We took a deeper dive into the basic principles of The Triangle offense where we looked at the “Moment of Truth” while quickly referenced the N-2 pass. As I’ve kept studying The Triangle the N-2 pass is a principle that I continued to come across signifying the magnitude it possesses within the structure of the offense. And when looking deeper at examples, you realize it is the linchpin of triggering ball movement in the offense making the player or players responsible for making the N-2 pass essential to the success of a rhythmic offense. If there’s a flaw in the Knicks roster in my mind it’s that right now they don’t have the natural ball moving forward needed to facilitate the offense.
Is it Iman Shumpert?
The offense is able to read and react to the defense based on two offensive theories: initiating the offense against pressure at the moment of truth and lining up and reading the defense by forming the triangle along the line of deployment.
Once the ball has entered the wing position, a triangle has been formed on the strong side (ball side), and the defense is lined up, the players are asked to execute whichever “Number 2 pass” the defense is willing to give up ( it’s called N.2 pass because the ball handler in transition typically makes the first pass to the player in the wing position).
As you can see in the diagram the N-2 pass has four options, or reads, and the beauty of the principle, in my opinion, is how it can seamlessly integrate with a secondary break following the Moment of Truth. The goal of The Triangle is to get the ball into a post position and this is where your big men are so critical to the offense. It’s also why Shaquille O’Neal was able to flourish with Kobe Bryant.
When Shaq was at his best he always had the ability to not only get down the floor, but to establish deep post position that after receiving an N-2 pass would result in dunk after dunk. That’s when the Kobe/Shaq Lakers were unbeatable and often times those N-2 passes would result in alley-oop lobs that were simply unstoppable.
Now, the Knicks obviously don’t have a player near the caliber of O’Neal, obviously, and, to me, it’s going to be their biggest weakness this year. It’s why targeting a post passing big man like Marc Gasol, or even a David Lee (or both) is critical over the next two years of free agency for the Knicks. It’s also why the Knicks tried to obtain Pau Gasol, who fit so perfectly when receiving an N-2 post pass which by definition is the 5th option or read, but one that can be ultra effective if it’s selected first.
What a thing of beauty.
But the Knicks don’t have a big of that caliber and it will be interesting to see if Andrea Bargnani can be a fit or if they will add another via trade before the start of the season. We will see.
Another read with the N-2 pass is the pass to the top of the key which as we mentioned triggers the proper reversal in a secondary break and spreads the defense out laterally. It’s also a foundation of the lag principle that Kobe and Jordan were so effective at and why shooters like Derek Fisher are so critical to what The Triangle is. The third read is what is referred to as the “backdoor step” where the ball is on the strong side and the N-2 pass is to the opposite wing player (usually the SF in the offense) which opens up backdoor cuts from the top from the SG in the offense. Stop me if you ever saw this action from Kobe over the years…
Can Iman Shumpert be the Ebanks (the passer) in this situation or is he the slasher? Both? Is that role made for Tim Hardaway Jr. and/or J.R. Smith? That’s very much unclear but what is not is the idea that the Knicks need some cleaning up to do which is why my man Ian Begley is reporting that they are shopping said guards in potential trades.
“They’re working on trying to make a move in the backcourt,” the NBA source familiar with the Knicks’ thinking said Sunday.
The idea that the Knicks are trying to make a trade to balance the roster isn’t earth-shattering. President Phil Jackson and GM Steve Mills have mentioned the Knicks have a surplus in the backcourt, with Mills saying last week the Knicks are “heavy” at shooting guard.”
Finally, the fourth option is an N-2 pass to the corner, which can be tricky as good defensive teams often try to pressure the ball in both corners especially if the guard is small in stature. Those traps can kill offenses which is why your player has to have some size and be sharp to get the ball out of the corners quickly before a trap can be set. This is why the Ron Harper’s, the Brian Shaw’s, and the Lamar Odom’s are so critical to this option.
Interestingly, this is a pass that was implemented by the Knicks in the summer league and one that can be very effective with Amar’e Stoudemire on a quick corner pick-and-roll in my mind, especially with Shane Larkin or Prigioni should they be able to scamper out of the corners quickly a la Derek Fisher.
So what does this mean for the current Knicks roster? There are pieces in place and there are some holes, especially at small forward which is why they took a long look at Lamar Odom before letting him go and why they are reconsidering Metta World Peace. To me, Carmelo Anthony can play the SF but he should be a pinch post, cutting, ball reversing option. If he can learn the position and move the ball quickly he will be a prime fit. But who else do that have at that position if they want to move Melo to the 4? Shumpert definitely COULD be and that, to me, is going to be one of the biggest things to watch early in the season should he not be traded in the meantime. If he can find a home at the 3 and be a cutter and passer then he can find a home here for years to come. I think Cleanthony Early will be the perfect SF in this offense off the bench at some point but I don’t think that time is now. And in terms of options out in free agency or via trade you’d have to think that Phil Jackson is thinking about bringing in a guy like Devin Ebanks, who also has experience in the position.