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5 Things the Knicks Can Learn From the 2011 Finals.

by Photo of Jake Langbecker

I wouldn’t trade Melo for LeBron and four other things you can learn.

5 Things the Knicks Can Learn From the 2011 Finals.

The 2011 NBA Finals was some of the most compelling and exciting basketball. It was great for the fans. It was great for the league (see: tv ratings) and it was great for the Knicks.  How was watching the Dallas Mavericks, a so-called true team, defeat the Miami Heat, a collection of superstars whom the Knicks most closely resemble good for New York? Because there is a lot that the Knicks can learn from both teams. More importantly, there is a lot the front office can use as we head towards the NBA Draft next Thursday and free agency hopefully sometime in July. Let charged.fm get you the best seats for the NBA Draft.
  1. Big Players in Big Moments - Whether it should be or not, the story of the 2011 NBA Finals will be how LeBron James faded in the big moments of big games. The Mavericks got clutch shooting from Nowitzki, Kidd and Terry in this series and that is why they won. Luckily for Knicks fans I don't think they have to worry about their stars in crunch time. Amar'e was ready and able to take the last shot before Melo's arrival. Carmelo is statistically the best clutch shooter in the NBA and Chauncey Billups didn't earn the moniker Mr. Big Shot by averaging 3 points in the 4th quarter of the NBA Finals. In fact, if I was the general manager of the Knicks, I would not trade Carmelo for LeBron straight up. Yes, LeBron is a better all-around player than Carmelo. Yes, LeBron is a better passer and a much better defender. But after seeing how LeBron reacted to the big stage, I'd rather have Melo and his killer instinct as a scorer. Think I'm crazy? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.   
  2. Do the Dirty Work - Tyson Chandler, Brian Cardinal, Brendan Haywood, and Ian Mahinmi. These guys were not filling up the stat sheets from game to game. They won't be remembered as much as Dirk, Kidd, or Jason Terry but when the Mavericks needed a big rebound, or block, or offensive foul, or loose ball these were the guys doing the dirty work. This is an area that the Knicks will have to address. Amar'e plays much more effectively in his natural power forward position and it is important the Knicks find a Chandler-type big man to put along side him. Now obviously it will be hard for the Knicks to find a center as skilled as Chandler but through the draft or free agency they have to find a center willing to protect the rim and rebound. With this being such a large need and historically big men taking longer to develop, I believe free agency is the best way to fill this hole. Depending on the new CBA, the Knicks could get lucky if there is another one-time amnesty rule, also known as the Allan Houston rule, where teams are able to release one player without their salary counting against the luxury tax. This could lead to teams releasing some overpriced veteran big men making them cheaply available to the Knicks. If not, the Knicks front office needs to get creative like they did when they recently brought in Bonzi Wells and Joe Alexander for a workout and see what options are out there. 
  3. Veteran Point Guard - We can talk about LeBron, Wade, and Dirk and I'm sure most news outlets will but for me the leadership of Jason Kidd is what swung this series. Whether Dallas was leading and trying to stymy Heat runs or if they were trailing and trying to come back, it was Kidd's even-tempered play that allowed the Mavericks to stay in the moment. On the other side, the Heat seemed to lack this ability. They would get caught up in and sometimes lost in the moment. They were unable to run a proper set or make the right play in a big moment. It might be unfair to pin this on Mario Chalmers or Mike Bibby when you are playing alongside three all-stars but there is something to be said for having a floor general that has been in these moments before. Some Knicks fans might have gasped and groaned at the $14.2 million dollars the Knicks will be paying the 35-year old Chauncey Billups next season. However, the images of a 38-year old Jason Kidd hoisting the trophy last night should assuage some doubt. Billups is a former Finals' MVP, he has been there before, he understands the moment and more importantly he doesn't shy away from the moment. Knicks fans should be pleased they have Mr. Big Shot quarterbacking the Knicks into the 2012 season.
  4. Backup Point Guard - Was there a more fun player to watch this postseason than J.J. Barea? Knicks fans, is there anything more fun than watching Toney Douglas do what Toney Douglas do? Well, yes and no. J.J. Barea was masterful as the backup point guard for Dallas, yes he started games too, but he still played the role of a backup ball handler to Kidd. Toney Douglas can be really exciting to watch, like when he hit 9 three-pointers against Memphis, but also extremely frustrating. If Douglas is to be the backup next season he must improve on his consistency, passing ability, effectiveness in the pick and roll, and ability to get into the paint like Barea. That is a lot to ask of a third year player and maybe he can make those strides. However, I think the answer for the Knicks will be acquiring Ramon Sessions from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sessions would most likely become available if and when the Cavaliers select Kyrie Irving in next week's draft. Sessions is a more polished backup point guard than Douglas and I believe Douglas could still grow as a player, just in more of an off-guard role, kind of like a Jason Terry.  
  5. Coaches Require Patience - Rick Carlisle achieved a degree of success during his previous tenures as head coach of the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. Carlisle led the Pistons to division titles and playoff appearances in all three seasons and made the Eastern Conference finals his last year with Detroit. Carlisle led the Pacers to the best record in the NBA and Eastern Conference finals in the 2003-2004 season. Carlisle succeeded in the Eastern Conference, but never could get over the hump and make the NBA finals. So in 2008 he jumped to the Western Conference and three years later finally won an NBA championship with the Dallas Mavericks. I'm sure Knicks fans know where this is going. Mike D'Antoni's story is not all that different from Rick Carlisle's, in fact they are very similar. Carlisle found a patient owner and the right situation and was able to win. While talk swirls of Phil Jackson in 2012 and impatient Knicks fans grow tired of D'Antoni, all I ask for is patience. Patience from the fans and patience from the owner. The next NBA season, whenever it comes, will be D'Antoni's first as Knicks coach with a roster that will stay pretty much intact from training camp through the end of the season. He deserves a chance to win with these players and not just this year, I think the Knicks should give him a two-year extension, allowing him a solid three years with a roster that is built to win. It only took Carlisle three years, let's be patient and give D'Antoni the same amount of time.

To recap: Superstars can get you to the Finals, but you need closers to win. I wouldn't trade Melo for LeBron. Offense can win games but you need players willing to play defense and do the little things to win. You need a floor general that can command the moment and control the offense and you need a backup that can effectively fill in. Patience with coaches can pay off. 

The next big day for Knicks fans will be the NBA Draft on June 23rd in Newark, NJ. This could be the day Ramon Sessions becomes available if the Cavaliers decide to take Kyrie Irving or Brandon Knight. With the 17th pick the Knicks might draft a point guard of the future or a big man to put next to Amar'e or a wing that can defend and do the dirty work. The Knicks might find another 2nd round gem like Landry Fields that can immediately join the rotation.  If you are a Knicks fan or even an NBA fan in the tri-state area, you should go to the Draft and let charged.fm get you the best seats .

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