Here’s what the New York Knicks starting lineup and rotation should look like on a nightly basis while Derek Fisher looks on from the bench.
By Robby Sabo
The National Basketball Association is a 4th-quarter league. Far too often, two teams battle continuously and each exchange crazy one-sided runs only to watch the entire game come down to a few crucial plays, possessions late in the game.
That’s why – despite the overall understanding that they’re young – the last two losses from the New York Knicks are so distressing.
The fourth quarter has quickly turned into a major theme for these Knickerbockers. In Friday night’s loss to LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers, the Knicks could only muster a total of 12 points. This, after taking a very comfortable six point lead into that fateful final frame.
During Wednesday night’s disappointing loss to the Charlotte Hornets – which of course featured Kristaps Porzingis almost become a cult hero overnight with his “almost” buzzer-beater – New York put up just 14 points in the fourth quarter. This total came despite entering that final period up 10.
It’s clear Derek Fisher’s team is losing the fourth quarter. Logic tells us whoever he’s finishing the game with, just isn’t getting the job done.
Stats, advanced metrics, and all of the other statistical information you may need aside, let’s forget all about that and get down to the nitty-gritty: Fisher isn’t sending his best team out on the floor to close out games.
It’s sporadic. It’s different every game. On one night you might see a traditional lineup with the young Porzingis in there, the other night comes Lou Amundson. Since taking the keys to the mint a season ago, Fisher’s rotations and lineups have made even the most hardened Knick followers scratch their head to the point of delirium.
Part of it is understandable. This is a young team. But most of it is illogical at this point. As much as they are young, they are veteran ladened. Guys like Carmelo Anthony, Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, and Jose Calderon aren’t spring chickens. At this point, they should know their roles on a squad.
In fact, all 14 Knicks should know their roles to a better point than they each currently do.
Take Kyle O’Quinn for example. Here’s a man who’s done solid work for the Knickerbockers this season. In his return to his hometown, he’s collected 6.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest through 10 games. He’s routinely been the first big off the bench while seeing anywhere from 15-18 minutes a game.
On Wednesday against Charlotte, O’Quinn saw 12 minutes. Against the Cavs on Friday? A grand total of three minutes.
For every man’s fall, however, comes another’s rise.
Little used Lou Amundson took those minutes and came through in the highest regard. Against the Cavs he played a physical brand of ball and could’ve been called the team MVP of the night – this is how important he turned out to be, despite not scoring a single point.
This is great coaching from Fisher. Penalizing the guys who aren’t giving quality minutes and rewarding those who are, is something every head coach needs to lay down.
Where things become a little foggy for the second year coach is the lack of defined roles on the squad. Fisher routinely plays 12-13 guys a night. This is very abnormal for an NBA game. The exchanging of minutes is one thing; the continuing madness of allowing a rotation to be well above 10 players is an entirely different story.
Fisher crams too many men into a 48-minute period.
Aside from Carmelo Anthony, no Knick knows what’s going to happen on a nightly basis. While it keeps many on their heels, it also keeps them on edge, perhaps forcing them to grip the ball too tightly or aim for perfection in the closing seconds, instead of playing with a free conscience.
The results speak for themselves. New York has lost two heart-breaking games in which they led most of the way. They now sit at a disappointing 4-6 instead of feeling great at 6-4.
Still though, even after discussing the lack of “defined roles,” there seems to be an extraordinarily large elephant remaining.
His name is Jose Calderon.
The 34-year old veteran is the Knicks starting point guard. The 34-year old veteran should be the Knicks backup point guard.
Whether you think he’s a nice guy, or was money with the Toronto Raptors a decade ago isn’t the issue. What is, is the clear cut evidence that this guy is over-the-hill.
Let’s not get this twisted, Calderon can still be in the league. He can still help a team in many ways. But it shouldn’t be starting at the point while averaging 24.1 minutes a night.
As of this moment, rookie Jerian Grant is only receiving a little over 20 minutes a game. This is a sin based on the upside and potential he’s flashed in such a short period of time. With the way he divies out minutes, Fisher is basically throwing out a far worse lineup on a game-by-game basis than the potential he has to work with.
The eye test says it all. Not only does Calderon play zero defense, but he’s even turned the ball over far too frequently (two early errand passes in the Cavs game as evidence). He doesn’t penetrate a lick and passes on a bevy of shots.
Not even his assist game (just 2.9 per night) or shooting (.409 FG%), which is supposed to be his positives, can overcome his horrific overall defense.
Grant, on the other hand, brings an explosive element to the offense that cannot be measured through analytics. New York seems to be off and flying every time he comes on the floor.
What the Knicks rotation should look like:
- 5. Robin Lopez 28-32 MPG
- 4. Kristaps Porzingis 30-34 MPG
- 3. Carmelo Anthony 36-40 MPG
- 2. Arron Afflalo 30-34 MPG
- 1. Jerian Grant 28-32 MPG
- 6. Langston Galloway (Backup Guard, Combo) 26-30 MPG
- 7. Lance Thomas / Derrick Williams / Sasha Vujacic (Backup Swing) 16-20 MPG
- 8. Lou Amundson / Kyle O’Quinn / Kevin Seraphin (Backup Big) 14-18 MPG
- 9. Jose Calderon (Backup Point) 6-10 MPG
In this setup the rotation should only go 11 deep max. On most nights, however, just nine players will receive the bulk of the minutes.
Jerian Grant must be the starter. When the backup backcourt due of Grant and Langston Galloway is outplaying the starters, there’s something clearly wrong. Galloway is an ideal sixth-man, and on most nights will finish games if the other team goes small.
Calderon should receive no more than 8-10 minutes a night. The minutes Galloway can’t handle at the point, Calderon can spell. He must be squeezed out.
As far as the seventh and eighth guys, it’ll remain a nightly contest of who receives the minutes. The leaders of the pack at this moment remain Lance Thomas and Lou Amundson.
If Fisher doesn’t start shortening the rotation and start handing the minutes out to the players who truly give him the best chance to win on a nightly basis, then he’ll eventually wear out his welcome in the Big Apple.
At this point, it is inexcusable to continue to roll Calderon out there for 24 minutes a game.
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