With the season almost here, Hardwood Houdini is excited to get back to work for another wonderful basketball season. To warm you up to the season’s return, the staff will be previewing the Atlantic Division. We’ve already done the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets. The next team up: The New York Knicks.
Most impactful player on the Knicks this season?
Michael Sykes: Going to have to go with Carmelo Anthony here. He’s the Knicks best player, although, if Chandler is at his defensive peak then you can make a pretty compelling argument for him being the choice here. Still, what Anthony does for the Knicks on the offensive side of the ball is what generates their scoring opportunities. He isn’t much of a facilitator, but his presence when he’s playing the role of a small-ball four is pertinent to the Knicks spacing the floor and getting great looks for everyone else. Without an elite creator at the point guard position the Knicks have to rely on Anthony’s post presence and ability to carve space out by moving without the ball in order to have a productive offense. He’s going to continue to have that same impact next season.
Trey Adell: Carmelo. As much as I like to pick on him for not being the most efficient scorer on the planet he’s still an elite player. There aren’t many people who can score in bunches and in as many ways as he can. If Woodson continues to utilize Anthony as a 4 like he did last season Anthony will continue to be extremely effective.
What player on the Knicks will overachieve this season?
MS: I’ll go with Amar’e Stoudemire here. He’s become an afterthought since the Knicks decided to embrace the small-ball movement and he also hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but when he did play he was an impact player. He scored 14.2 points per game on 9.2 shots last season in 23.5 minutes per game. He shot 57% from the field and his per minute statistics suggest that he could be very good with a minute increase. Stoudemire is still a well rounded offensive player with a lot to offer–I think he plays more this season and will overachieve just a bit.
TA: Ray Felton. I usually don’t like using the playoff as sample sizes to determine season performance but Felton was really good last year in the playoff against two elite defenses. His pick and roll game against the Celtics was very much worthy of praise and if he can learn from what made him and the team successful, he may be able to transfer it over to this season.
What do you expect from Iman Shumpert this season?
MS: He should solidify himself as one of the best defenders in the league this season. While watching tape of Shumpert over the summer, it became evident to me that he was one of the more versatile defenders in the NBA. He was able to guard all positions outside of the 5 spot and was key when it came to switching off of screens for New York. He also will be healthy coming into the season instead of trying to pick up the pace coming off of a torn ACL injury. We should see much of what we saw from him in the playoffs, and that should be good enough to earn him All-Defense team honors.
TA: More of what we saw in the playoffs against Boston where he was a monster on defense. He terrorized former Celtic Paul Pierce and I think after having all of last season to regain his form from the ACL injury he suffered in the 2012 playoffs his value of defense will only rise.
What difference is Andrea Bargnani going to make?
MS: I doubt that Bargnani will have the desired affect that the Knicks want him to have. When thinking about his role, it’s important to look at his production from season to season from beyond the arch. Early on in his career he was a decent three point shooter. In the last two seasons, though, he hasn’t been able to shoot above 32% from three. Of course, he has been plagued by injury throughout these last two years, so there should be some regression back to the mean here. But I still don’t think he’ll make much of an impact or play too many minutes per game.
TA: Not much. At this point in Bargnani’s career we already know what kind of player he is. He’s a stretch big who can’t shoot threes. There’s a chance he could make something that resembles an impact on the team but unlikely.
Can Tyson Chandler regain his defensive form?
MS: I’m not really sure if he can. Two years ago, it was argued that he may have been the best defensive center in basketball. He certainly was second to none but Dwight Howard at that point. Now? Not so much. After a great run with Dallas in 2011 and his initial season with the Knicks, the defensive dropoff for Chandler has been well noted. His defensive rating jumped from 99 to 104 last season according to basketball-reference and his defensive win shares dropped from 3.6 to 2.6 last season. He’s still good, but he’s nowhere near the level that he was at the season before. And with the way that the Knicks play defense now, I don’t really see him improving too much in the near future.
TA: Yes and No. I don’t think he’ll return to being the dominant defensive force he was when Dallas won the championship in ’11 or when he won DPOY but I do feel like last season was an aberration in that he won’t be as bad. We saw glimpses of him returning somewhat to form in the playoffs and I think he can still be a very effective defensive anchor for New York.
How will the Knicks’ season finish?
MS: New York was one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference last season but I think that a lot around them has improved while they’ve maintained the same stance over the offseason. Brooklyn is going to be a better team, Miami will still be Miami, the Pacers should certainly improve, Derrick Rose will return for the Bulls and even the bottom feeders in the East have made some pretty reputable acquisitions this offseason. The Knicks are going to be in for a much more difficult journey this season. I look for them to finish between 5th and 8th in the conference with a record of 46-36.
TA: New York certainly regressed a bit just by virtue of not adding anyone of significant value in a conference with some very heavy hitters at the top of it. It’s also yet to be seen if last seasons barrage of threes was anything other than a season long aberration. Brooklyn will likely climb ahead while Chicago is still a mystery and Miami and Indy are likely the favorites for the 1 & 2 seeds. Carmelo is still one of the ten best players in the league and Mike Woodson is a fantastic coach. This is a very good team who could still grab a top 4 seed in the conference.