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March 1, 2011
The Clipboard
How Mike D'Antoni Can Make the Melo-Amar'e Combo Work

by Sebastian Pruiti

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Last week, after the Carmelo Anthony trade was made official, I took a look at the numbers and game tape and determined that as presently constructed, the Knicks' offense wouldn't be successful with both Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire involved. Today, I thought it would be interesting to look at the three changes coach Mike D'Antoni can make on the offensive end that will give his new team the best chance to succeed.

1. More Post Up Opportunities For Both Anthony and Stoudemire

Anthony might have the best post game out of any non-big in the entire NBA, but the problem is that before he was traded, the Knicks ran post-ups infrequently--they accounted for just five percent of their total offensive possessions. On the other hand, Anthony posted up his opponents 15.7 percent of the time in Denver.

One of the ways D'Antoni can change his offense around is if he gives Anthony a similar amount of post touches as he got in Denver. While that hasn't happened, D'Antoni at least deserves some credit, because he seems to be at least aware of Anthony and his need of post touches, getting the ball to him in the post 11.5 percent of the time. What is interesting is that so far, most of Anthony's post touches as a Knick have come off of transition when Anthony can get early post position. This is a nice tweak of the Knicks' run-and-gun offensive system that not only allows Anthony to get deep position without the threat of a double team, but it also prevents Amar'e Stoudemire from shading the post (essentially, when a teammate is posting up, Stoudemire hovers around him, looking for the kick-out), which is a tendency he has:

Here, the Knicks force the turnover with Anthony ahead of the pack. As Billups brings the basketball up, Anthony simply posts on the block, gets the basketball, and makes his move before a double-team can come.

Posting off of transition also works because in transition defenses are forced to cross-match from time to time. This can lead to mismatches, like one we see here where Anthony is being guarded by Ramon Sessions. Anthony gets the basketball and scores easily on the block.

In addition to posting up Anthony more, D'Antoni really needs to consider posting up Stoudemire as well because the numbers suggest he has been pretty dominant in the post this year. According to Synergy, in 206 total post-up opportunities this year, Stoudemire has averaged 1.11 points per possession on 54.7 percent shooting, which ranks 11th in the NBA. For someone who has been so dominant in the post, 206 opportunities is too low a number--Anthony ranks 25th in post touches behind players like Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh, and Darko Milicic. More specifically, I would like to see Stoudemire get more post opportunities with Anthony on the court because that can lead to a nice two-man game:

Here, Stoudemire gets the ball on the post with Anthony on the strong side in the corner. After Stoudemire makes the catch, Anthony cuts off of him, getting the basketball in a position where he can simply pull up for the jumper.

In this clip, Stoudemire actually flashes to the elbow, but the result is the same. With the defense focused on Stoudemire, Anthony cuts off of him, and gets the easy basket as a result.

2. High-Low Game Between Stoudemire and Anthony

This is a direct result of Anthony getting more post touches. One of the things that I liked the most about Anthony's post-up game in Denver is that there was always a threat of a high-low pass from a Nugget big at the high post:

Here, Anthony is posting up Tayshaun Prince. Prince, while long, is no match for Anthony's strength down low, so he fronts the post. As the ball gets swung around, Anthony pins Prince up above him, giving his big room to make the lob pass.

I don't see why this can't be even more effective with Stoudemire playing the roll as the high-post passer. Stoudemire has a strong jump shot for a big man, and this forces defenses to respect the shot and play up on him. This creates even more space for Anthony to operate in the post, and this can lead to some nice high-low action. A nice way this could work is if the ball is entered to Landry Fields/Shawne Williams on the wing, Stoudemire flashes to the elbow with Anthony on the block posting up, Stoudemire gets the pass, and he now has an angle to make the post-pin entry pass for the easy basket.

3. More Spot-Up Opportunities For Anthony

This might be the best match between Anthony and the way that the Knicks' offense is currently constructed. Anthony is a very good shooter when he is spotting up. In Denver, Anthony posted a PPP of 1.24 on 42.8 percent shooting, good for 18th in the NBA. However, he only spotted up 9.9 percent of the time with Denver. When he did, it was usually when the Nuggets were running the pick-and-roll with Anthony off of the ball:

In these clips, the defense seems to be more worried about Billups coming off of the screen than Anthony away from the ball. They seem to forget about Anthony, and that is what allows him to make the catch and get easy buckets.

This is a perfect fit for what the Knicks do on offense already. In fact, through his three games as a Knick, Anthony is spotting up more, doing it 12.6 percent of the time, getting his best looks spotting up and working off of a Billups-Stoudemire pick-and-roll.

Here, Stoudemire slips his screen and the defense reacts to it, especially Anthony's man who sinks deep to help on the roll. This leaves Anthony open for the jumper before his defender can recover.

Once again, Billups and Stoudemire run the pick-and-roll, this time with Anthony on the weak-side corner. When Stoudemire rolls, Anthony's man sinks in, and that opens up the skip pass for Billups. Anthony misses the shot, but I am sure D'Antoni would take this shot ten times out of ten in his offense.

D'Antoni's offense isn't built for two stars who need to dominate the ball to be effective, but that is what he has on his roster right now. There are building blocks there (the pick-and-roll with Anthony spotting up could be one of the most difficult things to stop in the NBA), but D'Antoni needs to make sure there are some changes made if he wants his offense to be as successful as it possibly can be.

The 2010-11 Pro Basketball Prospectus is now available in paperback form on Amazon.com. For sample chapters and more information, see our book page.

You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at twitter.com/@SebastianPruiti.

Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Sebastian by clicking here or click here to see Sebastian's other articles.

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