Schmeelk: Backcourt Hole Hurting Knicks
By John Schmeelk
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Everything crystallized for me as I watched the Knicks get beat by the Cavs in the 4th quarter last night. I sat there and watched as Mike Bibby and Jared Jeffries ran a pick and roll together. Bibby hit Jeffries about 15 feet away from the basket, which naturally resulted in a missed shot. It hit me. Right now the Knicks simply aren’t that good because their players aren’t very good.
We always knew the Knicks weren’t a deep team. The trade for Carmelo Anthony took away many of their best complimentary players. With so much money committed to their two stars the Knicks had few resources to address their bench and support players. When they let go of Chauncey Billups to sign Tyson Chandler, it left a gaping hole in the backcourt that still hasn’t been filled. If Stoudemire and Anthony don’t play well, which they aren’t, the Knicks can’t win.
The Knicks problems this year can be boiled down to a few key things:
- Lack of ball movement and flow on offense
- No uptempo play resulting in no easy baskets.
- Terrible shooting from three point land
- Inability to get Amar’e Stoudemire the ball in position to score.
- No floor leader to direct the offense.
Every one of those key issues comes down to the backcourt. After watching a month of NBA basketball I am convinced that the Knicks have the worst set of guards in the NBA. Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas are power excuses for point guards with neither having the instincts to run a NBA team. They are scorers that at least right now, can’t shoot. Mike Bibby is washed up. Landry Fields is a hustle player that can finish around the basket and rebound, but his jump shot has been off (21% 3PT). Bill Walker is a fringe rotation player at best. None of these guys are starting caliber NBA guards and some not even rotation quality players.
In 120 minutes per game between the five players, they are scoring 39 points per game, and shooting a horrid 39% from the field and 28% from behind the three point line. Throw in 8.25 TO’s per game compared to 12.2 assists. The Knicks have the fourth worst assist/turnover ratio in the league, a sign of terrible guard play. Those numbers are absolutely brutal and it goes a long way to explaining why the Knicks have been losing games. With double teams flowing to the two stars no one in the backcourt has been able to make opponents pay by hitting wide open shots. As a team the Knicks are only shooting 42% (26th in the NBA) from the field and 30% (24th in NBA) from three point land. It has to get better.
Combine that with the absence of a true point guard that can get the team to play uptempo and get them in and out of their offense, and the offense looks like this. It was easy to see how sick to his stomach Mike D’Antoni was during the postgame press conference. Deep down I think he knows that very little is going to change until Baron Davis comes back and the rest of his players start making open looks. There’s no guarantee of either of those things.
The mere fact Baron Davis is looked upon as a savior shows how desperate the Knicks truly are. He is far from the protypical point guard that gets his teammates involved, but he is so far superior to anyone else the Knicks have, his return has to help just by default. But even with him, backcourt guys like Toney Douglas and Landry Fields just have to flat out shoot better.
Perhaps the Knicks could overcome this if they were getting A+ games from Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Unfortunately, Anthony is clearly hurt and its affecting his shooting to the point he should consider sitting out a few games. And Amar’e Stoudemire has shown neither the explosion nor the shooting touch he demonstrated last year. He’s looked better the last two games, but still not good enough.
For Knicks fans, they will just have to wait, see, and hope. Friday against the Heat, good luck to the Knicks guards when the Heat try to pressure the ball. That’s not going to go well and it could become a dunk-athon for LeBron and company after their countless inevitable steals. Friday night is going to be ugly.
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