The Knicks and Mike D'Antoni have been experimenting with different starting lineups all year. In fact, due to the Carmelo Anthony trade the Knicks have used a total of 18 different 5's or lineups this season.
There's a nifty website called 82games.com and it provides basketball nerds with advanced statistical analysis. One aspect of the site that makes me feel particularly warm and fuzzy inside is called the Top Five-Man Floor Units.
The only 5 man squads that are pertinent right now are found under my sweet highlighter. Unless of course, hard core Knugget analysis interests you. One thing to take away from these advanced stats is that they don't exactly have a large sample size. The most common lineup only accumulated 87 minutes which is a microcosm of an actual season. I personally believe that there still is enough data to make some assertions in a blog with a few genital jokes sprinkled in for good measure. (since that's what the people WANT)
The number that jumps out at me is the +29 for lineup #6. I see this as the best combination for efficient offense and a bone bruising serviceable defense. Of course, all it takes is for Toney Douglas to be "off" for this lineup to be rendered useless. When I say "off" I really mean "missing all his 3 point chucks and repeatedly turning it over". Between lineup #6's numbers and the speed of Rondo, these are the reasons why I think that this is the best lineup for NY. I don't think Chauncey can prevent Rondo from penetrating and igniting the offense for long stretches of time. Clearly, it's not worth making any starting lineups changes but I would like to see a Douglas - Fields back court vs. Rondo - Allen early and often.
Lineup #9 is right behind lineup #6 in terms of Win%, which is sloppily defined as what the winning percentage of the Knicks would be if this lineup played for 48 minutes for all 82 games. I wouldn't be shocked if this is what D'Antoni goes with as the starting lineup in Game 1. One could argue that Jeffries might be more effective coming off the bench to infuse defensive energy with a dash of awkward offense.
The lineups that D'Antoni selects depends on how effective Shaq O'Neal is after an injury-addled season and if Jermaine O'Neal takes advantage of the Knicks soft and cuddly front line. The Knicks clearly lack a big presence in the middle and I have made this mind-numbingly clear in basically every conversation I've had in the last 2 months. Let's just say my Korean laundry guy is tired of hearing about Ronnie Turiaf's propensity to get in early foul trouble. If you watched the Knicks play all season, you have seen the opposing teams power forwards dominate. It might have been Luke Harongody or Chuck Hayes, but it really it seemed they were playing Karl Malone or Elgin Baylor.
This is NOT the same Celtics team as last year or even earlier this year. The contents of this article on MassLive bring up some great points on this. It focuses on how the Celtics are a different team now that Kendrick Perkins is gone. This excerpt is especially telling:
Rajon Rondo is playing like a different player without his best buddy (Perkins) in town. He has failed to reach double-digit assists in 16 of the last 21 games. Ray Allen also seems to miss Perkins and the injured Shaquille O'Neal, whose screen-setting abilities helped free Allen for open shots [ESPN.]
SO, do the Knicks have a chance?
POSSIBLY. Many homer Knicks fans like myself who have starved for a playoff game for many moons believe it can happen. Why believe us? If I had to wager a large sum of money, I probably would say the Celtics win in 6 games. However, the Celtics and the Knicks are NOT the same teams that met earlier this year and late in 2010. One got a little better and one got a little worse. If the Knicks were to pull this out, I think the overwhelming majority of fans would label this a successful season regardless of the next series' outcome. Most fans already do consider this season a success but I want at least two W's plus the L's to be tight. I try to be realistic.
Do you agree? Would you consider this season to be a success if the Knicks lost in 5 or 6 games? I'm interested to hear other peoples thoughts.