Despite destroying the Nets in Brooklyn last night, the New York Knicks have been a dreadful basketball team this year. A far cry from the Atlantic Division champions who bounced the Boston Celtics and were arguably a JR Smith meltdown away from beating the great Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Many people have identified many reasons why the Knicks have struggled this year. After all, they have been so good when they play a backcourt of Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton who have contributed to many victories with a 4/5 of Melo and Chandler dating back to last year.
Astonishing, in fact.
@_TommyDee_ when Prigioni, Felton have started together the NYK have gone 17-2, the 2 losses came with Copeland or Bargnani @ the 5— NY Sports Down Under (@NYAustralia)
But this year, thanks to Chandler’s injury, the NBA adjusting and the inclusion of Andrea Bargnani into the lineup, Prigioni has struggled mightily and has seen his production plummet. Coach Mike Woodson has decided on playing him a ton with Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin far more than Chandler and Anthony at power forward and center. That hasn’t been good for Prigioni or Anthony and that REALLY hasn’t been good for the Knicks as a whole and in my mind is at the very heart of their 4-13 start to the 2013-14 season. I think when Chandler comes back Prigioni will thrive and Carmelo Anthony will resemble the All-NBA player he was last year. Look at some numbers first…
There have been many well-written theories, like my favorite by SB Nation’s tape guru Mike Prada as to why Prigioni is so important for the team’s success. This year, more and more evidence suggests their offense works much better with Tyson Chandler at the 5 and Melo at the 4 than it does with any other combination but if they can incorporate Bargnani into post isolation sets, he should be able to fit in accordingly.
Here’s why in my opinion.
Here we have the combination of Felton, Prigioni, Shumpert, Anthony and Chandler who have combined +13 for the season as a group in 31 total minutes according to 82games.com. This group can do a great job spreading the floor and isn’t reliant on the pick and roll. Here in a tight game with ample shot clock the Knicks post-isolate Melo with Chandler opposite short corner which is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL WHEN YOU HAVE A PLAYER POSTING ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE.
Minnesota has four players in help watching Melo, who has been isolated in a mismatch off of a switch. The Knicks are standing around, which fans hate, but they are ready to attack thanks to Prigioni and Shumpert communicating…
The key here is Chandler does a great job reading the help from Pekovic and forcing Kevin Martin to help on him as he’s in prime dunk position. Shumpert reads Martin’s help and recognizes that Prigioni is wide open.
As the ball gets skipped Prigioni sees Shumpert as he fades to the corner where he gets set…
…for an absolutely WIDE open 3, which he would make cutting the Wolves lead to 2. The made shot then allows for Prigioni to do what he does best- BE A PEST on the ball for 94 feet.
But because of Chandler’s injury, Bargnani has been moved to center, which has helped things offensively, but it’s limited the effectiveness of Prigioni because in my opinion Bargnani is not a post player or a pick and roll player. Chandler can float around the baseline, Bargnani is a mid range to long range threat. So that’s why the Knicks have featured Kenyon Martin at the 5 with Melo at the 4 and the 2 PG set with lukewarm results.
Here, Melo is on the block again but he’s on the strong side and Felton has to make a pass to Martin who then has to make the entry.
Remember, Chandler was opposite, short corner against the Wolves and because Martin made the entry pass he has to cut through. But the space just isn’t there and the Bobcats are in great position defensively because the Knicks don’t have any passing lanes for Melo to pass to. Put Bargnani in that spot and watch the floor open off of Melo post ups.
Instead of cutting through, Martin tries a ball screen but there’s very little room and all the Bobcat defenders are ready to help AND recover to their man if the ball is passed out of the post.
Melo makes the right play as he’s drawn Kemba Walker but because there’s been so little space created Felton, despite being in rhythm, is too far from the basket and settles for a low percentage 3 without World Peace or Prigioni ever touching the ball…
Resulting in a miss and prime rebounding position for the Bobcats.
With all of the Knicks struggles it’s clear that from both a numbers and a video standpoint Prigioni, Felton and Chandler are a very effective trio and they haven’t been on the court nearly enough minutes with injuries to both Chandler and Felton. In addition, Carmelo needs Prigioni as an outlet man in the half court so that when they isolate him he can find the open man and move the ball much like he did last year.
Once Chandler returns, you should see a remarkable uptick in the Knicks offense thanks to a much more productive Pablo Prigioni. Hopefully for Knicks fans it won’t be too late for them to make a push in the Eastern Conference.