Ever since the injury to Amar’e Stoudemire, coupled along with a prior injury to Jared Jeffries, the Knicks have been forced to play small ball in which Carmelo Anthony is playing the power forward (or the “4”) position. The biggest beneficiary of the recent infusion of small ball has been the much maligned Anthony. Playing the 4 has forced Anthony to play harder on defense, as well as helped his offense. Zach Lowe had a great take on Anthony’s defense over at “The Point Forward”. This post however, will analyze New York’s offensive advantage with Anthony playing power forward.
New York is 5-2 in the 7 games without the services of Amar’e Stoudemire. One of the, if not the, biggest reason for their success has been the revitalization of Carmelo Anthony’s offense. In the past 7 games, Anthony has averaged 29.8 points per game on 49% shooting, 39% from downtown. Anthony’s resurgence can be largely contributed to his playing the power forward position. Having Anthony play the 4 creates mismatches for not only Anthony, but it opens up the Knicks offense. By playing “small ball”, the Knicks force opponents to adjust their lineups and match-ups to slow down the Knicks and particularly Anthony.
Today, I bring you 4 plays that showcase some of the ways that small ball, built around Anthony at the 4, has helped the Knicks offense.
The first play comes from New York’s thrilling 100-99 victory over Chicago on Sunday morning. In this play, Carmelo Anthony is not directly involved. He does not get the ball, tip a rebound or set a screen. This play is a successful pick and roll run by Baron Davis and Tyson Chandler.
Why is this play important? It demonstrates how the Knicks small lineup can confuse defenses and put them in a bind. Observe in the video, that the Bulls have Joakim Noah assigned to guard Landry Fields at the top of the screen. While Noah cheats towards the post, he isn’t close enough to the play to make an impact. Carlos Boozer is assigned to Tyson Chandler, but Boozer 1) is not a long defender and 2) defends the play pretty poorly. Davis easily tosses the ball over Boozer for an alley-oop dunk. Notice how Noah, having to still check Fields, is stuck in no man’s land, thanks to the smaller lineup. He makes a decent reaction to the play, but is too far away to get involved and actually defend the dunk. The Knicks playing small forces Chicago to defend a Knick guard, Fields, with a big, Noah. This takes Noah out of the paint and opens that area of the floor up for the Knicks.
The second play comes from the Knicks 112-104 loss to Indiana. Early in the game, Indiana experimented by assigning David West to guard Anthony. On this possession, the Knicks come down the court and realize that they have a mis-match advantage with Anthony being guarded by West. In a pretty simple play, point guard Baron Davis gets Anthony the ball on the wing/baseline area and New York clears out to give Anthony space to operate. The rest of the Knick players clear out and give Anthony the room he needs to score. Anthony then sizes up West, who is giving ground due to Anthony’s quickness and ability to drive, and easily shoots right over him. This play demonstrates how Anthony having mismatches has helped open up his jump shot. The mid-range shot is the staple of Anthony’s offense. With his shot falling, the rest of his offensive game opens up, as you will see. Here is the play:
The next two plays take us back to the Knicks victory over Chicago. The next two plays are examples of how Carmelo Anthony takes advantage of the mismatches he creates on offense. In these plays, both from the 4th quarter of Sunday’s win, Anthony is being guarded by Taj Gibson.
The first play is similar to the David West isolation, in that the Knicks clear out to give Anthony space to operate. However, rather than shoot the ball over Gibson, Anthony decides to attack the rim. When watching these next two plays, observe what Tyson Chandler does. In this first play, Anthony is given the space that he is largely in part to Chandler. The Knicks reset after an offensive rebound and isolate their superstar against Gibson on the wing. Chandler does an excellent job of keeping Carlos Boozer so far into the paint that he cannot possibly impact the play (except to foolishly goal tend the shot). Gibson actually plays Anthony decently well, but Melo’s quickness and explosiveness allows him to easily spin right by Gibson for the bucket. This play is an excellent demonstration, like the West play, of how Anthony takes advantage of his mismatch and how the Knicks do an excellent job of spacing the floor.
The last play is again from the Chicago game. In this play, the Knicks run a more up tempo half court set. Rather than clearing out half of the floor in a more typical isolation, the Knicks get Anthony the ball right at the top of the arc. Instead of slowly sizing up his man, Anthony is quick to drive on Gibson and get right to the rim. Notice on this play that Landry Fields brings Kyle Korver far enough to the corner to where Korver cannot get back into the play and impact it. Tyson Chandler also does a great job of spacing. Like in the other play, Chandler takes advantage of Carlos Boozer’s defensive ineptitude and keeps him deep into the paint. Boozer is too deep in the paint to make an impact on the play. When Anthony drives, Gibson simply does not have the quickness and foot speed to keep with him. Rather than make a finesse move to the basket, Anthony demonstrates another versatile part of his offensive game. He uses his big 6’8 230 pound frame to barrel into the paint and draw the and-1 finish. Here is the play:
Carmelo Anthony is, for my money, the most versatile scorer in the game today. Attitude and ego aside, there aren’t many players who can score in the plethora of ways that Anthony can. With him playing the 4, the Knicks have an offensive mismatch almost every time down the floor. Whether that means Anthony is matched up against a big or that an opposing big is guarding on the perimeter, the Knicks have an offensive advantage. Hopefully these examples and analysis help clarify and demonstrate some of the things that New York is doing. Personally, I love the spacing of the team and how it is a team effort to help Anthony take advantage of his mismatch. If and when Amar’e Stoudemire comes back, whether it is later this season or next season, it will be interesting to see how the Knick offense changes. For now, I’ll gladly take the small ball.Follow @tarmosino