As the NBA season fast approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focusing on the New York Knicks, who last year had a record of 54-28 and made make the playoffs.
Team: New York Knicks
Coach: Mike Woodson
General Manager: Steve Mills
2012-2013 Record: 54-28
Place in Conference: Second in the East. Atlantic Division Champions
Leading Scorer: Carmelo Anthony (28.7 points per game. first in the NBA)
Key Additions: Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih, Jeremy Tyler, Chris Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., CJ Leslie
Key Losses: Steve Novak, Jason Kidd, Chris Copeland, Rasheed Wallace, Quentin Richardson, James White, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Earl Barron
The New York Knicks made their third straight playoff appearance behind the league-leading scoring of Carmelo Anthony, a defense anchored by All-Star Tyson Chandler, and solid outside shooting. Guard J.R. Smith also won the Sixth Man of the Year Award despite putting up per minute numbers that were in line with his career averages. A streaky team due to their reliance on that outside shooting, the Knicks started the year strong and then struggled in the middle of the season before picking it up again at the end. In the playoffs, the Knicks defeated the Boston Celtics in the first round, before bowing out to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Now, the Knicks have overhauled half of their roster and hired former Madison Square Garden executive Steve Mills to replace Glen Grunwald in an effort to move the team closer to the NBA championship that has eluded them since 1973. The question is, in try to take a step forward, did the Knickerbockers actually take a step back?
Despite questions about his efficiency within a team concept, Anthony is one of the most skilled scorers in NBA history. He has averaged 25.0 points per game for his career and last season posted a career high PER of 24.8. This bump in efficiency was mostly due to trading in long two-pointers for shots behind the arc, where Anthony shot 37.9% on over six shots per game. This allowed Melo to earn Second Team All-NBA and finish third in MVP voting. Melo had also finally embraced playing power forward, and is far more effective at that position than small forward due to the mismatches he can create. While the original plan was for Amar’e Stoudemire to be the second superstar next to Anthony, that role has been filled admirably by Tyson Chandler. The Knicks’ man in the middle followed up winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 with his first All-Star appearance, and his .671 true shooting percentage led the league for the third consecutive year. Despite low shot blocking numbers, he is a transformative figure on defense and a highly efficient player on offense. Point guard Raymond Felton’s return to the team also resulted in a return to form after a disastrous season with the Portland Trailblazers. Kenyon Martin was signed off the street in February and provided another solid presence on the interior off the bench as well as when Chandler was injured, and returns to the team for the upcoming season. Iman Shumpert and Metta World Peace are both excellent defenders who can cover all every position except center between them. Point Guards Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih both fit well into Head Coach Mike Woodson’s offensive scheme. With the Knicks, Woodson has continued a run of playoff appearances that started while he was coaching the Atlanta Hawks, continuing his run as a solid, if not spectacular, head coach.
While the Knicks have gotten younger this year due to their new additions and the retirements of Wallace, Kidd, and Thomas, age and injuries will undoubtedly be factors the team will have to navigate this season. Chandler’s back injury at the end of last season greatly sapped his effectiveness and made him a liability in the playoffs. Despite a strong showing last season, Martin has battled ineffectiveness due to age and injuries for years and is highly unlikely to make it through all 82 games without missing some time. Bargnani and Anthony have battled injuries over the last few years, Smith is coming off serious knee surgery that will delay his start to the season, and Prigioni and World Peace are nearing the end of their careers. This is to say nothing of Shumpert’s return from an ACL tear last year and Felton’s previous issues with conditioning. The Bargnani deal makes little sense for the Knicks as well. The big man has missed 98 games over the last two years, while shooting roughly 30 percent from beyond the arc and continuing his career pattern of atrocious defense and rebounding for a seven footer. Bargnani’s arrival also will limit one of the most effective changes Woodson made last season, namely moving Anthony to power forward. With the presence of Chandler and Martin at center, and Bargnani and Stoudemire at power forward, Anthony will likely return to spending much of his time at small forward with World Peace acting as his backup. Meanwhile, the Knicks gave up Steve Novak, one of the most effective outside shooters in the league, and a first round pick for Bargnani, an amnesty candidate until the trade. Off the court, the Knicks have no cap flexibility, no guarantee Anthony will be a part of the team after this season, an owner in James Dolan whose interference in personnel matters has nearly always been a negative, and Mills has a limited basketball background and is known best as the man who recommended the hiring of Isiah Thomas for his run as Knicks president, starting one of the most disastrous periods in team history.
2013-2014 Season Predictions
The Knicks are generally seen as the fifth best team in an Eastern Conference where the biggest divide in the playoff race will be between the fifth and sixth seeds. That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Knicks’ record was closer to the sixth seed than the top four, and they could possibly fall below one of Atlanta, Cleveland, or Detroit. While they did get slightly younger by replacing Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Chris Copeland, and Steve Novak with Beno Udrih, Metta World Peace, Tim Hardaway JR., and Andrea Bargnani, they have made some sacrifices in interior defense, perimeter shooting, and team fit. For all his faults, Anthony is the MVP of this team and there is a reason he has never missed the playoffs in his career. As long as he and Chandler are healthy for the majority of the season the Knicks will be a playoff team although their record will probably decline a bit due to a less efficient lineup and the improved competition in the Eastern Conference. Final Prediction: 48-34, Fifth in the Eastern Conference.