A couple days ago I went into great detail examining the struggles of the current New York Knicks starting lineup of Raymond Felton-Jason Kidd-Iman Shumpert-Carmelo Anthony- and Tyson Chandler.
To sum it up briefly, they are the third most used five man combination that head coach Mike Woodson has used this season, but the fifth worst five-man unit in terms of net points per 100 possessions as the current Knicks starting lineup gets outscored by 10 points per every 100 possessions.
More importantly, the Knicks are only 7-6 with this starting lineup.
Felton, Anthony and Chandler must be in the starting lineup, but Shumpert and Kidd playing together isn’t exactly working out.
Take the past two games for example.
In the win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, Shump and Kidd combined to score only seven points in 39 minutes by making only 2-of-12 shot attempts. They also combined to grab 11 rebounds and dish out only three assists. Then in Wednesday’s thrilling victory over the Golden State Warriors, the duo combined to score only two points in 41 minutes, making only 1-of-10 shots, while grabbing only two rebounds and dishing out only three assists.
The bottom line is that the Knicks can’t keep skating by without production from two players in their starting lineup, especially given the fact that they spend so much time on the floor together.
So what changes should Woodson make?
Starting Amar’e Stoudemire is the most popular opinion, but the numbers suggest that won’t be the answer.
There are basically two reasons why STAT should keep coming off the bench. The first is that Anthony is more productive at the 4, posting a PER of 23.8 compared to only 21.0 while playing the 3. Then there is the fact that Stoudemire has been much more productive playing center than power forward. STAT is putting up a PER of 22.6 at the 5, much better than the 20.9 he has put up playing the 4.
Then there is the fact that the Knicks are better when Anthony’s, Stoudemire’s and Chandler’s minutes are staggered more instead of having all three on the floor at the same time.
But that brings me back to what is the best starting lineup by the numbers.
The easiest change would be for Woodson to insert J.R. Smith in for Shumpert.
The numbers back that up as well as the Felton-Kidd-Smith-Anthony-Chandler unit is the Knicks second most effective five-man unit, outscoring the opposition by 47 points per 100 possessions. And it’s not like they are never on the floor together as this is one of Woodson’s more frequently used units. Their production together can’t be ignored.
Starting Smith also accomplishes two things that could improve the Knicks second unit.
For one, STAT moves from seventh man to sixth man. It doesn’t seem like much of an improvement, but Stoudemire has a 30 minutes per night limit and he is currently averaging only 22.7. Making this change could get him a few more minutes per game while getting Anthony and Chandler some additional rest per night in order to keep their legs fresh for the playoffs.
However the biggest improvement to the Knicks bench would be the fact that Shump could come off of it and return to his natural shooting guard position.
Stoudemire becomes the go-to guy offensively for the Knicks second unit, while Shump becomes the defensive stopper that they need, because the Knicks bench has been awful defensively.
The numbers that this proposed unit puts up can’t be overlooked and starting them would likely prevent the slow starts that the Knicks are notorious for.
Another option would be to insert Smith for Kidd, which is the one I would prefer to see.
The Felton-Shumpert-Smith-Anthony-Chandler combination isn’t as productive as the previously mentioned change, but it is productive nonetheless, outscoring the opposition by 14.7 points per 100 possessions.
This combination is Woodson’s ninth most used five-man unit and eighth most productive.
I like keeping Shump out there for his defensive presence (six steals Wednesday night) and moving him to the 2 could help get him going hopefully.
Shump is certainly struggling, shooting a horrific 29.8 percent from the floor on the season, but Kidd has been worse lately, by shooting only 19.6 percent from the floor in February and 15.6 percent from behind the arc.
Moving Kidd to the bench will save his legs for the playoffs and bring his intangibles to the second unit and in the process hopefully allow him to find his shot.
The thing that’s clear is that having Kidd and Shumpert on the floor together is hurting the Knicks.
There are changes that can be made that makes sense, Woodson has to show some willingness to change though, which is something that seems unlikely to happen.
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