Mike Woodson’s future is unclear with the Knicks. Most expect president Phil Jackson to bring in a new coach for the 2014-15 season. The Knicks underachieved greatly under Woodson this season. Coming off a 54-win season, New York won just 37 games this year and finished in ninth place, missing the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
There were plenty of reasons for the Knicks’ struggles: injuries, poor performances by Carmelo Anthony's supporting cast and awful late-game execution really hurt the Knicks.
But a few decisions by Woodson also set them back.
Below, we take a look at three crucial mistakes Woodson made this season:
1. Too little, too late: The Knicks won 16 of their final 21 games and looked for a time like a playoff team. But they fell short, unable to crawl out of the 21-40 hole they dug themselves in. Part of their late-season surge can be attributed to Woodson deciding to insert Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith into the starting lineup.
Stoudemire played extremely well in the starting lineup, averaging nearly 17 points per game on 57 percent shooting. The starting five didn’t exactly dominate on a nightly basis. They were outscored by 2 1/2 points per 100 possessions over the Knicks’ final 21 games. But moving Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni to the bench improved the Knicks’ other lineups.
The lineup of Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony, Smith, Shumpert and Tyson Chandler outscored teams by 27.5 points per 100 possessions. This was the Knicks’ second-most used lineup during the final 21 games.
The lineup of Shumpert, Prigioni, Smith, Chandler and Anthony outscored teams by 18 points per 100 possessions. Clearly, Woodson’s lineup decisions in the final 21 games contributed to their success. It’s fair to wonder why Woodson didn’t insert Smith and Stoudemire into the starting five sooner.
2. Sticking with Bargnani: Part of Woodson’s lineup issues stemmed from his insistence on playing Andrea Bargnani in the rotation. Bargnani was the Knicks’ biggest offseason addition. So perhaps Woodson had a directive from management to play Bargnani. Either way, Bargnani’s presence really hurt the Knicks.
The Knicks were 7.8 points per 100 possessions better when Bargnani was on the bench compared to when he was on the floor.
He never developed into the sidekick for Anthony, like the Knicks’ hoped.
Overall, the Knicks were 7.9 points per 100 possessions better with Bargnani on the bench than when he was on the floor.
The Knicks were 7.4 points per 100 possessions better when Anthony was on the floor without Bargnani than when Anthony and Bargnani shared the floor.
3. Defense rests: Woodson is known as a defensive coach, but he couldn’t get this year’s team to defend well on a consistent basis. New York ranked 24th in points allowed per 100 possessions. They ranked 19th in opponent’s field-goal percentage.
Woodson was criticized for asking his team to switch on pick-and-rolls this season. The strategy really seemed to hurt the Knicks. They ranked last in the NBA in defending the ball handler and screener on pick-and-rolls. According to 82games.com, Knicks point guards were outscored by 4.1 points per 48 minutes and shooting guards were outscored by 5.6 points per game.
The good: Woodson should be commended for keeping the Knicks engaged throughout the season. The Knicks never seemed to give up on Woodson. Need evidence? Look no further than their 16-5 mark to end the season.
Woodson also kept Anthony engaged. Anthony talked glowingly about Woodson on Thursday. Anthony had two of his finest seasons as a pro under Woodson. So give Woodson credit for that.
Up now: Carmelo Anthony says he wants to return to New York, but he also wants to win.
Tyson Chandler says the Knicks need to establish a winning culture.
Anthony backed Woodson on Thursday, calling him a father figure.
What’s next: An offseason that will be centered around Anthony’s free agency and, possibly, a coaching search.
Question: What do you think Mike Woodson's biggest mistake was this season?
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