Every weekday morning throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: Should Mike Woodson consider taking away more minutes from Landry Fields and giving them to J.R. Smith and Steve Novak?
It's no secret that since Woodson took over the team on March 14, he's preferred to go with Smith as his shooting guard, rather than Fields, down the stretch in key moments of games. That's because Smith is a better all-around facilitator, running plays and making plays, and he handles crunch time well.
But Woodson should consider starting Smith (Fields does now), and playing him and Steve Novak more earlier and during Game 3, Game 4 and every other one during the playoffs.
Here's the bottom-line reason: When Carmelo Anthony gets double-teamed and Baron Davis or Smith, his occasional backup, get room off the pick-and-roll, they are wasting passes to Fields, who's mostly stationed at the 3-point line. That's because Fields is more hesitant with the ball, he doesn't have a quick release (like Smith and Novak) and then he usually passes it back to the giver.
While Fields is a solid role player, his playmaking is sporadic and he doesn't have an instant-scoring mentality, which Smith and Novak have. They both need to be in the game more to capitalize on the Knicks' ball movement off their pick-and-rolls and the Heat's traps on Anthony. Smith and Novak are both rapid-fire shooters, which Fields is not.
Just look at the Heat in Game 2 during their 104-94 win: The team's best catch-and-shoot players, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller and Shane Battier, combined for 8-for-15 from beyond the arc. And they each got extended burn, at least 23 minutes. Of course, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade's passing ability increases their looks, but having Smith and Novak more in the game would increase the Knicks' scoring chances. Not to mention, the Heat are one of the worst teams at defending the 3-point shot because they over-trap point guards and over-play passing lanes, leaving room on the perimeter for the offense.
While Smith played 31 minutes in Game 2, Novak was only on the court for 21. Those numbers have to go up. In addition, Mike Bibby needs to play more, period -- with the starters and subs (because Davis is a bit banged up) -- so Smith can excel more at his natural shooting guard position. Bibby has done a nice job off pick-and-rolls in his limited time, which would give Smith, and Novak, more downtown opportunities.
Do you think Woodson should consider bumping up Smith and Novak's minutes, and playing Bibby more? Leave us your comments below.
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