Let’s Talk About Novak

Over at HoopsCritic.com, the excellent Brian Geltzeiler runs through some under-utilized lineup configurations and comes up with this fivesome for the Knicks:Steve Novak

Kidd-Smith-Novak-Anthony-Chandler +33 in 47 minutes. This is a Knicks lineup that is susceptible to being hurt by small quick guards, but its also a good enough lineup defensively to hide a defensive statue like Novak. One of the other benefits of this lineup is that it gets Anthony on the floor at his best position, big forward. It also gives him 3 other guys who are quality 3 point shooters in Novak, Kidd, and Smith. In light of the Knicks injury issues, this isn’t a bad finishing look for the Knicks and it’s the type of unit that could get Novak more open looks because lately, he hasn’t been able to hit the broad side of a barn.

Brian DiMenna

I think there’s much to be said for this configuration, particularly since it utilizes Melo at the power forward spot and surrounds him with three-point gunners, and offers enough defensive resistance to remain competitive.

But then there’s Novak.

I am not the largest Steve Novak fan, which isn’t to say I dislike him either. Novak does one thing well, but he does it exceedingly well. The thing he’s good at also happens to give you an extra point, which is to say he shoots three pointers with the ease that some men kick paper footballs.

And yet, I consider Novak to be something of a luxury item. He’s like a nice belt. Sure, it can really tie an outfit together, but if you held up your pants with string cheese it would get the job done almost equally well. In other words, you don’t need Steve Novak, but hey, if you got him, it’s certainly worth making the most of him.

Novak’s best games usually come when everything else is going well. He’s the human embodiment of salt in the wound, where once the Knicks have broken you down in every possible way, Novak starts raining threes, flashing the championship belt and you go home wishing you hadn’t bothered showing up at all.

But can I say this about that belt? I’ve had it. I think it’s run its course. For starters, it’s culled from an insurance commercial that stars another athlete. It’s as though he just cribbed the Ickey Shuffle and tried to pawn it off as his own, something that would be … ok, well, completely awesome, but still. I’ve had my fill of the “Discount Double Check,” unless I’m going to start receiving an actual discount, or at the very least quality insurance at a reasonable rate.

Which isn’t to say I don’t like Steve Novak, I do. I’m just not entirely convinced that he is all that integral to the Knicks winning. Yes, New York is 9-1 in games where Novak scores in double digits, with the average margin of victory being over 12 points per game, but I don’t think getting him to double digits was the key to those victories. Rather, when everything else is going really well, the result is a few clean looks for Novakaine to finish the job and we all go home to a helping of mayonnaise sandwiches.

Now, there’s some reason to think I’m wrong about this, that getting Novak more involved is important. After all according to 82games.com, of the top five Knicks lineups, Novak is a part of three of them, and yet I still think I”m right (As you might expect, since it’s unlikely I’d tell you that I think something and then instantly explain why that thing is wrong). Steve Novak playing well is a symptom of winning not a cause. The Knicks don’t play well because Steve Novak plays well, Novak plays well when everything else is going to plan.

Perhaps the argument I’m making is largely a semantic one, like debating whether the ice cream or hot fudge are responsible for you enjoying your sundae, but I still think there’s a point to be made. Which is that it’s definitely nice that Steve Novak makes three-pointers, I’m just not certain whether he does or not makes any kind of difference.

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