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With Anthony and Billups, does the Knicks offense really get better?

Feb 22, 2011, 1:22 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

On a very basic level, the question seems almost absurd.

Does the Carmelo Anthony trade make the Knicks offense better? The gut first reaction is “Of course it does. ‘Melo is a scorer going to a system where they just ask guys to get out and score. Match made in heaven.”

Then you look at the devilish details, and you look at Chauncey Billups… and maybe this isn’t going to be so smooth.

Sebastian Pruiti at the fantastic NBA Playbook notes that what Anthony likes to do and does well — isolation plays and post ups — are things the Knicks don’t usually highlight.

With the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony was ISO’d 36.9% of the time, while posting up 15.7% of the time.  Anthony has success in both of these spots, posting a PPP of .853 when ISO’d (110th in the NBA), and a PPP of  .941 when posting up (54th in the NBA).

While ISO plays are at least part of the Knicks’ offensive game plan, running ISOs 13.4% of the time, they simply don’t post their players up, only running Post-Up plays 5% of the time.  So right off the bat, the Knicks’ offensive system takes away something that Carmelo Anthony does very well.

Go read the post, because with video evidence Pruiti shows how the Knicks in general — and Stoudemire specifically — shoot themselves in the foot with spacing on isolation and post up sets. Stoudemire in particular tends to shade to the ball, bringing an unwanted defender into the area.

But you just kind of get the feeling Stoudemire and Anthony are going to find a way to coexist. Will Mike D’Antoni adjust his system to fit Anthony (he would warrant it)? There may be rough patches this year, but they will get it figured out, it feels like.

The bigger issue may be at point guard.

I’ll grant you that Chauncey Billups is a better player than Raymond Felton. At this point in their respective careers (Billups is 34) it’s closer than people want to admit, but for the sake of argument we’ll grant that Billups is the better overall player.

But he is not the better point guard for the Knicks offense, where the point guard runs a lot of pick-and-roll, as Pruiti points out.

When coming off of ballscreens, Felton is looking for his teammates than he is his own offense, passing it to a teammate 55.8% of the time (looking for his own offense 44.2% of the time).  Out of those passes, he hits the roll man 43.1% of the time while hitting a teammate spotting up 52.7% of the time….

While Felton is more pass oriented coming off of screens, Billups is more interested in looking for his offense.  According to Synergy, Billups looks for his offense 51.3% of the time when coming off of ballscreens, passing it just 48.7% of the time.  Out of those passes, he hits the roll man 38% of the time and a player spotting up 48% of the time.  The rest of the time (14% to be exact) Billups is hitting cutters.  To me, this means that Billups has a tendency to hold the basketball when coming off of screens (he is penetrating looking for his own offense and a teammate cuts off of that).  A point guard who dominates the basketball when playing the pick and roll game doesn’t work unless you are Steve Nash (Billups isn’t pass first like Nash).

I can hear the New York counter argument now, “Billups is just a placeholder until we get Deron Williams or Chris Paul in a couple years. We can live with him for now.”

We’ll ignore the possibilities of the Knicks getting D-Will or CP3 in two years because there is no way of knowing what the rules will be under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Does this mean New Yorkers will quietly sit by and not complain about D’Antoni and his offense because he has been given ill-fitting pieces? You going to cut Melo and Amar’e slack because they are not getting the ball when and where they like it.

Of course you’re not. You’re New Yorkers.

The offensive transition in New York well may not be as smoother and effortless as some expect. Still, with all that firepower they will still put up points. Defense? That’s another story entirely.

  1. leearmon - Feb 22, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    Interesting read. I do however remember reservations prior to Felton’s arrival in New York about playing in the P&R. It took him awhile roughly 11 games to be exact, but once he figured it out, and once Dantoni figured a way to adapt his SSOL offense to Felton’s strengths New York hit their stride. I think the same can be said for Billups. Also, the article is absolutely correct about STAT in the iso game. He gets into a lot of trouble when he decides to go one on one, actually more appropriate one on two (sometimes three). This problem was enhanced mid way through December when Felton came back to Earth and his shooting dropped. Defenders would go under the screen and dare Felton to knock the jumper. Felton would either still make a pass to either Amar’e or the shooter, or the failed three. With Billups, I dont think defenders will go under the screen. That spacing is key for STAT as he will conceivably see less doubles and triple teams down low because of Shooters like Billups and Landry from deep and melo atop the key. But a rough patch is definitely ahead for these Knicks.

  2. icu84bs - Feb 22, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    C. Billups will be just fine.

    The stats used tell you more about the offensive sets called by the coaches of the respective teams than the players ability to adjust to a new scheme.


  3. eazye76 - Feb 22, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    Chauncy will be alright, He’s a solid PG who will be serviceable in this system. The Knicks don’t run the fast break as much as they just set up and shoot fast. Miami would take him right now, I guarantee that.
    Good article, The offense is going to be fine, Amare is a scoring machine this year and Anthony can score(a lot) from almost anywhere. I would be a lot more worried about the defense, they could lose games 125-123 every night. I see them improving to a 5-6 seed, but they WILL play a team with good defense in the first round and if they try to outscore the Celtics, Bulls, etc they are gonna lose.

  4. midnightsun13 - Feb 22, 2011 at 5:37 PM

    Although Billups will be fine, Felton’s value to the future of the Knicks is being underestimated. Felton continues to be one of the most undervalued PGs in the league and would have been a tremendous asset to the long term success of the Knicks. He is team first, defensive committed and can score necessary, but most important, his temperment would have been the right balance for the new Knicks. At some point in the future, RF will get his dues and a home. Not sure, ironically, it will be with Denver but being with the Tar Heel family there will be a good place as his career remains in transition.

  5. midnightsun13 - Feb 22, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    In the long run, the Knicks would be better with Felton who is one of the undervalued PGs in the league. His egoless, pass first, good on the ball defense, along with a team first mentality would have been a tremendous asset to balance the me first Melo temperment. Whether it be the Nuggets, or some team down the road, Felton will get his day and others will wonder how they let that good way get away. Paul et al get the PR, but the numbers tell you that Felton is just a shade below DW and CP of the league. Too bad…Felton’s working class mojo was perfect for the Apple.

  6. dysraw1 - Feb 23, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    couldnt agree more

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