Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Getting Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire Easy Baskets

Through much of the Knicks' offensive struggles since acquiring Carmelo Anthony, the fingers have pointed to the superstar tandem of Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, and said the two cannot play together. This would be, of course, ignoring some greater issues that have plagued the offense since Anthony's arrival: inconsistent lineups, coaching changes, unsteady point guard production, injuries, etc.

However, the folks that turn to Anthony and Stoudemire as scapegoats aren't completely wrong. To say their lack of offensive chemistry doesn't exist would just be ignoring the fact that they, well, lack chemistry on the court. There have been glimpses, however, that show the pairing can work. Utilizing both players in an active offense creates a pick-your-poison choice for opponents, and if the Knicks can have consistent plays where Anthony and Stoudemire work together, it will open up the offense for the rest of the team.

Jump for video breakdown of three plays during the 2011-12 season that the Knicks could turn to get easy baskets for Anthony and Stoudemire.

1.) This is a pretty simple play that I've seen the Knicks run a few times, but it worked best here:

The play begins with Mike Bibby bringing up the ball and passing it to 'Melo on the right wing. Amar'e Stoudemire is in the high right post and receives a short pass from Anthony. Bibby, who after passing the ball to Anthony, faked a cut to the corner, came back, and set a screen on Anthony's defender - in this case, Tayshaun Prince. Anthony darts to the basket, and receives the pass from Stoudemire and has a wide open look.

On the weakside of the ball are Tyson Chandler and Landry Fields, who are attempting to run a backdoor cut with a Tyson screen, perhaps as a distraction to the defense, or as a secondary option to the original play. As 'Melo attacks the basket, Greg Monroe leaves Chandler to try and stop Anthony at the basket. Anthony ends up stuffing the ball in Monroe's grill, but other options could open up from this play. 'Melo could have made a small drop-off pass to Chandler for the dunk, or they could design the play so Fields would be in the corner for an open jumper as the defense rotates.

This play isn't complicated at all, and would presumably work even better with a better threat from outside than Fields, a bigger guard than Bibby setting the screen (i.e. Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert, J.R Smith), and if Stoudemire's midrange jumpshot is a threat.

2.) This is also a simple play that just involves an Anthony post-up, and a defense forced to pick its poison.

This play happens off an in-bounds and is essentially a give-and-go. J.R Smith passes the ball to Stoudemire on the perimeter, and cuts through the paint and out to the left wing, which is on the weakside in this play. That left wing is also cluttered with Knicks as Chandler and Fields are both hanging out there. Stoudemire passes it to 'Melo on the low right block as he posts up the smaller Deshawn Stevenson. As Anthony backs down Stevenson, Kris Humpries - Stoudemire's defender - leaves Amar'e at the top of the key and goes to help Stevenson and double Anthony. Stoudemire cuts to the basket, and Anthony wisely hits him with the pass. Shelden Williams leaves Chandler to protect the rim, but to no avail as Amar'e jams it in.

Tyson Chandler, through the course of the play, slowly creeps closer and closer to the basket. When Stoudemire is hit with the pass from Anthony, he also had the choice of making a drop-off pass to Chandler for an easy dunk. However, being that Shelden Williams has a two-inch vertical, Amar'e instead chose to turn poor Shelden into minced meat.

This play is contingent upon Anthony having a noticeable mismatch down low. Against defenders like LeBron James or Andre Iguodala, etc., Anthony may not receive help on the block, and the cut wouldn't open up for Amar'e. Likewise, in this case it was helpful that Humphries did not respect Stoudemire's jumper enough to stick with him. If this play were to happen against a faster rotating defense, Stoudemire might have to stay at the key and receive a kick-out pass from 'Melo and take the midrange jumper.

3.) Take this one with a grain of salt since it was against the worst team in the NBA, and it may not have even been drawn up, but it worked, and it could possibly work again in the future.

This play begins with the Knicks on the move, Carmelo Anthony pushing the ball up the floor. Tyson Chandler comes to set a high screen for Melo on the wing. Shumpert is in the right corner, Fields is on the left wing, and Stoudemire is in the left corner. The Bobcats pitifully try to trap Anthony in the pick-and-roll, but Anthony evades it and finds room to drive. As he does so, Chandler rolls to the rim, which causes the defense to rotate after Anthony and Chandler both burned their respective defenders. Boris Diaw shifts to the paint off Stoudemire, and Gerald Henderson collapses off Fields to try and stop the drive.

Amar'e makes a baseline cut, and Anthony throws the lob pass to Stoudemire to throw it down. Anthony also had the option of hitting Chandler rolling to the lane, or kicking it out to Fields after Henderson left him open on the perimeter.

Though this doesn't come across as a diagrammed play, it could work in the future. Spread the floor, high pick-and-roll, baseline cut.

It should be noted that these plays all come against poor defensive teams. Likewise, for the Knicks offense to work to any degree, it is contingent upon basic offensive principles: willing passers, and players who can hit jumpshots. Tyson Chandler also plays a critical role in the offense. Though Chandler is a great finisher, he is limited offensively, so if he's far from the basket, opponents will willingly help off him to clog the lane for Stoudemire and Anthony. Chandler has to get better offensively, either with post-ups, or baby jumpers, to give Stoudemire and Anthony more room to work.

However, if the Knicks want to have success on offense, they need to directly involve Anthony and Stoudemire together. They can do that with some simple plays as shown above. When this happens, the entire offensive will click.

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