While many people are suggesting that Amar'e Stoudemire should come off the bench to avoid disrupting the starting five's flow, could the same conversation happen with Iman Shumpert before his return?
Because right now, Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd in the starting backcourt are the main reason why the Knicks are playing the most efficient basketball in the league.
Here are a few key indicators:
-- The team's best lineup? Felton, Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, who have a plus-minus of +31.
-- The team's turnover percentage? The lowest in the league (12.1), after having the fourth-highest turnover percentage last season (16.6).
-- The team's ball movement? Superb. After having the most isolations in 2011-12, including ones that resulted in a pass (1,372), they're ranked 11th this season (3.8 fewer isolations per game). Not only are the Knicks ranked in the top 10 for field goal percentage, but they're also the most efficient out of any team on the block (1.28 points per post-up with a 56.7 shooting percentage). So far, the Knicks have posted up 39 times, and Anthony accounts for 30 of those (Rasheed Wallace is second with eight).
-- The team's offensive production? They're playing at a much slower pace, but it's a very efficient one. In fact, their offense is more efficient than the one under offensive-minded Mike D'Antoni. While they have four fewer possessions per 48 minutes this season, they're scoring 1.8 more points per 100 possessions. Overall, if you compare D'Antoni last season to Woodson since then, Woodson's squad has scored 107.0 points per possessions, compared to 98.8.
A slower but more efficient pace naturally benefits the defense, which is why they're giving up 10 fewer points per 100 possessions. While they allowed 106.8 points per 100 possessions under D'Antoni, it's only been 96.8 under Woodson, as they've improved guarding the pick-and-roll. After ranking 20th in points per play in 2011-12 (0.92), they're 13th and climbing this season (0.85).
Carmelo Anthony has also continued his defensive dominance against post-ups. In 2011-12, he was actually the best at it in the league, and this season, he's holding opponents to a 1/2 point per post-up (eighth-best so far).
Bringing it back full circle, a lot of credit goes to Felton and Kidd for dictating the team's efficiency. Actually, they're the first players under 6-5 with career averages of at least six assists per game to start together since Rajon Rondo and Stephon Marbury in 2008-09 with the Celtics. Rondo and Marbury started two games together that season and the Celtics won both times. Before them, it was Marbury and Steve Francis in 2006-07 with the Knicks, and Gary Payton and Dwyane Wade in 2006-07 with the Heat.
If Felton and Kidd keep it up, their play and the Knicks' productivity could be good enough for the record books.