By John Schmeelk
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If Mike Woodson would have been relieved of his duties back in December, this season might have been salvaged.
Now, it’s too late.
If the Knicks still had their draft pick, leaving Woodson in place would make a lot of sense, since losing games would be more important than winning them with the chance at a high lottery pick at stake. But with no pick and playoff dreams dashed, is there any point in making a coaching change at this point of the season? Right now, the Knicks’ roster is playing well below their talent level. Perhaps a change could help players on the team play better, and increase their value as assets heading into the offseason.
It is fair to say that Woodson has had one of the worst seasons coaching an NBA team in recent memory. By his own admission, he has not been able to find a consistent lineup. This has led to a lack of chemistry on the court, something Woodson has blamed on injuries. Effort has been inconsistent, as both Woodson and his players have said many times.
His defensive strategies have been questioned by former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. The Knicks’ offense in the final minutes of games is one of the worst in the league due to his lack of creative play calling. Iman Shumpert, one of the Knicks’ promising young players, has seriously regressed under Woodson. Lineups, team chemistry, offensive and defensive strategy, developing talent and motivation are the most basic things a coach must be good at if he wants to be successful. He has failed miserably at all of them. To say otherwise would be denying reality. The failures have made this roster look much worse than it is.
Some numbers to consider: Of the top 44 players in PER (player efficiency rating), there is no other player on a team with a worse record than Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is ninth in the league in PER.
Of the players in the top 23, only three (Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins) are currently on teams not in the postseason. For Woodson to allow this season to disintegrate as much as it has with a player as good as Anthony is absurd. The Knicks have been the worst defense team in the NBA since February 1, caused by a combination of Woodson’s strategies and his inability to motivate the team to play hard.
As flawed as the roster is, it is better than a sub-30 win team, especially in a historically-bad Eastern Conference. This season has driven down the value of every player on this roster to an all-time low. That can still be fixed.
There’s no saving this season, but perhaps it is worth changing coaches just to see how some of these players respond to a new voice.
If Shumpert has a great final month under Herb Williams, perhaps the team can get more value for him on draft night. The same could be said for Chandler, who has struggled in this defensive system. Maybe a month of better basketball will help convince Anthony to stick around for less than the max.
Are any of these very likely? Probably not, but there’s a chance it could work. Any possible move the Knicks could make to increase the value of their assets heading into the offseason is one they have to make.
As it stands right now, the final 21 games of the Knicks season with Woodson as their head coach are completely irrelevant. Replacing him with Williams might change some things or it might not.
But there is certainly a better chance of getting some positive return, as opposed to simply sending this team out under Woodson’s direction for another month-plus of unwatchable basketball. It also makes sense from a business perspective, since it would at least give fans something different to watch.
It would also be merciful to Woodson, who is still trying but is clearly out of answers on the court and with the media.
Make the move, — it’s all the Knicks have left in 2014.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
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