In my humble opinion people unfairly blame Carmelo Anthony for being a “ball stopper.” You hear it so much and from so many different outlets that it’s become a commonplace narrative in NBA circles. The numbers do support the idea, but I believe, until now, Melo hasn’t been put in the proper offensive system to fully utilize his skills. Is Melo most comfortable in pinch post and low block isolation sets especially late in the shot clock? Certainly. Does his career 31.7% usage and 33.1% over 4 years in New York scream iso-heavy? Sure.
But, if you take a deeper dive into the Knicks offensive strategy they play to just one of Melo’s strengths, which is when he has the ball. But the lack of support of teammates making cuts without the ball has hampered what they’re able to accomplish as a team. The design of the offense is predicated by making sure he gets a touch, but what the Knicks offense wasn’t designed to do, even Mike D’Antoni’s pick and roll and space heavy offense, was leverage cutters. That’s where The Triangle can really take Melo and the Knicks to the next level.
Stop me if you’ve seen the above. A pinch post entry that allows for Melo to go to work followed by him making the decision based on defensive reaction.
The iso would end in a nice pass to Tim Hardaway Jr., who would bury the wide open jumper resulting in a victorious possession.
Here, again, Melo posting and reading the defense. I love Shumpert attempting a cut, but the result would again be a kick out pass for a spot up attempt from Hardaway…
…which he would again bury.
The Knicks were far too reliant on the three point shooting this past season and since Melo has come aboard. They were 5th in the entire NBA last year in attempts and 6th in makes and that model creates many offensive holes. They were 28th in the NBA in both Free Throws Attempted (20.4) and Made (15.5) and when you consider Melo took 7 of those 20 FTAs it’s easy to see that the offense often got stagnant. Far too often the ball moved AWAY from the basket resulting in long, contested jumpers.
So how can The Triangle help solve the Knicks lack trategic cuts to the basket that are baked in to the principles of the offense. The first cut is actually NOT designed to free player for a simple layup, it’s designed to free a teammate cutting towards the basket. It’s called an "action zone speed cut" and it’s executed perfectly by Lamar Odom here.
The beauty of this play, specifically, is that it happens early in the possession, which is the exact opposite of what the Knicks used to do offensively. How many times did you see the Knicks get the ball to Melo in the post LATE in the shot clock? Here, the ball gets to Gasol EARLY in the clock before the defense is set and the AZSC attacks the defense before they are set.
Another subtle wrinkle cut is what’s called the "banana cut" in The Triangle. Metta World Peace executes the banana cut here:
The purpose of the banana cut is to trigger the potential reversal of the ball or the two-man game. Here, Fisher chooses to reject the pick from Gasol and reverse the ball to Kobe who can isolate straight on for an easy pull up. It’s a subtle cut but it allows space to continue and for the ball to find their best player in a great spot to square up off the dribble.
Another cut critical to continued movement within The Triangle is the “rebound screen cut” whose purposes are clearly defined by Joon Kim:
It’s called the rebound screen cut because the cut has two priorities:
First, to rebound any shot that may have been launched from the emerging two man game on the opposite side of the floor.
Second, to screen for the man in the corner (here, Fisher, who step fakes on the baseline to set his defender up before coming off Artest’s screen ). After the rebound screen cut, you can cut baseline to the basket, or as Ron does, step back to the corner.
This is a cut that is also a core concept of the flex offense. Artest can cut from the corner to corner via the baseline for a layup should the read be there. That’s an action that I wish the Knicks implemented more against the Pacers in the 2013 playoffs to loosen Roy Hibberts command at the front of the rim.
Finally, we’ll talk about the UCLA cut, which is a cut that is a staple in many NBA offenses to this day because so many still implement UCLA high post sets. It’s a cut that the Jordan Bulls used often, and it’s one designed to free the lead guard from his defender in hopes of getting a lay up. But if the lead guard reads he doesn’t have a chippy he can peel off and create quick, open shots for his shooters.Here, Jordan recognizes this and peels off to the pinch where a quick hand off frees Kerr for the make.
In the end, the Knicks offense over the past few years has been stagnant and, while I understand some of the criticism Carmelo Anthony receives, I don’t believe he’s the sole reason for the team’s lack of movement. Labeling him the culprit is unfair. I think The Triangle will allow for more cutting opportunities which will trigger ball movement. I think there’s a misconception when there’s a lack of ball movement because many times the ball stops moving because the offensive players have stopped moving first. If the Knicks wing players like J.R. Smith, Cleanthony Early and Iman Shumpert can learn these cuts you will see much more ball movement towards the basket and a far more balanced team offensively.