The Zen Master is back in the Big Apple and he’s brought 5 time NBA champion point guard and former player Derek Fisher along with him. His plan is simple; rebuild a once proud origination back up to the glory days (which just so happened to be when he was the sixth man). First step is clear some cap space (unloaded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton onto Mark Cuban), next was to obtain a pick in this year’s draft (drafted Cleanthony Early with the 34th overall pick in 2014 NBA draft and may have gotten the steal of the draft, while also acquiring the Greek Freaks older brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo). Finally it’s to make this team respectable for the upcoming season so that free agents will join Carmelo Anthony in the 2015 offseason. Through the eyes of Phil Jackson, the best way to get this team anywhere near the playoffs is to implement the triangle offense. The question is, will it work with this particular set of players.
First things first, a few critical guidelines for completing the triangle. All five players need to be properly conditioned (Melo looks like he’s got that in mind this offseason). Every single player needs to be able to constantly move, with or without the ball. Everyone needs to be completely unselfish and always willing to pass the ball (yes, that means you too Melo) and most importantly everyone needs the discipline to completely buy into this way of playing basketball (I have my doubts about J.R Smith, which is a shame because the way he played basketball in the 2012-13 season is very well suited to this style of basketball). Also it doesn’t hurt if each player has a reliable jump shot.
The key elements of the triangle offense are: player movement, ball movement and spacing, then eventually when a player finds themselves open, they shoot. It’s a lot more complicated then that, but that’s the general gist. So therefore in my humble opinion the best lineup for the triangle this season, given the current roster would be: Andre Bargnani at center, Amar’e and Carmelo as the two forwards and then J.R Smith (depending upon which J.R Smith turns up to play this year) and Iman Shumpert as the two guards, yes there is no conventional point guard in the line-up, but the triangle doesn’t really need one which was proven by Ron Harper and the Bulls. The problem that you’ve already probably figured out? Not the best defensive line-up ever assembled. So with defense, team chemistry and professionalism in mind the best line-up the Knicks can assemble this year is: Samuel Dalembert at center to establish some sort of an inside presence, Melo and J.R as the forwards with Jose Calderon (could be talked into having Tim Hardaway here depending on how much he has developed) and Iman as the guards. In this scenario we have four players who can move with or without the ball, they can all pass, and all have deep range except Dalembert who will hover around the paint. The Knicks played with a perimeter line-up for a lot of the successful 2012-13 season and they should definitely go back to it.
With the triangle style of offense being so aerobically demanding and Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert getting up there age wise, as well as J.R not always coming into an NBA season with conditioning on his mind, the role players for this years Knicks team could see a lot of playing time. The three main role players who should see significant minutes and can work in the triangle system are Tim Hardaway jnr, Andre Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire. If Bargnani takes a step back, realizes his limitations, is willing to take a smaller role on this team and defines himself as an offensive threat off the bench, he could be a very valuable piece to this team, although that is a lot of if’s, until that happens he’s still just be a salary cap crusher. Tim is very young and raw and can be molded into a great player given the right mentorship, he has all the tools a young shooting guard needs, and should have the willingness to learn this new system. Amar’e on the other hand is in the latter part of his NBA career and at times has struggled with both passing and conditioning, and as of late has proven to be somewhat of a defensive liability. That being said he has a beautiful mid range shot which will help the offense, as well as an array of finishing moves, STAT is still very much an offensive threat.
The next rung of players will consist of small minute guys. They don’t necessarily fit into the triangle system all that well and their defense isn’t making up for a lack of offense or there simply just too young or too old. Pablo Prigioni is still a fantastic floor general who will provide minutes and leadership along with Kenyon Martin and they will hopefully mentor young guys such as Cleanthony Early, Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Quincy Acy as they all try and grasp the new system and leadership, as well as adjusting to NBA life for the two rookies.
Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is rookie coach Fisher, I am fairly certain that having just retired, having zero coaching experience and playing under Phil Jackson for 9 years that Phil is going to have a very large say in how this team is coached, which is of course excellent news for New York because you can’t do much better then Phil. Althought when the time comes for Fisher to completely take over and be his own man, I am 100% positive he will be a fantastic coach in this league for years to come. Not only that but during this season where the triangle offense is the focal point, there is no man in the world who knows the ins and outs of it much better than Fisher.
So in conclusion the Knicks absolutely have the talent and coaching to make the triangle offense work, but what they could potentially lack is team chemistry, discipline and conditioning, which has been what has plagued this franchise in recent years. Without every piece required falling into place, this year could potentially go just as badly as last, but I’m sure as hell not going to be the one to bet against a hungrier then ever Carmelo Anthony and one of the top 5 greatest coaches in NBA history. One thing is certain though, the Knicks are a must watch team this year.