By John Schmeelk
» More Columns
I wish I didn’t have to write about the triangle offense anymore. I’m sick of it. It’s an old topic. But like Jason Voorhees, it just won’t die and go away.
The most irritating part of it is that the Knicks’ offense has been middling most of the year. The defense has consistently been in the bottom five. Yet management is obsessed with installing an offense almost no player in the league wants to run instead of helping the defense.
There’s no point in rehashing the pro/con triangle offense. It’s been done a million times, but this week made me think of another angle as the Knicks continue to embark on their (so far successful) unintentional tankathon.
This draft is full of quality point guards. The consensus top two players are both point guards: the more scoring-oriented Markelle Fultz from Washington and the traditional pass-first point guard Lonzo Ball from UCLA. Then you could have three more point guards in the top 10 in Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr. and French player Frank Ntilikina. The Knicks could always draft Kentucky’s Malik Monk to play shooting guard, or go with a forward like Duke’s Jayson Tatum, Kansas’ Josh Jackson or Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, but point guard is certainly a need.
Therein lies the problem with the triangle offense. The point guard doesn’t have the ball in his hands a ton. He is not controlling the offense from the top of the key, running a lot of pick-and-rolls, driving and dishing. If you look at Phil Jackson’s Bulls and Lakers teams, they never had high-assist point guards. In fact, they often played a combo guard at the traditional point guard spot that was more of a defender and spot-up shooter than a distributor.
Point guards Brandon Jennings and Derrick Rose both complained this year about how the triangle offense slowed things down and had them pass the ball early in the possession and head to the corner. Putting a special distributor like Ball in the triangle would be a crime against the sport. Same for Fultz, who wouldn’t be able to work his magic in the pick-and-roll nearly enough. Fox doesn’t shoot well enough, and his speed is his greatest asset. The triangle slows things down. Smith wants the ball in his hands to use his athleticism. I haven’t seen enough of Ntilikina to know how he would fit the system.
If the Knicks are truly going to evaluate every new player this year by how they fit in the triangle, why would they draft any of these point guards? Would you be getting the best out of any of them in the team president’s preferred system? Likely not. So then why draft one?
Does that sound stupid? Absolutely. It sounds just as stupid as forcing an offensive system on a team regardless of the best players that you can acquire. It’s triangle or bust, whether it’s in the best interest of the franchise or not.
KNICKS TANK UPDATE
Pretty much everyone competing for lottery position lost Wednesday night, including the Knicks. They still sit tied for the sixth-worst record with Sacramento. They have a decent 1½-game cushion on the Timberwolves, who sit in eighth. They trail the 76ers by one game for fifth and are only 1½ games below the Magic, who have the fourth-worst record in the NBA. With the second game of a road back-to-back against a Portland team fighting for playoff spot, another loss is likely Thursday night. Then the Knicks play the Spurs to finish their road trip, which is another likely loss, especially since they already beat the Spurs in the Garden earlier this year.
The Knicks then close the season with seven of nine at home, but only one of those games is against a team that is not in the playoff race: the Sixers in the final regular season home game. That game could decide how many pingpong balls the Knicks have.
For everything Knicks, Giants, and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk