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John Schuhmann

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The Knicks were only 12-16 in the 28 games in which both Melo and Ama're played together.
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StatsCube: Knicks' stars must step up on defensive end


Posted Dec 2 2011 7:20AM

To get ready for the 2011-12 season, NBA.com StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.

There were a lot of positives around the New York Knicks as they ended a six-year playoff drought in 2011. They acquired not one star, but two. And they earned back a lot of the fan support that was lost over the previous 10 years.

But the Knicks are still a couple of steps behind the best teams in the league, thanks to two offense-only stars and a flawed supporting cast. For the same reasons, the Knicks are also a fascinating statistical study.

The difference between the Knicks and the Miami Heat in 2010-11 wasn't that the Heat had a better supporting cast, but that their two best players played both ends of the floor. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are both assets on defense, while Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are both liabilities.

The priority for the Knicks going into the 2011-12 season is obviously to defend better, both the perimeter and the interior. But if the Knicks are going to take the next step and truly become an Eastern Conference contender, their improvement has to start with their two best players.

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2010-11 BASICS
Record: 42-40
Pace: 98.2 (2)
OffRtg: 108.3 (5)
DefRtg: 106.9 (21)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

The Knicks basically fielded two different teams last season. For the first 54 games, they had just one star, but more depth. For the last 28 games, they had two stars, but less talent around them. Throughout, the Knicks were pretty poor defensively and on the glass.

Knicks' efficiency, before and after trade
Timeframe W L Pace Rank OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
Before trade 28 26 98.7 2 107.6 7 106.1 20 +1.5 11
After trade 14 14 97.1 7 109.8 4 108.5 25 +1.2 14
Star-crossed

Almost every team in the league would love to have two All-Star forwards to build around. And with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire each under contract for the next four seasons, the Knicks should be off to a good start in building a championship contender.

But the numbers through Anthony's and Stoudemire's first 28 games together weren't exactly promising. The Knicks were 12-16 (including 0-4 in the postseason) in games in which Anthony and Stoudemire both played. And in the 776 minutes the two stars were on the floor together, the Knicks were outscored by 54 points.

At the heart of the Knicks' two-star troubles was some porous defense. They were much better defensively with just one of the two stars on the floor.

Knicks' post-trade efficiency (including playoffs)
On Floor MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Anthony & Stoudemire 776 97.0 107.6 111.5 -4.0 -54
Only Anthony 356 98.7 110.1 104.2 +5.9 +46
Only Stoudemire 278 94.8 106.5 103.8 +2.7 +11
1 of the 2 634 97.0 108.6 104.0 +4.5 +57

Offensively, the Knicks' numbers were strong, whether they had one star or two on the floor. But there's certainly room for improvement, especially when it comes to chemistry between Anthony and Stoudemire.

For the 2010-11 season, both Anthony (sixth) and Stoudemire (seventh) ranked among the league leaders in usage rate. And when they were both on the floor, it was Stoudemire who took a back seat more often. In their 776 minutes together, Anthony had a usage rate of 26.5% and Stoudemire had one of 23.6%.

Top 10 players in usage rate, 2010-11
Player GP MIN Usage Rate
Kobe Bryant 82 2778 33.0%
Derrick Rose 81 3026 31.1%
Russell Westbrook 82 2848 30.4%
LeBron James 79 3063 29.6%
Dwyane Wade 76 2823 28.8%
Carmelo Anthony 77 2751 28.8%
Amar'e Stoudemire 78 2870 27.7%
Kevin Durant 78 3038 27.5%
Kevin Martin 80 2602 26.9%
Monta Ellis 80 3226 26.5%
Usage Rate = Percentage of his team's possessions that a player uses when he's on the floor.

When they were on the floor together, Anthony assisted on just 24 of Stoudemire's 148 field goals (16 percent), and Stoudemire assisted on just 17 of Anthony's 149 field goals (11 percent). For the season, Anthony and Stoudemire ranked eighth and 10th in the league in unassisted field goals respectively. The only other non-guard in the top 10 was LeBron James.

With 72 unassisted 3-pointers, Chauncey Billups led the league in that category by far (Steve Nash ranked second with 55).

With Anthony and Stoudemire leading the way, the Knicks will be a potent offensive team no matter what. But they will be nearly impossible to stop if they have better chemistry between their three best players.

PLAYOFFS
Record: 0-4
Pace: 94.9 (2)
OffRtg: 95.9 (16)
DefRtg: 104.2 (11)

With Stoudemire injuring his back before Game 2 and shooting just 9-for-37 (24 percent) in the final three games, the potent Knicks offense was completely shut down by the Boston Celtics in the first round. They weren't so awful defensively, but allowed the Celtics to shoot 47 percent from 3-point range in the series.

In the four games, Anthony and Stoudemire were a minus-57 in 104 minutes together, with the Knicks scoring just 87 points per 100 possessions and allowing 116 in those minutes.

The 'D' in Woodson

In order to shore up their defense, the Knicks hired former Hawks coach Mike Woodson as an assistant under Mike D'Antoni in late August. They've said that Woodson won't necessarily be focused on defense, but that's obviously where D'Antoni's coaching has fallen short.

The act of supplying D'Antoni with defensive help was obviously much needed, but Woodson doesn't exactly have Tom Thibodeau's resume. Woodson coached the Hawks for six seasons, and the highest they ranked defensively in that time was 11th. The good news is that the Hawks improved dramatically on that end of the floor in Woodson's tenure. And when compared to the league average efficiency, they improved every season.

Hawks' defensive efficiency under Mike Woodson
Season DefRtg Rank League Avg. Diff.
2004-05 108.4 30 103.1 +5.3
2005-06 108.3 26 103.4 +4.9
2006-07 105.5 23 103.7 +1.7
2007-08 105.9 18 104.7 +1.2
2008-09 104.6 11 105.4 -0.8
2009-10 104.0 14 104.9 -0.9

In those last two seasons, when the Hawks were an above-average defensive team, they weren't particularly good on the boards or at forcing turnovers. But they defended the 3-point line well (ranking seventh in 2008-09 and ninth in 2009-10) and kept their opponents off the free throw line (fifth in 2008-09 and eighth in 2009-10).

Last season's Knicks ranked 25th in 3-point defense and 22nd in opponent free throw rate. So any improvement in those two would be a step in the right direction.

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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