Oct 13, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks point guardShane Larkin
(0) controls the ball against Toronto Raptors point guardGreivis Vasquez
(21) as New York Knicks centerJason Smith
(14) sets a pick during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Typically in sports the preseason doesn’t really translate to the regular season. Coaches are hiding some of their best schemes and trying out some outlandish sets or plays just to see how well their team can do. Rarely though you notice something that does seem real and could be an indicator of things to come.
Shane Larkin and Amar’e Stoudemire are both showing signs of playing well and working together this season. While the triangle offense somewhat minimizes the point guards traditional duties, Stoudemire undoubtedly flourishes with a quick point guard in a pick and roll game.
Shane Larkin does not totally fit the description of a Stoudemire friendly point guard, he averaged 5.2 assists per 36 minutes last season and only 2.8 per 36 this preseason (hardly a Steve Nash type), but he has shown more willingness to pass in the last few games.
Pairing up Larkin and Stoudemire in the second unit could prove to be a great combination for the Knicks and help the starting lineup as well. It is safe to say that STAT and Carmelo Anthony don’t exactly mesh well together and it would be ideal to maximize both of their talents separately. The starting lineup that allows Melo space to roam, with either a shooter or a player who doesn’t clog the lane, is just what the Knicks need.
As far as the second unit goes, allowing Larkin and Amar’e to build chemistry could lead to them torching opposing backup defenses. Larkin is clearly quick enough to get into the lane when he wants and proved to be fairly effective at the rim last season, shooting 59% from there. His potential partner in crime, Stoudemire, shot 67% at the rim last season and 51% from 10-16 feet away from the hoop. This will allow for running different sets highlighting both Larkin’s quickness and Stoudemire’s ability to finish both inside and from mid-range.
Of Larkin’s four assists against the Wizards on 10/22, three were setting up mid-range jump shots or threes. Larkin isn’t an all-star, but opposing defenses have to at least respect his ability to finish at the rim, which opens up his passing lanes. Per 82games.com, Larkin had 71 assists last season, 61 setting up jump shots from either mid-range or from beyond the arc. If the second unit also features wings like Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith, this bunch could have excellent spacing, allowing for pick and rolls and drives and dishes for the ultra-quick Larkin.
Last season in Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki, Brandon Wright, Devin Harris, and Wayne Ellington all saw their mid-range game improve when playing with Larkin according to nbawowy.com. The mid-range jumper isn’t a great shot, but if you have a unit that can shoot it well, it does pose some issues for the opposing defense.
The Knicks roster almost stacks up like the Eastern Conference itself; not too top heavy but they have a lot of middle tier guys. While the popular formula for starting lineups appears to be just amass as much elite talent as possible, especially for those playoff teams now chasing the pass happy Spurs, the Knicks deep bench could help them win a lot of games in the first 82.
It could all start with Larkin and Stoudemire though. If STAT can be the hammer inside he was at times last year, and Larkin can continue to get to and be effective at the rim, the shots will open up for all of them and allow for some really fun basketball to be played.
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