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John Schuhmann

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Regardless of Jeremy Lin, the Knicks need to figure out how to make better use of their two biggest stars.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Lin or no Lin, Knicks' problems start with their stars


Posted Jul 19 2012 12:02PM

Jeremy Lin is back with the Houston Rockets, and we're all left to wonder why. Until recently, we were led to believe that the New York Knicks would match any offer sheet that the restricted free agent signed. But after Lin accepted a lucrative offer from Houston, Tuesday night's deadline passed ... and so did the Knicks.

Maybe the Knicks felt Lin wasn't worth that "ridiculous" contract. Maybe they were bitter that Lin and the Rockets changed the terms of the deal before signing it. Maybe they thought Raymond Felton, acquired in a sign-and-trade deal with Portland, is better than Lin. Or maybe the Knicks believed that Lin just isn't a good fit with stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, because he played better when they weren't around.

The Lin era in New York really lasted just 26 games, from Feb. 4 -- when Lin came off the bench to score 25 points against the Nets -- until March 24. Then he was out for the season, requiring surgery on a torn meniscus in his left knee. Anthony missed seven of those 26 games of Linsanity (six of which were wins) and Stoudemire missed four (all wins).

The Knicks outscored their opponents by 141 points in Lin's 941 minutes on the floor, better both offensively and defensively than in his minutes on the bench.

Knicks' efficiency with Lin on and off the floor
Lin on/off floor MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Lin on floor 941 97.5 102.8 96.7 +6.1 +141
Lin off floor 2,199 94.9 100.6 99.0 +1.7 +68
Total 3,140 95.7 101.3 98.3 +3.0 +209
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

A plus-6.1 NetRtg is very good. But while Lin's offensive numbers (18.5 points and 7.7 assists per game) during his storybook run were impressive, the Knicks were winning with improved defense more than anything. They allowed just 93.6 points per 100 possessions during the seven-game winning streak that started Linsanity and just 91.3 in going 6-1 right before Lin was lost for the season.

It's no coincidence that the Defensive Player of the Year was the teammate with whom Lin spent the most minutes on the floor. In 670 minutes with both Lin and Tyson Chandler on the floor together, the Knicks allowed just 94.0 points per 100 possessions. That ranked them 16th of 470 two-man combinations that logged at least 600 minutes together last season.

Not surprisingly, the Knicks weren't as good defensively with Anthony and/or Stoudemire paired with Lin. And though Lin was a plus-141 overall, the Knicks outscored their opponents by just four points with Lin, Anthony and Stoudemire on the floor together.

It appears that Stoudemire is the guy who brought the trio down, because Lin and Anthony were pretty effective together without Stoudemire, though in a pretty small sample size.

Knicks' efficiency with Lin on the floor
Combination MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Lin + Anthony + Stoudemire 417 98.7 99.1 100.6 -1.5 +4
Lin + Anthony, no Stoudemire 88 96.3 110.9 98.1 +12.9 +22
Lin + Stoudemire, no Anthony 174 95.2 100.8 96.6 +4.2 +25
Lin, no Anthony or Stoudemire 262 97.7 107.5 90.3 +17.2 +90

Really, it's the combination of Anthony and Stoudemire that's the problem. The pair have now played 1,880 minutes together over two seasons (including playoffs), and the Knicks have been outscored by 123 points in those minutes. They've consistently been better with just one of the two on the floor.

Last season, Anthony and Stoudemire were a better combination when Lin was with them on the court. And while you would think that Lin's point guard skills would make them better offensively, that wasn't the case.

Knicks's efficiency with Anthony and Stoudemire on the floor
With or without Lin MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
With Lin 417 98.7 99.1 100.6 -1.5 +4
Without Lin 558 95.0 99.1 104.4 -5.3 -52
Total 976 96.6 99.1 102.7 -3.6 -48

Whether Lin was on the floor or not, the Knicks scored just 99.1 points per 100 possessions with Anthony and Stoudemire on the floor last season. That's almost three points per 100 possessions less than the league average. And when you consider how talented they are (and how much they're paid), that's pretty bad.

Once again, we see that Lin made a difference defensively more than offensively. But did he really? The eye test tells you that he's not an awful defender, but he's not exactly Avery Bradley either. And you have to remember that 71 percent of Lin's minutes came with Chandler on the floor as well.

A look at Anthony and Stoudemire's numbers with and without Chandler make it clear that he's the guy making the real defensive impact.

Knicks efficiency with Anthony and Stoudemire on the floor
With or without Chandler MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
With Chandler 794 96.4 98.5 100.3 -1.8 -9
Without Chandler 181 97.2 101.7 113.2 -11.5 -39
Total 976 96.6 99.1 102.7 -3.6 -48

The 181 minutes without Chandler isn't a big sample size, but 113.2 points allowed per 100 possessions is downright awful. And if you need any further evidence of why Chandler was the DPOY, there it is.

Whether Chandler was on the floor or not, the Anthony-Stoudemire combination was not very good offensively. These are two offense-only stars who are each getting paid $20 million a year for the next three seasons, and they've yet to get on the same page.

That's the challenge for Knicks coach Mike Woodson, and it doesn't matter who the point guard is, really. Whether it's Lin, Felton, Jason Kidd or Pablo Prigioni on the floor, the Knicks aren't going to be very good unless Anthony and Stoudemire figure out how to play together.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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