There have been many factors leading to the recent slump of the New York Knicks -only 15-15 in their past 30 games- but one big problem has been the performance of Mike Woodson’s starting unit.
Slow starts have been a big problem throughout the course of the past two months, which repeatedly dig the Knicks early holes that they haven’t been able to dig themselves out of.
Woodson also has been reluctant to make changes to a starting five that doesn’t play very well together.
Now when you have guys like Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith coming off the bench, the five that start the game aren’t necessarily out there together as much as most teams starting units, but there are more efficient ways to divide up minutes, especially at the beginning of games.
Slow starts have killed this team and let’s examine that more thoroughly.
The starting unit of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler is the third most used five man combination Woodson has used this season, yet has produced like a unit that shouldn’t be on the floor together all that much.
First of all, they produce only 0.9 points per possession. That’s not good and among the Knicks top 20 five-man units (Per 82 games.com) it is tied for the next to worst offensive production of any unit.
The top combination?
That would be Felton, Kidd, Steve Novak, Anthony and Chandler, who average 1.51 points per possession.
Now let’s look defensively, where many thought adding Shumpert to that unit would pay immediate dividends. It hasn’t worked.
Defensively, the Knicks starting five allows 1.02 points per possession, which is only the 10th best defensive unit that Woodson has put on the floor this season. That translates out to a minus-22 per 48 minutes. Also, not good.
The Knicks best defensive unit this season has been Pablo Prigioni, J.R. Smith, Novak, Anthony and Chandler, which has allowed only 0.87 points per possession.
But there is more that illustrates why the current Knicks starting five is not a good unit to play together.
First their win percentage comes out to only 36.3, which translates into the bottom five of the Knicks top 20 combinations.
Now let’s look at their shooting percentages.
I have detailed the struggles of Kidd and Shumpert in the past but just look at the fact that Shumpert is only shooting a hideous 30.7 percentage from the floor and Kidd is only shooting 21 percent from the floor and 17 percent from behind the arc this month. It is hard to have one guy struggling this much on the floor; much less two of them at the same time, especially since they are having struggles stopping the opposition.
Let’s look at the shooting problems in more detail.
The current starters come in with an effective shooting percentage of only 35.1 percent. Compared to the rest of the Knicks five-man units, only one combination is worse. That’s the 28.0 percent eFG of Kidd, Smith, Chris Copeland, Anthony and Chandler.
There’s also the fact that the Knicks starters are allowing an eFG against of 44.6 percent. That simply means they aren’t defending and ranks them in the middle of the pack among any combination used on the season.
More interesting numbers illustrate that this unit only makes 24 percent of their shots from close range, while allowing the opposition to connect 35 percent of the time.
Finally let’s look at rebounding, an area where the Knicks have not been great this season.
The Knicks starters have posted a rebounding rate of only 49 percent, which makes them only the 14th best five-man unit that Woodson has run out there this season.
Two units have a 58.5 percent rebounding rate. Those are the Felton-Smith-Anthony-Amar’e Stoudemire-Chandler and Prigioni-Smith-Novak-Anthony-Chandler.
Now mentioning Stoudemire, Woodson has made it clear that Stoudemire won’t be inserted into the starting lineup anytime soon. Woodson also noted that his starting lineup won’t change.
All the numbers suggest he is making a mistake.
Some units just don’t play effective and efficient basketball together and that is the case here, especially with Shump playing out of position.
I did mention the fact that these guys aren’t on the floor together all of the time, especially with Shumpert’s minutes restriction, but keep in mind that this unit is the third most used combination in terms of minutes played together throughout the entire season.
Woodson can’t be too stubborn to change things up if the Knicks are to have any chance in the postseason.
The current combination clearly isn’t working.
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