Sunday, October 27, 2013

NBA Season Preview 2013-2014: New York Knicks

2012-2013 Regular Season Record: 54-28

Key Additions: G Tim Hardaway Jr.(Rd 1, Pick 24), F/C Andrea Bargnani F Metta World Peace(2 yrs 3.2 million, 1.59 guaranteed), G Beno Udrih(1 yr, 1.27 million, 884,293 guaranteed), G J.R. Smith (Contract Extension: 3 yrs, 17 million, 11.54 million guaranteed)

Key Losses: G Jason Kidd (Retirement, Coaching Brooklyn Nets), Rasheed Wallace (Retirement), F Chris Copeland,  F Steve Novak, C Marcus Camby

Projected Starting Lineup: PG: Raymond Felton, SG: Iman Shumpert SF: Carmelo Anthony PF: Andrea Bargnani C: Tyson Chandler

Key Backups: G/F J.R. Smith, F Metta World Peace , F Amare Stoudemire, G Beno Udrih, G Pablo Prigioni, F/C Kenyon Martin. G Tim Hardaway Jr., 

The block that ended the Knicks' season.
They were the oldest team in the history NBA. One of the most exciting teams to watch with their free flowing style of play. Last year was suppose to be their year, after signing a future hall of famer Jason Kidd, a long time veteran Marcus Camby, former Knick Raymond Felton and an Argentine icon in Pablo Prigioni. The Knicks not only wanted to be the best team in New York, they wanted to be the team that can challenge the Miami Heat. Carmelo Anthony led the NBA in scoring with 28.7 points per game, J.R. Smith won the Sixth Man of the Year, the Knicks broke the record for most threes in a season. The Knicks shown they were a team to be reckoned with in the regular season, but things changed during the NBA playoffs.

It took 6 games for the Knicks to defeat the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics, often settling for complacency allowing a 20 point unanswered run from Boston. The glaring weaknesses became bigger against the Pacers with their lack of size being exploited by David West and Roy Hibbert. The Knicks were not allowed to play small ball with Melo at the 4 and Tyson Chandler was being overpowered by the mammoth Roy Hibbert. Paul George's size and versatility nullified New York's top offensive threats and the hot streak of Lance Stephenson during the series proved too much for New York's guards to handle.

In the off-season the Knicks decided to address their lack of ruggedness with the signing of Ron...Metta World Peace, a 7 foot in marksman in Andrea Bargnani and an efficient combo guard in Beno Udrih. Despite the new additions, if the Knicks are to get anywhere, it is dependent on the play of Carmelo Anthony.

Player Spotlight
How many "threes to the domes" will it take for Melo to win a championship?
Carmelo Anthony had one of the better seasons of his career in 2012-2013. The former Syracuse forward was the focal point of the Mike Woodson isolation offense creating mismatches at the small forward and power forward position. The change to the 4 allowed Carmelo to do what he does best; play in the post and operate from mid range. His quickness off the dribble and strength also allowed mismatches as he is too strong to be covered by an average small forward and he is too quick to be guarded by a power forward. But when the small forward who is covering you is 6'10 and more athletic added to a shoulder injury, Carmelo could not bring forth the performance to put the Knicks over the Pacers.

Carmelo Anthony throughout his career earned the reputation of being a "ball-stopper" often resorting to breaking down his opponent rather than playing with the team. This is all not to blame on Melo, head coach Mike Woodson has been notorious for using an "Iso-Joe" offense in Atlanta and racked up a NBA high 16 percent in isolations last season. Whether it is Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith, the ball often does not leave their hands when their eyes are on the bucket which often left to broken offensive plays and bad turnovers. 

Carmelo is expected to play his natural position at the small forward spot this season with the inclusion of Andrea Bargnani. The feeling should be mutual as Bargnani can park out at the edge of the three while Carmelo can play inside the key. For defense, Metta World Peace may not be his former self but is still one of the most feared players in the NBA, just ask Tyler Hansbrough. At 260 pounds, Metta World Peace can handle the David Wests as well as the Paul Georges while Melo does not have to take as much responsibility defensively (something he won't complain about).

The Others
J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler will be just as important to the Knicks' success as Carmelo Anthony
When it looked like guard J.R. Smith will miss part of the season with knee surgery, Smith is back in action and is ready for New York's final preseason game. At 28 years old, J.R is entering his ninth season in the prime of his career. Last season Smith averaged 18.1 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists. Smith played more disciplined and controlled, and was a nice compliment to Carmelo Anthony. While we saw more consistency, the bad J.R. Smith was back in full effect shooting 33 percent throughout the playoffs. The problem with J.R. if he is in bad form is he does not know when to stop shooting, a mentality that Denver fans knew all too well and that New York fans came to experience against Boston and Indiana. J.R. Smith is almost just as important as Melo because somebody else needs to score as they were not many other scoring options outside of them last season.

Despite winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, Tyson Chandler does not get the credit he deserves on the defensive end. Chandler was an integral part in Dallas' championship run and transformed the New York Knicks defense from being horrible to being one of the better defenses in the league. Chandler uses every bit of his 7'1 frame and his nimble feet to be a menace at the defensive end making life hard for opposing players to drive to the basket. On offense Tyson is pretty serviceable too, finishing a high amount of his close range shots with dunks, put-backs and easy layups. As I mentioned before, he had major problems dealing with Roy Hibbert as he was too strong for the skinny Tyson Chandler to handle. The Knicks still have not addressed that issue as Cole Aldrich and Josh Powell are his backups.

Iman Shumpert will take Jason Kidd's place in the lineup as the starting shooting guard and came on strong towards the end of the season as he was readjusting to his knee and shown flashes of his athleticism. Known for his lockdown defense, Iman Shumpert is expected to improve his consistency on the offensive end of the ball and give the Knicks another outlet for scoring.

Raymond Felton is a solid if unspectacular point guard capable of running an offense and can provide points when needed. Last season, Felton averaged just 5.5 assists last season due to other options on the offensive end. Felton is best in a full court style of offense where he is dominating the ball and running the pick and roll as he was doing during his first stint with the Knicks. Bargnani can give the former North Carolina point guard some nice pick and pop potential.

Part of Felton's early success was the dominance of Amare Stoudemire who has been slowed down by knee problems and punching fire extinguishers. It could be stretching it to think that Amare Stoudemire would ever get back to his old self that made him one of the top power forwards in the NBA but then again he averaged 14.2 points per game and 5 rebounds in only 23.5 minutes during his short comeback last regular season.

Beno Udrih is one of the more underrated point guards in the NBA, this will be the fifth team in the Yugoslavian guard's career and is a solid backup for either guard position. Pablo Prigioni might of came to the NBA too late in his basketball career as he is past his prime but is still an important player on the bench thanks to his basketball IQ. Kenyon Martin made an immediate impact after getting signed late into the last season, will provide backup minutes at the 4 and 5 slot.Tim Hardaway Jr. has an NBA pedigree in his genes and a great pickup for the Knicks at 24, knows how to score but could be brought along the rotation slowly.

Will there be changes to the Mike Woodson offense?

In the 2012-2013 season, the Knicks were last in the NBA in assists per game, and 26th in rebounds. The Knicks at times were one-dimensional offensively as they lived and die by the three or at the hands of Melo and J.R.. New signing Andrea Bargnani does not deviate from the team formula and should become more of an replacement for Steve Novak. Metta World Peace is back in his hometown and he will definitely get behind the fans and bring the toughness for this Knicks team. While these group of players are younger and more versatile than last season's squad, the Knicks have not made enough off-season acquisitions to offset their intercity rivals the Brooklyn Nets. With Carmelo Anthony having recently declared for the open market, this could be the year of judgement for the New York Knicks.

Projected All Stars: Carmelo Anthony

Season Projection: Playoff Contention(5th place, 2nd in Atlantic Division)

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