Today the prolific Howard Megdal made the reasonable case that but-for injuries to J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, and probably Tyson Chandler, the Knicks wouldn’t be far off from the Pacers or Heat, and thusthe best course would be to get everyone right and grow from within.
I can’t feel the slippage in ‘Melo’s shoulder, or the stiffness in Smith’s knee, but I can tell you that I’m hesitant to chalk up their playoff inadequacies merely to injury. As Chris Herring points out, Anthony’s production historically plummets in the playoffs. Not because he’s a choker, but because he’s forced to carry his team against top-tier defenses. In fact, this year, his shooting percentage suffered roughly as much as it does on average over the course of his career (numbers courtesy of Basketball Reference):
Regular Season FG%:
Playoff FG %:
As for Smith – who, incidentally, could make use of a good excuse as an unrestricted free agent coming off a historically terrible playoff performance – the fluid buildup in his knee should not have prevented him from (a) getting it drained (recall Melo missed 6 days after such a procedure*), or (b) shooting less! The latter option would have been particularly obvious. I mean if you know you have an injury and you know it’s affecting your play, stop affirmatively hurting the team by using so many possessions!
All of this is to say, really, nothing. That’s because the premise of Megdal’s piece is that the Knicks’ best course may very well be to stand pat. But without getting creative, that may also be the Knicks only option barring some tinkering except around the edges.
I’m just inclined to be a little less generous regarding the Knicks’ playoff flame-out after their most successful season in an era.
*Someone remind me how many days separated games 1 and 3 against the Pacers.