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January 31, 2012
Prospectus Roundtable
Fixing the Knicks

Basketball Prospectus

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The Knicks may be the league's most scrutinized team this season and not for happy reasons. New York has lost nine of 10 and dropped six games under .500 for the season. Given the high hopes for Eastern Conference contention this season, it's pretty easy to say that this is the nadir of Mike D'Antoni's tenure in the Big Apple and the coach's seat gets hotter with every defeat.

Everyone has an opinion on the New York's situation. Whether it's the fit between Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire or D'Antoni's system, there is plenty to debate. The failings of the Knicks' rebuilding program offer an opportunity to study everything from offensive design to the tenets of roster building and salary cap management.

We decided to gather some of our favorite writers and Knicks analysts for an open exchange about the issues facing the denizens of Madison Square Garden. Did we fix the Knicks? Maybe not, but I think we shed light on a number of important issues. This is a bit on the long side but, then again, the Knicks have a lot of problems. And, really, we only revealed the tip of the iceberg.

Let's meet our panel:

  • Bradford Doolittle: That's me. I moderated this exchange and managed to remain fairly quiet.
  • Kevin Pelton: My esteemed Prospectus colleague and Yoda to my Luke Skywalker
  • Neil Paine: Writes NBA for us at Prospectus, but is better known for his day job working on the indispensable Sports Reference sites.
  • Dan Filowitz & Kenneth Drews: the always-entertaining hosts of the Disciples of Clyde podcast. I hate to lump these guys together, but that's the inevitable fate of all disciples I think.
  • Will Leitch: prolific author, Deadspin founder and sports writer and editor for New York Magazine.
  • Sebastian Pruiti: Scouting guru, video master, Prospectus alum and now regular contributor to Grantland.
  • Seth Rosenthal: Will's colleague at NY Mag and author of the brilliant Knicks blog Posting & Toasting.
  • Tom Ziller: Sacramento Kings expert and NBA editor at SB Nation.

AMAR'E


Doolittle: Let's start with Amar'e Stoudemire, whose numbers have taken a sharp turn south this season and everybody seems to have a theory why. Is it poor fit with Carmelo Anthony? Is it poor offensive design now that Tyson Chandler is on board? Or is it something more ominous, as in his knees have rendered him an $83 million albatross? Just what is going on here?

Pruiti: In my opinion, the reason why Amar'e is struggling offensively is the way he's being used. On the Knicks, Stoudemire is still being used like he is a center. They are isolating him way too much, which works when he is a center, because he's going up against slower guys without a big clogging the middle. At power forward this year, that's not going to work, because Tyson Chandler is patrolling the middle. That's why he's shooting 29% when isolated.

So what should he be doing more? Pick-and-rolls. So far this season, Stoudemire has been the roll man in a pick-and-roll, 16 times. One time per game. Way too little. I know there is no true point guard in New York, but who cares, run the Anthony/Stoudemire pick-and-roll. A pick-and-roll with Chandler lurking in the short corner ready to cut when his man helps off of him would be deadly, but it's not being run. Until we see Stoudemire being properly used, it's hard to say that he's falling off. I blame the offense.

Pelton: My sense, watching Stoudemire struggle in isolations against Marcin Gortat last week, was that this was primarily about him losing a step. But Sebastian, you bring up an interesting point about Stoudemire facing quicker defenders. The sample size is small, but so far this year 82games.com shows him shooting 57.7 percent as a center and 40.8 percent as a power forward. He was more effective offensively as a center last year, though the margin wasn't so dramatic.

Pruiti: I took a look at StatsCube real quick and Stoudemire's shooting with Chandler on/off court. With Chandler in, Amar'e is shooting 38.9% of his shots in the restricted area. With Chandler out, 42.9% of his shots are coming from that spot.

With Chandler not in, Amar'e is shooting 42% in the paint. With him in, he's shooting 18% from the paint. Now, this is without a doubt a small sample size, but I do think there is some truth to it, and I'd say these numbers will look the same at the end of the year if I was to guess.

Filowitz: The problem is a set of "no"'s:

1- No point guard. Amare needs to be set up to score to be at his best, to be put in position to make quick decisions. Douglas and Shumpert aren't helping, and neither excel in running a pick-and-roll.

2- No training camp. To get Amar'e and Chandler working together right, it takes time and practice, especially because he's hardly played with a real center in his career. They're having to figure it out in the spotlight, instead of in the practice gym.

3- No luck. Amar'e is missing shots he typically makes. I've never seen him miss so many open jumpers from the elbow. What's the opposite of "regress to the mean?" "Progress to the mean?" He'll probably do that, but for now he's just off.

4- No confidence. Amar'e always seemed like a guy who played on his ego. When he was rolling early in a game, he'd carry that through the whole game. If he started out bad--missing shots, foul trouble, etc.--he'd be bad throughout, either with his head out if the game, or trying too hard to make things happen, forcing things. We're seeing a lot more of the bad Amar'e this year, especially given the "no"'s in 1-3 above. He's missing those easy open looks, then forcing things, then getting in foul trouble as a result.

5- No, please, God, let it not be that he's become an $83 million albatross. Please. Don't turn me into some crazy eyed old guy wandering around forced to tell unsuspecting wedding guests my haunted story.

Leitch: There are times that I believe this wretched Knicks start--and it's of note that the wretchedness expands beyond their mere record; this is a brutal, odorous team to physically watch play basketball--has somewhat obscured the overarching point: This is not a championship team.

Now, before you congratulate me for that blindingly astute observation--Yes, of course they're not; who, outside of Vinnie from Queens, said they were?--not that Mike D'Antoni himself said they were "obviously" one before the season. A lot of the pain Knicks fans like Dan are experiencing is because they waited patiently (as "patient" as anyone in this town can be) as Donnie Walsh cleaned up the Isiah disaster ... and THIS is what they ended up with. The "championship" talk sounds ridiculous now, but it probably should have before they lost six in a row, and at home to Charlotte, Toronto and Phoenix, right?

After all: There isn't much "growth" to be had here. The Knicks' three best players, the result of all that work by Walsh and company, are not going to IMPROVE their games. They are who they are, and they'll only get worse as the years go along. They have a couple of young players with potential--Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, even Toney Douglas--but they're going to have to make a rather massive leap, because this is, essentially, all the reinforcements the Knicks have coming. Their 2012 first round pick is going to Houston (unless it's a top five pick, in which case: YIKES), and the 2014 and 2016 picks are going to Denver. There will not be an infusion of young talent and energy. The Knicks have to figure this out now, because this is, save for the elderly point guard de jour (Baron Davis this year, Steve Nash next?), all the Knicks have. This is the team the Knicks are, and will be. The terrifying part of all of this is that, uh, this really might be as good as it gets.

Rosenthal: Yes, a lot of what Dan said. The Knick point guards--Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas--don't get Amar'e the ball in comfortable spots. In fact, they do quite the opposite. You'll often see Amar'e streaking to the basket, only to get a waaaay premature feed from Shump or Douglas that sets him up to commit a charge or take a shot on the move outside his range. I get the feeling that Stoudemire relies on his pick-and-roll and transition buckets to develop some "feel" or whatever, and that finishing easy buckets helps him get in rhythm for those elbow jumpers that he's been missing. He needs to be getting touches cutting and rolling to the basket, and nobody on the Knicks (except for maybe that bearded guy on the sideline) can be relied upon to engage him in that way.

A week or two ago, I might have said that Amar'e's back or knees were bugging him, or that he'd lost some "explosiveness", but he had some genuinely bouncy plays against Charlotte and Cleveland that offered reassurance.

In any event, I really do think we'll see a meaningful uptick in production from Stoudemire if Davis comes in healthy and ready to contribute. My sanity sort of depends on it.

Oh, and I'll add that Tyson Chandler's presence would be much less of an impediment to Amar'e if somebody was actually capable of feeding Chandler when he's wide open under the basket. Defenders can pretty much just sag off him at this point because the painted area is a total blind spot for the current Knick guards.

Doolittle: So Baron Davis is going to fix all this, right?

Rosenthal: No, Jeremy Lin is, silly!

Drews: Past is prologue, baby.

Mr. Leitch was pessimistic, so I'll pretend that he didn't say anything (however reasonable) that could upset me. I apply a similar filter to thirty percent of what my wife says.

The other guys offered negative assessments, but paths for hope that I agree with.

I'll defer to Seth for insightful critiques of spacing, Kevin and Sebastian for "objective facts" and my dear friend Dan for "annoying lists". Each of these wise men are correct. It is a very early moment in a very strange NBA season that favors youth and continuity. The Knicks have some of the former and none of the latter. Further, the youth that the Knicks do have is unfortunately stacked in the backcourt, where a little caginess running an offense would not be unwelcome.

Stoudemire is a big man who is middling in an isolation-based offense and lethal when both he and the ball are in motion. To remind yourself what this historically good offensive player requires to succeed, then you need only access the YouTube mix in your own mind and watch all the plays that made you think that he was a compelling player in the first place; trailing on the fast break, exploding to the rim from the elbow on a pick-and-roll, hiding on the weak side to punish his defender for helping on a penetrating perimeter player. In other words, Amare Stoudemire needs help to score in those bunches that got him the big contract. The Knicks have a slow-ish pace and run tons of isolations resulting in an ad-hoc penetrate & kick system right now that will only succeed even a little if Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert can start draining open threes like they are Ray Allen. This is not the offense that the coach wants and it is not the offense that we will be watching in April.

I am optimistic about the fortunes of both Stoudemire and the New York Knicks, because if I am not then it means that I'll need to look inward for personal fulfillment and that probably won't go well. Still, I remember last year at a similar junction in the season (early December) wondering why Raymond Felton was so incapable of running a pick-and-roll, why Felton and Toney Douglas spent so much time pounding the ball on the perimeter, why Wilson Chandler was allergic to the foul line and why the multi-skilled Danillo Gallinari was being marginalized as a spot up shooter. The biggest problem at this juncture last year was that Amare kept getting the ball while standing still, while his defender was in good position, and then Amare had to turn into a crossover specialist just to get to the rim. It was ugly and ineffective, which is why the wheels almost came off the season. And then things started to click. Within a couple of weeks those problems were mostly fixed and the offense was winning bunches of games.

Felton never quite mastered the pick-and-roll, but D'Antoni and Felton bended towards one another enough to get Amare the ball on the move enough for a record string of efficient 30 point outings; the other wing players got more aggressive, too, with Gallo getting to the line like a madman and Wilson Chandler getting there often enough to keep defenses honest. It all happened. I didn't imagine any of it.

Fields and Shumpert won't ever shoot open jumpers like Ray Allen, but each player can get to the cup. Yes, they play with "superior" offensive players, but the young guys can only serve those stars if they are aggressive. Toney Douglas will likely revert to his normal shooting statistics, which will open things up when he is on the floor, as will the addition of an unnamed backup forward to fill the Shawne Williams role later in the season. The presence of Shumpert and Tyson Chandler makes this a better defensive team, which we'll start to appreciate after the offense ceases to blow. And hopefully Baron Davis adds a faster pace and some better opportunities with his underrated vision in the 20-25 minutes that he is able to play. All of these improvements will benefit Stoudemire and Anthony. I'm not completely full of shit, right?

As for the arc of Stoudemire's career, it seems that most of the great big men of the last few decades had their best moments a decade after being drafted. Knee problems or not, it is reasonable to think that he has at least a couple good years to give this organization. Ten years after being drafted, in fact, is not a bad place to be for the organization that employs an elite big man. For Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing it is 1995. For Barkley and Hakeem/Akeem it is 1994, 1979 for Kareem, 1977 for Wes Unseld, 1978 for Elvin Hayes, 1985 for Moses, 1999 for David Robinson, 1996 for Dennis Rodman, 2002 for Shaq and Alonzo Morning, for Tim Duncan it is 2007. Almost all of those guys had their most important moments right around the decade mark for their careers. I won't mention Bill Walton or Shawn Kemp just because I don't feel like it. Leave me alone.

So there. Feel better, Knicks fans. Of course, if you read my whole essay then I am the one who feels bad for you. Go outside and get some air.

D'ANTONI

Doolittle: As Will says, this team as been ugly to watch. I wouldn't have thought that possible for a Mike D'Antoni team. Ken says this isn't the offense the coach wants to run, which is certainly true. I don't know how hot D'Antoni's seat is, but I do wonder at what point the Knicks have to decide whether he's the best fit for the core that's been assembled. How do we grade D'Antoni?

Ziller: In assessing D'Antoni, I think it's important to realize how difficult last spring's roster changes made his work. That isn't to absolve him, but he has a definite style of teaching the game and running a system, and this pieces fit like Josh Harrellson at one of Amare's fashion shows.

That said, most good coaches would have tried something new by now. That's one thing Miami has been doing so well under Erik Spoelstra: constantly adjusting. There's none of that in New York, and that's on D'Antoni, either for failing to implement different offensive tactics or for failing to convince Carmelo to take direction in that realm.

On the whole, I do think that with Melo and Chandler, this time is built more for the playoffs: they have one of the league's most reliable isolation scorers and a top-three interior defender. Amare's the grand disappointment and that could continue into May, but if New York gets to the playoffs, I imagine they'll look better than they currently do.

Pelton: It's funny how much this year's results are a repudiation of everything people thought they knew about D'Antoni, what with the Knicks being a top-10 defense but a terrible offense. I think you can say, without rendering a judgment on D'Antoni's coaching acumen, that he's not the right fit for this group. And since Amar'e and Melo aren't going anywhere ...

Filowitz: Tom's point about "trying something new" resonates for me. You have to deal with the world as it is, not as you'd like it to be.

The bigger indictment for D'Antoni is how uninspired this team plays on so many nights. You don't see these guys playing their asses off but just falling short. It just seems like they don't show up, far too often.

I loved those "7-Seconds-Or-Less" Suns. I am biased in favor of D'Antoni. But I'm really disappointed in how he's done in NY.

Pruiti: This is definitely not a true D'Antoni style of offense. Like Tom and Dan said, D'Antoni should have adjusted by now, but if you are a coach with a niche system, as D'Antoni is, you expect your front office to provide you with the players that help you succeed. Yes, Carmelo Anthony is a big name and a "star" but was it really that hard to see that he wasn't a "7-Seconds-Or-Less" type of player?

On those old Suns, I don't remember anybody who would hold the ball like Melo does. It's as if he plays better after holding onto the ball for a few seconds. That was fine in Denver, but on the Knicks, when you want to get quick ball movement and quick shooting, that simply doesn't work.

Ziller: But even if Melo was more decisive with the ball, the team still doesn't have a D'Antoni-style playmaker or any shooters, something that will be exacerbated when Baron Davis comes in and begins to take seven three-pointers a game out of necessity and habit.

By the same token, this team wasn't much better with a more traditional D'Antoni rotation (Gallinari, Felton, Stoudemire), and the offense looked much better after the trade last season than it does right now (despite Chauncey Billups not being a D'Antoni-style point). So the question becomes how much the Suns' offensive success really had to do with the system and how much was Steve Nash's specific talent and the strong fit of Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and (for one year) Boris Diaw. It'd be wrong to rewrite history based on what's happening in New York, but it's hard to ignore how unsuccessful the D'Antoni offense has been without a Hall of Fame point guard running it. (Billups is Springfield-bound, right?)

Rosenthal: Yeah, I don't (or don't want to) feel comfortable judging how well this roster "fits" D'Antoni right now, and I do think he's been put at a disadvantage by being made to coach a moving target over the years (what is it now, like 70 or 80 players that he's coached over three years and change?).

And let us not forget that, aside from Melo and Amar'e and Chandler and how they might fit, the players the Knicks have trotted out at point guard thus far are the least effective folks D'Antoni has had at that position since he's been in New York. Even those terrible Knick teams had Stephon Marbury or Chris Duhon manning point, and both of those guys could dribble in a straight line and run the occasional pick-and-roll. Seriously, I loathed watching Duhon, and I'd take him in a heartbeat over Douglas or Shumpert (both of whom I quite like. They're just not starting point guards right now by any stretch of the imagination). Baron Davis can't be relied upon to be a savior, but if he's even mediocre, he'll be a step up.

But, like folks have said, D'Antoni's always seemed a bit too steadfast and unwilling to cater to his roster's foibles on a game-by-game basis. It's sort of a "I'm not going to baby you! You're going to get this right or you're just going to keep losing!" approach, and it gets pretty frustrating if you're the type of person that actually sits through Toney Douglas piloting a loss to the Cavs on a weekday night.

And, perhaps in conjunction with that, D'Antoni doesn't share some coaches' magical ability to summon an extra-human effort from his players when it's evident that they'll need one. That's been a pain.

Filowitz: Now, with this all said, if they get it together, make the playoffs, and say, win a series, I'm sure he'll be viewed differently.

I wouldn't suggest that they fire him mid-season. But if it doesn't turn around at all, and they more often look like that uninspired mid week team that lost to the Cavs, then I'd say get someone else in.

Doolittle: I have to play both sides of the fence on D'Antoni. I don't think this is a great roster for his style and as Sebastian notes, he's a niche coach. He may not be capable of adapting beyond a certain point. At the same time, I'd be hesitant to call for a change as long as there is a temp regime in place. I mean, Glen Grunwald is fine and I have a lot of respect for Mark Warkentien. Donnie Walsh apparently has some sort of voice in things. But doesn't James Dolan have to declare a new basketball operations chief before the Knicks make any more major changes?

Filowitz: Can we just fire James Dolan? I'd prefer that.

'MELO AND JAX

Doolittle: Guys, there are two more things I want to throw out there before we wrap this up, and I think they are probably related.

There have been whisperings about Phil Jackson returning to the Knicks. That happens every time a New York coach gets into trouble. At this point, it seems like a long shot. What I'm more interesting in knowing is whether even a successful coach like Jackson with a time-worn system can fix the Knicks? I mean, if we're talking about championships being the ultimate goal, there is only so much a coach can do, right?

Last season, there was a healthy debate about whether Carmelo Anthony was really a max contract kind of player. I'd define a max player as someone who is good enough to be the best player on a championship team over the duration of a proposed contract. Given those parameters, do you think that with the right changes, the Knicks can win a title with Anthony as their featured performer?

Rosenthal: I think the affinity for Phil Jackson is a combination of nostalgia, New Yorkerly grass-is-greener covetousness, and a reasonable appraisal that the Knicks suck at point guard and Jackson has won before in spite of sucky point guards. It's possible that Jackson could coach this team (and by "this" I mean sans Baron Davis) better than D'Antoni, but could he make them better enough to warrant such a massive change? I'm skeptical, but don't really know.

And by your parameters ... sure, Melo might be good enough to be the best player on a championship team. I think the "right changes" line is the sketchier part of it.

The Jackson thing would also depend on his actually wanting to coach the Knicks. The only evidence we have in that department is that one flowery Times article about how he likes New York City. I doubt the guy could name more than three Knicks at this point.

Pruiti: The triangle could work with this Knicks' roster and work pretty well. You don't need a ball dominant point guard, and in case Baron Davis doesn't work out as a true point, they can have him, Toney Douglas, or Shumpert bringing the ball up, entering it, then going to the corner to space the court. The Triangle is all about spacing and creating opportunities, and I think this can do that for both Amar'e and Carmelo. This could especially help Amar'e get more touches in scoring areas, but it can also help Carmelo get more post touches. Melo is one of the best non-PF/C post players, but he isn't getting those touches in the Knicks' current offense, doing so just 10% compared to 15% (last year) and 17% (two years ago) his last two seasons with the Nuggets. The only question about this offense is, "are Chandler/Amar'e good enough passers to replicate the Bynum/Gasol connection?" It's not going to be as good as the Lakers' triangle, especially when there is no Lamar Odom on the Knicks, but it could work better than this system, much better.

As for a championship, with teams like the Bulls and the Heat in the East and not going anywhere, it's really hard to see that happening. And that isn't the Nets' fan in me talking.

Pelton: I think we have to be careful analyzing the East too much in terms of building a team to compete with Chicago and Miami, because if that's the only perspective, everybody else in the conference may as well either petition the league to move to the West or just pack it in for the next half-decade. You try to build as good a roster as you can, and put yourself in a position where you can take advantage if something crazy happens in the playoffs.

If Jackson is committed and has the energy to give this team his full coaching attention, yeah, he'd probably help. The biggest problem I see with the triangle is the current lack of floor spacing (we probably haven't talked enough about how the Knicks have gone from a strong outside shooting team after the Anthony trade last year to a terrible one this year, which can't entirely be attributed to losing Billups), but there isn't a system in the world that can cover that up in the contemporary NBA.

I think one of the most unfair criticisms of Anthony is that you can't win with him as your star. We've seen an Anthony team reach the Western Conference Finals. I know the league has a short memory, but that was three years ago.

Filowitz: I think in both cases it comes down to commitment.

Phil Jackson is going to be 67 years old in September. Is he really going to want to commit himself to the hard work it takes to get a team into the playoffs, and then through the playoffs? Especially in a place like New York, where the pressure will be unbelievable, and nothing short of a championship would be expected.

Not that Jackson couldn't do it, but at 67, you have to wonder if he still has it in him. He probably wonders the same thing. If he goes through a rough patch in the middle of the year, and the back page of the Post is insulting him, doesn't he at some point say, "ah, screw it. I don't need this."

As for Carmelo, we know he has the talent to be the best player on a championship team. It should count for something that he was that guy for Syracuse. As far as talent goes, he could roll out of bed and score 20 in an NBA game without really thinking about it too much. The problem is, of course, that talent alone doesn't make a superstar on a championship team. There needs to be the emotional commitment, so that he's bought in for the whole team idea, not just himself. And the physical and mental commitment to do things other than score, as well as making sure he's scoring within the framework of the team. It can't be him out there gunning, no matter if it's D'Antoni's system or the Triangle or even Mike Brown's whatever-the-hell-that-is offense.

Can Carmelo do that? I'd like to think that he can. He's more or less done it before in Denver. With this team as presently constructed? We'll have to see what Baron Davis has left, I suppose, before we can fully judge it.

I still hate the idea, though, that Knicks fans are constantly being asked to wait for a savior. And then they keep bringing in these people who are supposedly saviors, but turn out false. So then we are pointed to the next savior, and so on, always the messiah on the horizon waiting to lead us back to the promised land, but never a messiah who actually exists on the team in the present, in actuality. No wonder so many Jews are Knicks fans.

Drews: I agree with Kevin that 'Melo can front a title contender. And I also agree that Phil Jackson would have the same trouble working with these role players that D'Antoni is having. Hey, if there was a couple floor spacers who could play representative defense then we wouldn't be talking about D'Antoni's replacement at least until he failed to make adjustments to a good team in the second round of the playoffs.

And I strongly disagree with Dan Filowitz in hopes that we'll be estranged for just long enough that I don't need to buy him a wedding present.

Paine: Some of NY's current roster certainly fits in with the triangle's preferred skill sets. For instance, the Knicks' PGs seem to match the profiles of successful triangle PGs from days gone by. A good triangle PG is ideally a pure shooter (Steve Kerr; Derek Fisher), and you can also get away with somebody like Ron Harper because he makes good decisions with the ball, has the size to post smaller points, and gives you great defense at the other end. With his size and defensive ability, Shumpert could definitely become a Harper-esque triangle PG (provided he improves his decision-making and shot selection). And even though he's been horrible this season, Douglas has traditionally shown the shooting ability necessary to effectively space the floor in the triangle. In both players' cases, the triangle would reduce their offensive workload, which seems like a good idea given their combined 81.8 ORtg this season.

Tyson Chandler is obviously the Rodman analogue in this comparison, a defense/rebounding specialist who doesn't touch the ball often. In fact, Chandler also provides the offensive efficiency of a Horace Grant (something Rodman never really did) and the size of a Bill Cartwright or Luc Longley, so he's several triangle archetypes rolled into one.

But this is where the Knicks' triangle suitability becomes questionable. Amare would frequently be called on to form the "post" 1/3 of the triangle (with Anthony on the wing and the PG in the corner), from which he would receive the entry pass and either look to score or pass to an open man. Pau Gasol excelled at this; the latter-day dynasty Bulls even used MJ in that capacity. While Amare has the scoring part down, he doesn't have the same passing skills and court vision as someone like Gasol, and ball movement from that spot is crucial.

As for Carmelo, I agree with Sebastian that the triangle would be a great way to get him the ball in the post, where he's one of the best pure scorers in the league. One might even hope it cures Melo of his 4th-quarter ball-stopping and all-around hero complex. For that to happen, though, he'll have to make better, quicker decisions with the ball than he's been doing. He doesn't have to become Pippen or Odom overnight, but MJ or Kobe levels of distributing shouldn't be too much to ask.

Of course, D'Antoni's offense also places a premium on ball movement, and he's spent the past month trying in vain to squeeze NY's square pegs into his system's round holes. If they were more concerned with sharing the ball and spacing themselves properly in the first place, we wouldn't have to be talking about bringing in Phil Jackson to fix everything.

Ziller: Another huge issue with laying it on Phil Jackson to sweep in, install the Triangle and prosper is that it takes a full year for even the smartest players to learn the system, and Phil's not coming before the summer, so 2012-13 would be expected to be a wash, and you're asking Amar'e Stoudemire's legs to last until 2013-14. That's ... a lot to ask.

Melo's a great enough offensive player to be the leading scorer on a title team, but like Dirk Nowitzki with the Mavericks, the defensive and complementary offense pieces need to be strong.

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