Could Shelden Tip The Balance?
A month ago I asked KnickerBlogger readers to pick which playoff opponent they’d prefer New York to face. The favorite was the Miami Heat with nearly half the vote (44%) while the Boston Celtics finished last with only 3%. New York currently holds the 7th seed, and it’s possible that the team moves up to the 6th spot and less likely that they move down to the 8th spot. Additionally the Celtics and Heat are a half game apart for the 2nd seed. Hence the Knicks are quite likely to face one of these two teams.
New York has beaten Miami twice in four contests, and there’s no doubt that the Heat offer a more unbalanced team. Since that time New York faced off against the Celtics and despite having a healthy lead, faltered down the stretch. In reviewing the final minutes, I concluded that New York needed a swingman stopper, a bigman that can knock down the open shot, and a rebounder. It appears that Shelden Williams has given the Knicks a little of those last two categories. Williams has averaged 17 minutes over the last 5 games, and is primarily a rebounding defending center. According to Hoopdata, he’s attempted half of his shots in the paint, but his next preferred area is 16-23 feet (29% of fga).
It seems ironic to think that a player who sees as few minutes as Williams could make a difference, but in the NBA every possession counts. However, look at the play-by-play of that Celtics game again, and imagine how a single rebound (5:53), defensive play (5:32), or shot could have altered the balance slightly giving the Knicks a needed shot in the arm. Unfortunately the Knicks still lack someone to lock down on Pierce or Allen, and make their life a little more uncomfortable.