Looking at the Knicks' top lineups from this past season (based on plus-minus), the top three don't include the Big Three of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler (source: ESPN Stats & Info):
1. Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, Anthony and Chandler -- plus-44
2. Jeremy Lin, Shumpert, Fields, Steve Novak and Chandler -- plus-23
3. Lin, J.R. Smith, Novak, Jared Jeffries and Chandler -- plus-21
4. Lin, Fields, Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler -- plus-20
The best lineup is further proof that the Knicks played better when Anthony operated as the power forward, Stoudemire was on the bench and Chandler became more of a rebounder and inside scorer (areas in which he's more effective than Stoudemire, based on averages and percentages). But the team needs the trio to be on the same page. How can that happen?
Combining insights from ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling and a couple of NBA scouts, below are three different offensive sets that the Knicks should run to play to the strengths of Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler. They are intended to show how spacing is key and how the plays can be initiated catering to the Big Three's strengths (keeping in mind numerous options can be implemented afterward):
1. The Jeremy Lin-Chandler pick-and-roll. In this situation, Anthony would be on the weakside wing, Stoudemire on the weakside block or short corner and Steve Novak, for example, on the ball-side wing.
If Lin doesn't score, he can pass to Chandler rolling, which will force an extra man to leave Anthony or Stoudemire to double Chandler, making the defense switch and rotate. Then the Knicks will have the advantage to pick apart the defense by finding Novak from three, Stoudemire inside (after his defender leaves him) or kicking out to Anthony for the jumper.
What's key is that the Knicks are smart about their passing and find the open man quickly to keep the defense on its toes.
The four most important aspects of running a P&R are: 1.) a crafty point guard who can score; 2.) 3-point shooters; 3.) players who can finish; and 4.) a standout wing scorer. The Knicks have all four.
2. The Melo point-forward play. Melo would have the ball on the wing, Lin would be at the top of the key, Stoudemire on the ball-side block, Chandler on the weakside baseline corner and Novak on the weakside wing.
Stoudemire could set a screen for Anthony, or Melo could quickly dump it down to Stoudemire and he could go to work in the post. Anthony could always look to attack the middle of the lane right away. If so, he'll have Novak on the weak side; if Novak receives the pass and can't shoot it, he could find Stoudemire popping out for the jump shot after setting his screen on Anthony.
From there, Melo could set a back screen for Stoudemire and get him a look dropping to the basket. Chandler would be inside insurance when the shot goes up. If the ball is returned to Lin, Chandler could become a pick-and-roller.
3. The Melo post play. While Melo is setting up in the low or mid-post, Lin would be on the wing (delivering him the ball), Stoudemire would be on the weakside high post (foul-line area for his midrange jump shot), Chandler on the weakside block and Novak on the weakside baseline corner. The formation of the Big Three would resemble the Triangle offense. Anthony could score himself, but if he's doubled, he can find Stoudemire or Novak for open shots. Stoudemire could also set a down screen for Chandler, who could then curl inside and a pass from Melo would result in an easy two.
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Chandler called the past season "crazy and difficult," based on the lockout, coaching change and all of the injuries, but he's looking forward to training camp where he'll have more time to refine his game, while learning how to blend in with Anthony, Stoudemire and the rest of his teammates.
"It's very important because that's where you kind of get your identify, defensively and offensively," he said after his exit interview at the Knicks' training facility on May 10. "I thought we did a great job of just becoming a good defensive team throughout the season without any of that. When you have a full training camp and say, 'This is going to be our system, this is how we're going to attack people,' it makes it a lot easier."
How the Big Three work together is the most critical component to the Knicks' success next season and for the next three years -- if, of course, they remain intact as a unit.
For Part 1 on ways Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler can improve, click here.
You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.