The current New York Knicks don’t seem to grasp the modern trends of the NBA, but there was a time not too long ago when they were leading the charge.
Hello HoopsHabit family. While the return of the NBA remains in limbo, I’m taking the opportunity to launch a new series titled “Remember when?” Here, we’ll take a look back at some of the more unique and forgotten parts of recent NBA history and expand them as much as possible, starting with the 2012-13 New York Knicks.
After a hectic season that culminated in a five-game first-round loss to the Miami Heat, the Knicks entered the 2012-13 season optimistic about their playoff chances with more clarity than ever.
Linsanity had run its course, replaced by the return of Raymond Felton, who had done some of his best work in New York before heading to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011.
Having arrived mid-season in 2011 with the lockout-shortened following year, this season would be the first full one for Melo in New York.
But before the season could tip-off, some of that clarity would be clouded in injury. Amar’e Stoudemire, the presumed starting power forward, would miss the start of the season with a ruptured cyst behind his left knee.
Today’s New York Knicks would have no problem filling a gap at the power forward spot.
With limited paths to choose, the Knicks created their own, sliding Anthony down a position and filling his spot with the defensive-minded Ronnie Brewer.
The benefits of such a lineup are a staple of nearly every roster’s construction in 2020, but not eight years prior. With Melo at the four, New York’s offense would have far more room to worth with, while Anthony would have the luxury of preferred matchups against opponents still trotting out slower forwards.
It was an experiment stumbled upon by chance, but one that proved to maximize Carmelo’s talents in a way that trickled down through the entire roster.
Anthony feasted on his way to a league-leading 28.7 points per game, causing nightly mismatches that forced defenses to double-team the scoring champ.
It was upon facing that second defender where Melo showed the most growth that season. Jason Kidd‘s presence didn’t just provide another floor general in the backcourt. He got the entire team — most importantly their best player — to buy into a more unselfish mentality that always swung the ball to the open man. Pablo Prigioni brought a similar mindset as well.
With just about every one of those open players being able floor-spacers, New York became the premier 3-point shooting team in the league, leading the pack in makes and attempts per game while ranking fifth in percentage.
Their 10.9 makes on 28.9 attempts per game would rank near the bottom of today’s league, but they’d actually break the single-season 3-point record at the time with 891 makes.
New York had four players inside the top 50 in 3-pointers, including Steve Novak, who ranked 11th in percentage while becoming a fan favorite with his discount double-checks. Chris Copeland was two spots behind after coming on as a 28-year-old undrafted free agent, even claiming April’s Rookie of the Month.
Eight New York players shot at least 35.0 percent from deep. Three were north of 40.0, including Iman Shumpert, who returned in January after an ACL tear –replacing Brewer in the starting lineup — and proceeded to shoot a career-best 40.2 percent.
The 3-point barrage did wonders for Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith as well. The former made the only All-Star appearance of his career as a fearsome roll man and interior defender while the latter averaged a career-high 18.1 points per game en route to the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Even Stoudemire thrived off the bench for a 29-game stretch upon returning on new years day — he’d require surgery in March and miss the remainder of the season and most of the playoffs — averaging 14.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game
Everything clicked at every level, propelling New York past expectations with 54 wins and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Their playoff run started strong with an opening-round victory over the Boston Celtics, their first since 2001. Running into the Indiana Pacers and their smothering defense proved to be a different challenge, one the Knicks couldn’t overcome.
The formula that had brought the most successful season of the century was then quickly abandoned the following year.
Kidd retired, as did the veteran trio of Camby, Wallace and Thomas. Novak was part of a trade package for Andrea Bargnani, whose poor defense and 27.8 3-point percentage were the antitheses of the frontcourt prototype that helped New York thrive the previous year.
Having not been to the playoffs since then, the 2012-13 Knicks hold a special place in the hearts of their fans who continue to watch their team muddle around the bottom of the standings
One can only wonder the type of progress those Knicks could’ve made had they stuck to their 3-point philosophies a bit longer, into the longball era of today they seemed a smidge too early on.