Today is "Video Day" at P&T HQ, and by that I mean I've spent the last 2 hours watching and re-watching Synergy videos, then pacing around my house, wolfing Cracker Barrel cheese sticks, and mumbling to myself. The Knicks' offense is getting to my head. I'm certainly not alone in my hair-pulling over New York's offensive woes. You guys have been all over their issues in the comments and Alan Hahn spoke with Coach D'Antoni about the struggles after last night's loss:
"We have to get our pick-and-roll, definitely," he said. It is probably the best play we have. It gets everyone involved, it gets our shooters. We just have to get better. It's a work in progress . . . we'll get there."
Pretty much everybody agrees that, with Amar'e Stoudemire in the fold, the pick-and-roll can and should be the Knicks' first option. As the terrific Bandwagon Knick points out, that hasn't been the case:
Though it's early (and any comparison to a Steve Nash-led team is brutally unfair), a Synergy Sports comparison of the ways Amare scored last year with the Suns to this year with the Knicks are telling: with the Suns last season, Amare scored 19 percent of the time on Post-Ups, 18% of the time as the Pick and Roll man, 15% of the time in Isolations, and 14% of the time through Cuts to the basket. With the Knicks so far this season, a whopping 35% of his scoring has been through Isolations, 12 % through spot-up jumpers, and only 10 percent of the time has his scoring come as the Pick and Roll man.
If you've seen even a minute of Knicks basketball this season, you know what BK is describing. New York's go-to plan has been to toss Stoudemire the ball on the elbow, then let him try to create while the rest of the Knicks spectate (Clydeism?). This leave Amar'e to either attempt a contested jumper or, worse, dribble into traffic, which is a weakness of Stoudemire's the same way that blindfolded speed skating is a weakness of mine. (Also, metaphors). The "isolate the superstar" strategy works for some teams and even some big men, but that's just not the case for Amar'e and company. Meanwhile, the pick-and-roll hasn't looked to be a much better option. Opposing teams plug the middle, and the guards are routinely forced to hit Stoudemire far from the basket, leaving him with too much ground to cover as a ballhandler. So, how can the Knicks find more quality P 'n' R opportunities for Stoudemire? Hours of video-watching and cheese-eating have led me to the following solutions:
1. Set real picks
Tommy Dee covered this days ago and he was right on the money. There is a time and place to slip screens, but for most of the simple, two-man sets the Knicks are running, Amar'e would be better off setting a good, hard pick on the opposing guard. Part of the reason Raymond Felton has trouble threading a pass into the rolling Amar'e is that his defender never really gets screened. If Stoudemire waits a beat longer, creates legal contact with the defending guard, and THEN rolls, he'll give Felton a cleaner look at a pass, as well as the opportunity to penetrate if Amar'e's man doesn't hedge enough. Raymond's short stature and toddler arms make it tough for him to pass over two defenders, so Amar'e's better off giving all the help he can.
2. Keep a shooter on the strong side
Teams are keying in on the pick-and-roll and clogging the paint with defenders. When the Knicks clear out the side for a pick-and-roll, smart defenses sag into the middle. Amar'e finds himself rolling into three or four defenders who are all facing the action, meaning he either has to finish over several people or thread a difficult pass over to one of the weak side shooters. An alternative to this would be to run the pick and roll with one extra shooter on the perimeter. Check out this play from Sunday: