NBA PM: Where’s Mike D’Antoni’s Offense?
Before the New York Knicks had Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, they had an offense. It wasn’t the best in the NBA—just 17th in overall efficiency when coach Mike D’Antoni took over in 2008-2009—but it slowly improved through last season, when they finished fifth in the NBA with 108.3 points per 100 possessions.
Yes, Anthony and Stoudemire were members of that team, but much of the heavy offensive lifting was done prior to the team’s controversial trade with the Denver Nuggets, which sent an arsenal of weapons—Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler—for one big weapon in Anthony (yes, Chauncey Billups came over in the trade, but the deal was never about that former All-Star, who was released before the start of this season).
And in putting their eggs in one basket, the Knicks front office inadvertently denied D’Antoni the weapons he needed to run his offense.
Former team president Donnie Walsh was never in favor of the deal, and now we know why.
The Knicks are now a catch-and-hold team that rarely runs high pick and rolls as they did during D’Antoni’s glory days with the Phoenix Suns. Back then, Stoudemire and Steve Nash ran the set to perfection and the Suns led the league in offensive efficiency for a staggering five consecutive seasons. Even the Knicks had a 13-1 stretch last season in which Stoudemire teamed with Felton to revive that same kind of offensive intensity with the high pick and roll.
This year’s Knicks team still ranks among the league leaders in possessions per game (they currently sit third), but some of that simply comes from rookie Iman Shumpert and Anthony hoisting shots after only a few seconds have expired off the shot clock. Subsequently, New York is giving up 11.8 fast break points per game, which isn’t awful, but could improve with better shot selection on the offensive end.
Conversely, the famed Suns seven-seconds-or-less offense got better looks because they pushed the tempo and forced defenses to react quickly—much like the current Denver Nuggets, who dropped the Knicks 119-114 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Denver currently leads the league in possessions per game and true shooting percentage (which weighs in 3-pointers and free throws) while ranking fourth in offensive efficiency thanks in large part to Gallinari.
The Knicks, meanwhile, rank only 21st in true shooting percentage and 24th in offensive efficiency—two facts that seemed unfathomable before the season. They’re also not playing efficiently on an individual basis. Anthony has a respectable Player Efficiency Rating (22.61—16th in the NBA) and Chandler—a defensive player whose value can’t really be defined by that stat—has a PER of 18.49; but Stoudemire is struggling to find his way in the offense and ranks 136th in the NBA with a PER of 15.13 (15 is the league average). Meanwhile Gallinari and Corey Brewer, who was released by the Knicks last season and has since signed in Denver, rank 36th and 64th in PER respectively and even former Knick and current Nugget Al Harrington has a PER of 20.50 (37th in the NBA).
The bottom line is, something has to change. Either the Knicks players will adapt to D’Antoni or he’ll adapt to them. The former isn’t completely out of the question, either. When the Suns traded for Shaquille O’Neal in D’Antoni’s final season in Phoenix, he managed to adapt his offense to having two big post players in Shaq and Stoudemire. This time though, he doesn’t have the same kind of point guard he once did. Yes, Baron Davis will return to the floor soon, but is he really going to be enough to get Anthony and Stoudemire to find some cohesion?
Check out tomorrow’s NBA PM for a scout’s take on the Knicks offensive woes.
What Can Wizards Expect from Whittman?
As mentioned in the NBA @ 2, Randy Wittman will take over the Washington Wizards on an interim basis. But what can a 2-15 team really hope for from the former Cavaliers and Timberwolves head coach?
Well, Minnesota never pushed the pace too hard during Wittman’s stint, ranking as high as 15th in possessions per game. The Timberwolves also rarely shot man 3-pointers during that time, ranking 25th in attempts in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.
The same can be said for the 2000-2001 Cleveland Cavaliers, who shot just eight 3-pointers per game under Wittman, which was last in the NBA.
The Timberwolves ranked third in personal fouls under Wittman in 2007-2008 and that physicality would serve the Wizards well. Both Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee could use their size better and guys like Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton could be rewarded with more minutes seeing as they’re already willing to do so.
The biggest challenge for Wittman might be in the backcourt, where he needs to find some common schematic ground between star point guard John Wall and shoot-first, pass-never shooting guard Nick Young.
Jordan Crawford is pushing for more minutes behind Young, but he needs to hit more than 28.3 percent of his 3-pointers to force Wittman’s hand in that respect.
The other issue will be Blatche, who never had any chemistry with outgoing head coach Flip Saunders. At six-foot-eleven, Blatche rebounds only 7.6 shots per game and sometimes seems to be avoiding the paint altogether.
Wittman may not ultimately be the right choice for the Wizards, but he has to make some strides now or else this team will be forced to liquidate anyone not named John Wall, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely.
Nets Keeping Cap Space Over Young Talent
New Jersey Nets GM Billy King has previously said that a contract extension for center Brook Lopez is unlikely by Wednesday’s deadline and, as the New York Post’s Fred Kerber wrote, second-year forward Damion James probably won’t get one either.
Both players will be fresh off of foot surgery by the time the offseason rolls around, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be takers. Yes, they could each return to the Nets if the team fails to land Dwight Howard. However, many other teams will be interested in Lopez, who is among the best scorer’s at his position and looked to be more physically dominant in two preseason games this season before fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.
Lopez is currently making his first road trip of the season with the team, and when he does return—which should be sometime in February—he won’t only be playing for New Jersey, but his next contract as well.
The good news for any team shopping for a center is, Lopez isn’t a max-contract type of a player right now, although he could play himself into that category over the course of his next deal.
Lopez averaged 20.4 PPG last season, and while his rebounding suffered (he averaged 5.9 boards per game), he grabbed 20 rebounds in just 55 minutes against the Knicks in two preseason games.
The seven-foot Lopez is only 23, is in good shape and has consistently improved his scoring since entering the NBA in 2008-2009.
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