Much has been said of the mismatch between Stat and ‘Melo, primarily because of the latter’s domination of the ball.
However, the real mismatch concerns Stoudemire and Chandler. Because Chandler can’t hit a jumper to get into heaven, his defender can sink into the middle – which effectively turns Stoudemire into a mid-range jump-shooter. This is where Rasheed Wallace’s ability to knock down treys becomes critical.
With Wallace and Stoudemire playing together off the bench, the opposing center has to honor Rasheed’s perimeter game, leaving the middle wide open, thereby expanding Amar’e’s sphere of influence and giving the second unit two creative point-makers.
Furthermore, when Iman Shumpert gets back in action at full health, the Knicks will have another ferocious defender and energetic lane penetrator.
Overall, New York has sufficient defensive intensity, size and diverse offensive weapons to conceivably usurp the Heat.
WHY THE KNICKS MIGHT BE FISHING IN JUNE
Tall, long-armed defenders give Melo problems. If Chandler can run rings around bigger, stronger centers, quicker guys (like Joakim Noah and Joel Anthony) can minimize his effectiveness. Smith is inconsistent. And it could be that Stoudemire’s only “dominant” aspect is his delusion that he can be a game-changer.
Above all, the Knicks’ biggest negative is the prospect of being caught from behind in the home stretch by Father Time.
WHY THE CLIPPERS MIGHT REACH THE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND
Chris Paul is a superb point guard and irresistible team leader. His speed, quickness, and ballhandling wizardry make him virtually impossible to double-team; he shoots only when he must; and his unselfishness is contagious.
Caron Butler is an accurate standstill shooter. Willie Green is a valuable defensive-minded guard. DeAndre Jordan is a runner, jumper and dramatic dunk-o-maniac.
The other starter is Blake Griffin, who – given sufficient time and space – exhibits a newfound smoothness in his mid-range jumpers.
Griffin is also a glue-handed rebounder and all-out hustler who loves to take advantage of fast breaks by running to the shadow of the basket and quickly establishing prime position. Otherwise, given the chance to drive baseline or to unleash his righthanded jump hook, Griffin can also create his own makeable shots.
Nor is he reluctant to hit the floor trying to rescue loose balls. Plus, his passing has increasingly become more profitable.
As effective as this starting five is, the second unit is equally dynamic. Matt Barnes is a gritty defender, reliable 3-point shooter and unilaterally sets an aggressive tone.
Lamar Odom has lost weight as well as his laissez-faire attitude and is rapidly returning to his championship form. LO can do everything from carrying the ball safely across the time line to banging with the bigs in the pivot – which is why he’s the most versatile player in the NBA.
Ronny Turiaf is never outhustled. Eric Bledsoe lacks consistent range but is otherwise CP3 Lite. And Jamal Crawford, the designated isolation scorer for this group, can get off a makeable shot anytime, anywhere, against anybody.
On offense, the Clippers look to share the ball, maintain optimal spacing, set perpetual high picks, double picks, staggered picks and frequent back picks.
Their roster is a perfect fit for Vinny Del Negro’s up-tempo game plan.
Quickness defines their defense – of both hands and feet – and creates turnovers that unleashes their dreadnought running game.
Overall, the Clipsters certainly have the talent, depth, discipline, unselfishness, leadership and determination that characterize championship squads.
WHY THE CLIPPERS MIGHT BE FISHING IN JUNE
For all his slick-handed steals, Paul can be beaten off the dribble by quick guards and bullied by stronger ones. Plus he’s much more effective going right than left.
Butler plays minimal defense and rarely puts the ball on the floor. Except for a long-armed lefthanded jump hook, Jordan can only score on layups and dunks. And because Jordan wants to block every shot in his neighborhood, he has difficulty playing contain defense when an opponent can turn, face and go.
Unless he can drop-step into his righthanded jump hook, Griffin’s herky-jerky moves in the low post usually yield low returns. While he is energetic on defense (and everywhere else), Griffin can be frozen when an opponent faces up and executes a convincing jab-step fake.