Woodson’s Division of Playing Time Could Cost Team the Division

                The Knicks managed to win last night in Cleveland, but issues remain within the organization. Despite a sterling regular season record, Mike Woodson’s rotation decisions lead me to believe he will cost us a valuable game or two in the postseason. Woodson has excelled at coaching his players up, creating plays out of timeouts and getting guys to buy into his way of doing things. However, he’s failed to properly monitor the minutes of his players and has made some very perplexing lineup decisions, addressed below.

The chart assumes that Carmelo Anthony will be back sooner than later.  Additionally, while rotations tend to shorten in the playoffs, it’s my opinion that would not be optimal for this Knicks team.  Notes regarding each chart can be found below them.

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The first thing you notice here is that this rotation features 10 players and also incorporates some key lineup adjustments: No James White, less Carmelo Anthony and more minutes for both Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert. Additionally, my suggestions here give Shumpert more time at the nominal shooting guard position than as a small forward, where he’s succeeded more often this year and where he excelled as a rookie as well. This minute breakout also reduces the minutes of Felton and Chandler, since they’ve been logging heavy minutes for a while now.

This breakdown also puts JR Smith at the small forward position more often. Keep in mind that the small forward for the Knicks can sometimes be deemed the third guard, and that is fine. However, considering that the lineup of Felton/Kidd/Smith/Anthony/Chandler is the team’s best lineup this year (and the league’s best for units that play more than 3 minutes per game together http://www.nba.com/hoop/the_nbas_fab_5s_2013_03_04.html) and in it Smith is either the 3rd guard or a forward with Melo as one too, it’s great that he’s logging more minutes at the “3” than at the “2.”

Additionally, my minute breakdown reduces the minutes that Anthony and Stoudemire will have to play together both as the two “bigs” and overall. Reducing Stoudemire’s center minutes down to 5MPG and Anthony’s minutes at small forward down to 6MPG allows them both do what they do best; play power forward.

Lastly, it would be beneficial for Jason Kidd to play about 25MPG compared to the 30 he’s been averaging all season. Additionally, this breakdown keeps him off the ball for nearly all of those minutes where he’s excelled this year in comparison to as the point guard. As evidenced by the 7-7 record in Raymond Felton’s absence, Jason Kidd struggled this year when logging heavy minutes at the point guard position. Despite this obvious conclusion, Woodson felt the need to put Kidd back on the ball beginning with the Wizards game, and the results have been mixed.  Against Cleveland, once the Knicks fell behind 52-30, Felton reentered the game to play alongside Kidd. Naturally, the Knicks cut that lead to 12 by halftime with Kidd in the backcourt off of the ball.

Should Anthony miss extended time, the minutes breakdown below would be my recommendation.

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In my opinion, a few things need to be adjusted to account for Anthony’s absence as a power forward: Copeland getting 15MPG at PF, Novak getting 5MPG there and Stoudemire playing the entirety of his minutes at the position. In order to adjust make up the projected six minutes for Melo at small forward, I simply upped Shumpert’s minutes from 8 to 12 there and Smith’s from 22 to 24. Clearly, Copeland could log more time at that position if need be.

Additionally, Kenyon Martin could step in as a power forward for some minutes, taking the PF minutes of Novak. Lastly, you’ll see a 3 minute bump in Chandler’s center minutes coupled with a 2 minute bump for the backup center.

Instead of scaling back the minutes of his stars to balance to prepare for a playoff push, the chart below shows Woodson’s playing time from the Warriors game on 2/27.

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                It’s pretty evident that if the minute breakdown looks more like the Warriors game than my suggestions, the Knicks’ collective tank will be on empty by the time they reach the postseason.

 

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