Things didn’t go exactly as planned last season for the New York Knicks. Injuries, ineffectiveness, poor coaching, stupidity and a first round blowout in the playoffs, courtesy of the Miami Heat, led to the end of a frustrating season for the Knicks and their fans. The nice thing is that they get to start anew in November. So will this team be better this year? Or will they struggle and suffer like they did last year?
When they acquired Carmelo Anthony in 2011, the Knicks felt they added a huge piece that would put them over the top. Their fans were ecstatic and for good reason, too. Anthony has been a perennial All-Star since he entered the league in 2003. With a career scoring average of 25 ppg, teaming him with Amar’e Stoudemire would make the Knicks difficult to defend, right? Wrong. As you know, Anthony has made it past the first round of the playoffs ONE time in his career. He is a ball-stopping, shoot-first, second, and third-type of player that needs to have the ball in his hands for 20 out of the 24 seconds on the shot-clock. He shot 43% last season and posted his lowest ppg scoring output since his second year in the league. His counterpart, Stoudemire, performed ever worse. After averaging 25.3 ppg in his first season with the Knicks, Stoudemire battled injuries for most of the 2011-2012 season, playing in 47 out of the 66 games. He averaged 17.5 ppg, his lowest since his rookie season (he averaged 8.7 ppg in 2005-2006, but missed most of the season with an injury and played in only three games).
I think a lot of the struggles that not only Anthony and Stoudemire incurred, but the team incurred, was due to having no leadership at the point guard position. Talk about Jeremy Lin all you want, but he didn’t bring what newcomer Jason Kidd will bring to the Knicks this season. Speaking of Lin, I am glad the Knicks didn’t re-sign him. If you want to read more about why I thought the Knicks were smart not to re-sign him, click here (‘Lin-sanity is extremely over-paid). Even though Kidd is at the end of his career, he is still a solid defender and knows how to run a team, something the Knicks lacked last season. They brought back Raymond Felton after they included him in the Carmelo Anthony trade with Denver. Their last big offseason addition is backup center Marcus Camby. Camby will be a nice compliment to reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler.
Even with these additions, I still don’t think the Knicks have the mental capacity to play defense at a high enough level to compete for a championship. When your two best players (Anthony and Stoudemire) don’t play defense, it doesn’t send the right message to the rest of your team. However, I like all the veterans this team added.
Let’s break this team down position-by-position.
Point guard(s) – Jason Kidd: Even at the age of 39, I still like what Kidd brings to the table. He is a tough, solid defender and an extremely accomplished point guard. He knows how to run a team and that’s something the Knicks have lacked for years. He won’t score much, but he will rebound, pass and defend. After all, the Knicks have Anthony and Stoudemire to score.
Raymond Felton and newcomer Pablo Prigioni (35) will back Kidd up.
Position Grade: B-
Shooting guard(s) – Ronnie Brewer: This is an underrated pickup for the Knicks. While Brewer is a nightmare on offense, his defense will be the reason he plays. That and second-year shooting guard Iman Shumpert is coming off a torn ACL. Shumpert should be back sometime in January or February, if the Knicks don’t rush him back. I like to think of Brewer as a poor-man’s Shumpert. Shumpert’s offensive game is better, but when comparing their defensive game, it’s almost identical.
J.R. Smith will back up Brewer.
Position Grade: C+
Small forward(s) – Carmelo Anthony: I am going to be critical of Anthony. He didn’t perform the way I thought he would last season. He left me extremely disappointed and, at times, baffled by some of the shots he took. Simply put, he played one-on-one basketball. However, what I saw in the Olympics was a different story. It looked like he had a renewed energy about him, like someone lit a fire under him. At 28 years of age and having only made it out of the first round of the playoffs one time in his career, I think Anthony is ready to step up and take that next step. I think he wants to be more than just a scorer now. We saw LeBron James do it last year. And I think Anthony possesses all the tools to do the same this year.
Steve Novak and Chris Copeland will back up Anthony.
Position Grade: B+
Power forward(s) – Amar’e Stoudemire: Perhaps the biggest puzzle piece last season was Stoudemire. It seems like the Stoudemire’s space on the floor has shrunk since Anthony arrived in the February of 2011. He averaged 17.5 points per game last season and attempted only 13.9 shots per game. Even though his shots per game were second highest on the team to Anthony’s 18.6, two other players (J.R. Smith and Jeremy Lin) attempted double-figure shots per game. However, Stoudemire shot the best percentage out of the four (48.3%). Then, Stoudemire went crazy in the playoffs and punched a glass case. Somehow he managed to miss only one game, but it was stupid nonetheless. I think Mike Woodson would be smart if he got Stoudemire more involved in the offense this season. If Stoudemire can take between 16-18 shots per game and shoot at or around 50%, the Knicks will be better off.
The Knicks don’t have a backup power forward listed on their roster. We saw that Anthony played some power forward last season and Steve Novak can play some power forward, too. Those are the two I think might back up Stoudemire.
Position Grade: B+
Center(s) – Tyson Chandler: Honestly, I thought Chandler looked lost during the Olympics. International basketball isn’t his forte. Luckily he plays in the NBA, where he was the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year. He protects the rim, rebounds and catches alley-oops. I like that he is teamed-up with Jason Kidd, again. If you forgot, Kidd and Chandler were two big reasons why the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship in 2011; Dirk Nowitzki was the other reason. I still think that Chandler’s $13,604,188 salary is outrageous for a guy who can’t do anything offensively.
Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas/Dan Gadzuric will back up Chandler.
Position Grade: B
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Jason Kidd
G: Ronnie Brewer
F: Carmelo Anthony
F: Amar’e Stoudemire
C: Tyson Chandler
Starting Lineup Grade: B
G: Raymond Felton
G: J.R. Smith
F: Steve Novak
F: Marcus Camby
Bench Grade: C+
Coaching Grade: B- (Mike Woodson)
I am predicting that the New York Knicks will finish fourth in the Atlantic Division and be the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.