Thanks to the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls we can easily identify our Knick weaknesses. I'll go on record and start with the following:
1. Rebounding - This is a defensive stat, period. You can't have a great defense without boxing out and rebounding. We rank 28th in this department.
Most explain our poor rebounding by stating this is a result of our high fg percentage, slow pace, and tap outs (although those are scored as rebounds). Since coach is going with the small line-up, I'd say this is primarily due to lack of size, poor play design for positioning, and not boxing out because we're on the perimeter. Playing Melo out of position while offensively beneficial, will take it's toll, and forces us to resort to additional jump shots.
2. Too many Threes - Most explain this by saying "we're taking open shots" and they're dropping as we were ranked 3rd in this stat. The problem here is relying too much on the three and getting away from fundamentals. I'm on record asserting my dislike for too many threes, dropping or not.
Against a team like the Bulls, without the ability to get in the paint, the kick-out three doesn't have the same effect. My advice to coach would be to realign our line-up with Melo at SF, STAT at PF (when ready) and design more plays in the paint besides the P&R. More backdoor cuts, screens, post-ups, and multiple rollers to the basket to prevent the defense from clogging the lane and covering the perimeter. The three will be there, but fundamentally a GREAT team must play inside-out as the law of averages will prevail.
3. Perimeter Defense - I asked if Felton was good enough to win a chip with us? The answer is NOT IF HE DOESN'T THWART penetration. Yes Kidd is helpful and valuable; and yes Felton can run the offense, but without someone to guard against penetration our defense will deplete over the course of a game (likely with fouls mounting) and our bigs will be ineffective. Perhaps Shumpert will help but players who are slow in rotation and staying in front of their man such as Felton and Novak are hurting us.
4. Identity - Because of the above we have forged a certain identity of living and dying by the three and locking in on defense for stretches. We also have great guards that don't turn the ball over and get assists. That's why I feel this is the hardest aspect to alter.
I say alter because we have some good traits but we lack go to options on offense besides chucking threes and work counterintuitive at times by design. That's surprising seeing how well the P&R has been for us.
Defensively we don't have many who qualify as better than average- one being Brewer but he is too streaky offensively to get major minutes the opposite is true for Novak who is also a streaky shooter but is a liability on defense.. Coach must go against his instincts and cut back on the threes in favor of more high percentage shots and the P&R, even if the threes are dropping. This means less minutes for Novak unless he steps his defense up and sends the proper message; Defense wins championships.
We are playing at 60%, missing 2 key starters, yet we excelled. There are four important facets of a champion we must achieve if we want to be great as other champions and should be our next level of ascension. Consistency, variety, comradery, and adaptability. We aren't bad consistency wise and we are building our chemistry- without which we will fall apart facing adversity.
If coach could tweak our philosophy to exploit the paint we will have better offensive options in times when the three isn't falling and perhaps be in better position for rebounds (see MDA). If coach can adapt such as knowing when to go big (or small), and design offensive options to go inside more often, we can compete for the chip, but as of now he is strapped and we are limited.
Sadly we won't know if all this is possible until February but the good news is that we don't lack heart and desire. Stay tuned.