Coming into training camp the buzz was all about defense and playing in the post. Everyone, including Coach Mike Woodson, talked about how this team’s main strength will be our defensive play, and it most likely will be. But. One potential weakness was supposedly our lack of true shooters. After Steve Novak and J.R. Smith we were supposed to have no “pure 3-point shooters,” but that was far from true against the Wizards last Thursday.
It was the first pre-season game of the season, so you shouldn’t take too much from it, but The Knicks were red hot from beyond the 3-point line on Thursday. They shot 18-33, which is an outstanding 54.5%. The offense was definitely rusty at times, even allowing a the Wizards to score 22 points without us scoring a point, but the 3-point shooting was a highlight.
Not surprisingly, Steve Novak led the charge shooting 7-7 from beyond the arc. The 6-10 forward had an unbelievable night, and took one giant leap in proving that he is worth his new 4-year and 15 million dollar contract. Novak may play a huge role this season with all of the attention Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony should get in the post. He needs to be able to produce at the same rate as he did against Washington.
In the playoffs last season against the Heat, Novak was neutralized as just another player on the court. As the leader in 3-point % last season, Novak must find ways to get open and knock down his shot, because that is his one and only role with the team.
After Novak, J.R. Smith is one of the better three-point shooters on the team, but Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni, Raymond Felton, and Carmelo Anthony are all above average 3-point shooters. Kidd is 3rd on the all-time 3-pointers made list, and is underrated as a spot up shooter for this team. Prigioni proved on Thursday night that he is able to knock down an open 3-pointer, going 4-8 from beyond the arc. Even Carmelo Anthony, who was superb from behind the international line in the Olympics this past summer, shot 3-3 from downtown.
A skilled 3-point scoring group adds a new dimension to any offense, and allows for better offensive execution when you have players who are often double-teamed (‘Melo and STAT?). If this team can surprise everyone as one of the better 3-point shooting teams and couple that with their new and improved (thanks to Olajuwon) post game, then it could allow them to have one of the most effective offenses in the league. Last season, a big problem was that the Knicks often topped the league in most 3-pointers attempted, but were near the bottom 10 in 3-point percentage.
In order for this team to get to that championship level they need to make all of their opportunities count. If that means hitting 3 pointers when the pass comes out of the double team, then thats what you must do. If it means playing lock down defense against the top scoring teams in the league, then thats what you must do. And if it means that you pass the ball to your best player when it counts, and let him carry the team, then thats what you must do.
Mike Woodson said on Thursday that the only, “two things this team has got to think about: team and win,” if the players understand their roles and buy into the system then the wins will come. I believe that the 3-point shooting on this team will play a significant role in the offense if they can perform effectively, but only time will tell if the hot shooting was a fluke, or hopefully a sign that this team has one less problem to worry about.