A recent article by Drew Cannon (which could be the name of a quarterback in a movie from 1997) at Basketball Prospectus discusses what's been referred to as the "positional revolution" in basketball: the concept that the five traditional positions don't describe every successful lineup. At this point, there are enough combo-guards, point-forwards, sharp-shooting centers, and "power shortstops" (a position David Kahn's Timberwolves will be employing this season) that the numbers 1 through 5 fail to tell the whole story. That's where Cannon picks up:
On defense, you need to be able to guard your opponents. This means you have to be ready for speeds and heights of all kinds. You need to have a player capable of guarding each of the five traditional C-PF-SF-SG-PG positions. We’ll call the players capable of defending each position "D1" through "D5," respectively, with speed/athleticism on the x-axis and height/strength on the y-axis. [There's a graph of this in the original post. It's not complicated.-Seth]
And on offense what do you need to be successful? You need to be able to make shots (from the field or free throw line), avoid turnovers, and clean up the offensive glass--at the very least to the point where you aren’t handing over points by doing the opposite. This means that you need someone who can take care of the ball, someone who can put it in the basket, someone who can get the ball to that guy, and someone who can get the ball back when someone misses. We’ll call these four characters the Handler, the Scorer, the Creator, and the Rebounder.
Quick point. The Creator and the Handler have to be the same guy. Because you can’t have your Creator losing the ball all the time before he can feed your Scorers, and you can’t have your Handler with the ball all the time but unable to get it to the Scorers. So this leaves us with the eight positions described in the title are D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, Creator/Handler, Scorer, and Rebounder.
Bam. Much better. For one, the system is much more flexible. For two, it sounds cooler. The model has flaws and is unscientific, but it's fun and better than the traditional 1-5 by default. Sold.
Now, Cannon writes this in the context of college ball, but it can surely be applied to professional roster. The eminent (and dominant) Rob Mahoney of the Two Man Game did just this with his Dallas Mavericks. I read Mahoney's post, loved it, then realized "wait...the Knicks look much cooler in this model than the Mavs do." Thus, with Rob's permission, I opted to hijack his excellent idea and see how the Knicks look in the outlined positions (henceforth known as a "Cannongram"). Go ahead and make your own versions of this, since I have no idea what I'm talking about and most of the Knicks are unknown quantities at this point anyway. I did my best to keep it conservative and think with my brain, not my basketboner. Also, if I thought somebody was better suited getting their baskets off of reads, broken plays, and second chances than off of plays called specifically for them, I didn't designate them as a "scorer". I'm not sure if that's sensible, though. Check it out:
Kelenna Azubuike: D2, Scorer
Wilson Chandler: D4/D3/D2, Rebounder
Eddy Curry: D0, Scorer
Toney Douglas: D1, Scorer-Creator/Handler-Prophet
Raymond Felton: D1, Creator/Handler
Landry Fields: D3/D2, Rebounder
Danilo Gallinari: D3/D2, Scorer
Jerome Jordan: D5, Rebounder
Timofey Mozgov: D5, Rebounder
Anthony Randolph: D5/D4/D3, Rebounder (for now)
Andy Rautins: D2?/D1?, Scorer
Amar'e Stoudemire: D5/D4, Scorer-Rebounder
Ronny Turiaf: D5/D4, Rebounder
Bill Walker: D3/D2, Scorer
Like I said, there are flaws with this system and more flaws with my application of it. There are various shades of "scorer", for instance, that might better describe the vast difference between Amar'e Stoudemire's scoring and that of, say, Andy Rautins. That's not the point, though. The point is to tickle oneself over just how versatile the Knicks are, particularly on defense. There are quite a few double-Ds and triple-Ds on that list, and I think I was only a little over-generous. With Mike D'Antoni pulling the puppet strings, expect some weird and wonderful line-ups this season.
The upshot: Drew Cannon and Rob Mahoney are chill bros, traditional basketball positions are for squares, and the Knicks are flexible like a sack of pipe cleaners. Try your hand at a "Cannongram" in the comments.