stat for Bargnani is minutes. He’s currently playing just over 30 minutes per game and is shooting at a high percentage from both inside and outside in that time. Excelling on the pick and pop, the team tends to use this in streaks, completely abandoning it when Felton and Pablo Prigioni are out of the lineup. Per 36 minutes, he’s averaging 2 more points than per game. Essentially, he needs more minutes and more touches.
There is one other player that could be a key to turning things around. First year guard Tim Hardaway Jr. has looked impressive over his first 27 games and has broken the top 25 in a key stat. Currently, THJ ranks 22nd in the league in points per touch. When he touches the ball, only a few players score more effectively than he does. As I said last week, it’s time for his minutes to increase.