Jordan Kahn breaks down the latest NBA trends in video form. You can find more of his work at Basketball Things and follow him on Twitter @AyoitsJordan.
This post is part of our playoff preview series here at Hickory-High, complete with both statistical and video breakdowns. Check out the rest of the previews here.
The Knicks have had about seven different versions of their team this year, so it’s hard to know what to expect in the series versus Miami. With the help of MySynergy Sports, let’s take a look at some of the trends and plays that we could see.
When Miami is on offense, we know LeBron James is going to have the ball much of the time. Unfortuntely for the Knicks, Lebron is going to be involved in pick-and-rolls aplenty. Despite having Tyson Chandler as a helper on the pick-and-roll, the Knicks have done a poor job containing pick-and-roll ball handlers. The Knicks rank 27th in the league in points allowed per pick-and-roll possession by ball handlers. Lebron, to go along with everything else that he does well, scores the 14th most points per possession in the league when he is the pick-and-roll ball handler. The video below shows a few of his successful drives off of ball screens against the Knicks.
Along with being a destructive force off the dribble, Dwyane Wade has been dominating in the post, ranking 14th in the NBA in points per post possession this year. Looking ahead, Wade could find himself being guarded by smaller or weaker players like Avery Bradley, Richard Hamilton, George Hill, or Leandro Barbosa. Against the Knicks, though, he should expect to see Iman Shumpert. When they faced off on April 15th, Shumpert did a pretty good job guarding Wade in the post. In the prior Knicks-Heat game, Shumpert was out and Wade was able to take advantage of Landry Fields and JR Smith. The video below shows those matchups.
In the playoffs, teams are going to try to take away the offense’s primary option. For the Knicks, that is obviously Carmelo Anthony. One way the Knicks have alleviated the pressure on Carmelo is by giving the ball to J.R. Smith. It may have gone under the radar this season, but Smith is using a ton of isolation possessions. It constitutes 34 percent of his offense, a that number that is right around Carmelo and well above Kobe Bryant. Isolation plays are usually a lower efficiency play when compared to other types of offensive possessions, but even considering that, Smith isn’t very effective as an isolation player. He’s averaging 0.73 points per isolation possession, which ranks 141st in the NBA. A big reason for this poor play is that he rarely drives and almost never draws fouls (He’s drawn six fouls in 158 isolation possessions). The J.R. Smith that ignores his own athleticism and LOVES his jumpshot comes out when he gets the ball in isolation. To no one’s surprise, the Heat’s excellent defense completely shut down Smith in these situations when they met in the regular season. Against Miami’s number one ranked isolation defense, Smith scored only once in eight isolation possessions. The video below shows how Miami “forced” Smith into taking bad shots.
Smith can be put in a bad position with all these isolations, as he is forced to create his own shot with the first option having already been covered. The Knicks will have a better chance of going to their primary options if they loosen up the defense by utilizing Steve Novak. Instead of just having Novak wait around for the ball to come to him, the Knicks have had him run off off-ball screens to get his shots. The video below shows a few examples of a misdirection play that New York uses. They get Carmelo to his favorite spot on the floor, in what looks like another isolation or pick-and-roll. While the defense is getting ready to help on Carmelo, Novak runs off a Chandler screen for a wide open three. A few open threes for Novak will make the defense more hesitant to help on Carmelo.
New York’s success on offense will be determined not only by Carmelo Anthony‘s performance but also by how well they deploy the rest of their weapons and counter Miami’s focus on Carmelo.