The Knicks Wall’s Season Preview

Basketball is finally around the corner. Today, training camps are set to open, meaning we’ll start to see some real basketball news. In preparation for the season ahead, we here at The Knicks Wall are going to give you our takes on the off-season that was and the season that is going to be.

What was your favorite move this off-season?

Jonah: My favorite move this off-season was one of the last: The signing of Ronnie Brewer. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out the Knicks were able to woo him for the veteran’s minimum, especially considering the fact he made about $5 million a year for a couple years prior. He adds superb defense, which will prove to be very valuable while Shumpert is away, as well as when he returns. Having interchangeable two-gaurds who love to defend is awesome.

Danny: Bringing back Marcus Camby. While most people worry about how Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony can co-exist and balance out the Knicks offense, championships are won playing defense. We saw the effect Tyson Chandler had on the Knicks last season, taking a team ranked 21st in defensive efficiency in 2010-11 to 5th last season. While he’s not the one-on-one defender Chandler is, he is still a terrific weak side defender and rebounder and the Knicks shouldn’t lose too much defensively at center when Camby checks into games and gives Tyson a breather.

Billy: The best move the Knicks made during this off-season was re-signing J.R. Smith. Smith is certainly a flawed player, both physically and mentally, but he plays a clear role that the Knicks need: scoring, outside of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Ultimately, Smith’s failures in the playoffs last season were due to him being asked to do too much, the most noticeable of which being handling the ball. The hope would be that Smith can go into this year with clear knowledge of his role (which will hopefully be sixth man), so he can get back to what he does best as a player. The reason, though, that the re-signing was the best move, was the bargain that the Knicks got. At $2.8 million, the Knicks got a very valuable role player, a player that the coach believes in, and with very limited financial resources, J.R. was the best sixth man the Knicks could get.

Scott: I think my favorite move of the offseason was one of the least discussed: grabbing Ronnie Brewer for the veteran’s minimum. While acquiring Marcus Camby may prove to be one of the most valuable moves of the offseason, I didn’t like the amount of players and picks the Knicks included in the sign-and-trade for him. The Brewer move came out of nowhere – the Knicks did not overpay for him, they didn’t give him a huge contract, they didn’t have to give anyone up to get him. During Iman Shumpert’s absence – and his eventual presence – Brewer will fill a vital role defending opposing wings. For as much credit we, as Knicks fans, give Shumpert’s defense, this past season, Brewer posted better numbers in Defensive Rating and Defensive Win Shares, a higher Total Rebounding Percentage, and better numbers in blocked shots. And while his offense leaves much to be desired, he still has shot 50% from the field for his career. I think Brewer could prove to be a huge addition to this team.

Matt: Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas by a long shot! These guys are fan favorites that were both members of the ’99 finals team. They are more than adequate backups for Tyson Chandler and Amar’e and will also give STAT plenty of time to rest his body. Which means hopefully that he can remain injury-free this season and be highly productive from an offensive standpoint. We finished top 5 in defensive efficiency last year with him and Melo playing very little defense. A better STAT makes a better Knicks team.

What was your least favorite move this off-season?

Jonah: Jeremy Lin. It’s going to stick with me forever… Why didn’t the Knicks match Lin? A young point guard with tons of upside doesn’t come around too often, especially when you don’t have high draft picks. Yeah, I know it was a lot of money, but they could’ve dealt with it if he didn’t pan out. They could’ve traded his $15 million expiring contract – and believe me, there would’ve been teams lined up – or they could’ve elected to stretch that $15 million out over three-years and just take a hit. Dolan’s never been fiscally conservative before, why start when the franchise sees the most upside in over a decade?

Danny: Not bringing back Jeremy Lin. This has nothing to do with his 35 games from last season. I still believe the jury is out on what Lin will be. A 35 game sample size is just not big enough. Plus, I believe the Knicks did well with what they did at point guard this summer, bringing back Raymond Felton and signing Jason Kidd. However, with the team strapped in terms of the salary cap for the next three season, bringing back Lin would’ve given them an extra piece that could’ve been used down the line in a trade. And of course, there is always the prospect that his 35 game performance last year wasn’t a farce and he is the real deal.

Billy: The worst move the Knicks made was signing Jason Kidd to a 3 year, $9 million contract. When the Knicks initially were said to be in the mix for Jason Kidd, I thought it was a good idea. However, my feelings were based on two assumptions: Kidd would receive the veteran minimum and that Jeremy Lin would still be on the team. At this point in his career, Kidd is less than serviceable on the court. Kidd could have served as a good mentor to a young point guard, but the Knicks don’t have a young point guard for him to mentor. Still, Kidd would be a good locker room presence for the veteran minimum. The problem, of course, is that the Knicks used their mini-midlevel on him. The use of the midlevel ultimately deterred the Knicks from adding a contributing player. I don’t believe Kidd’s experience is worth that, especially on a team with as much experience as the Knicks.

Scott: The Knicks have made a few moves this offseason that I’ve disapproved of, but the decision to let Jeremy Lin walk ranks very highly on my The Knicks Really Pissed Me Off list. Perhaps it’s fair to wonder if Lin can ever produce at the superstar level like he did in February, but it’s also fair to ask what would change. Though his numbers slowly declined through his 26-game breakout, the guy was facing legitimate defensive attention by the second week of that breakout, and was still producing. Was he going to forget how to dribble? Pass? Shoot? Sure, there were some clunkers thrown in there (Miami, obviously), but there was also that stretch where he set NBA records for most points and assists in players’ first career starts, beating out the likes of Allen Iverson, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, and Magic Johnson to name a few.

Simply said, a franchise cannot afford to let 23-year old point guard with obvious talent go for nothing in return. The Knicks, for one, have never been concerned with spending money before, but if they were, they could have used the stretch provision to pay his $15 million third year over three years ($5 million a year of dead cap space), if he wasn’t producing. Or they could have traded him. Rashard Lewis – who at 32 years old, just posted a 9.3 PER – and the (approximately) $73 million he was owed over four years, has been traded three times over the last four years. Anyone can be traded.

Matt: Letting Jeremy Lin walk for nothing…they could’ve done the sign and trade with Houston for Camby and some other young pieces or picks. But no, Dolan let his ego trip him up and he got nothing…and yes, I am one of those people that felt we had not seen the best of Jeremy Lin yet. I do understand the small sample size and concerns about durability, but I think we should’ve given it a shot. He would have been a very tradeable asset in the third year of that deal if it hadn’t have panned out. To get nothing for him was an epic fail…

What’s one, player or team, development you think we’re going to witness this year?

Jonah: I definitely think we’ll see Amare Stoudemire return to form, and I think Raymond Felton will help him get there. Felton had a bad, bad, bad year last year. But, thankfully, he’s acknowledged that and chalked it up to being out of shape – and from what I’ve heard, he’s in phenomenal shape this year. In 2010, prior to his inclusion in the Carmelo Anthony trade, Felton was playing superb basketball, especially with Amare Stoudmire. I think we’re going to see the emergence of Raymond Felton, Amare Stoudemire and one sexy pick-and-roll tandem.

Danny: The return of the REAL Amar’e Stoudemire. I’m probably in the minority, but I do think STAT and Melo can work. Let’s not forget that upon Carmelo’s arrival to New York, Stoudemire averaged close to 21 points per game, after the trade. Amar’e was just never himself last season, from the lingering back issues to his own personal issues. Now, back at full health and working the pick and roll with Felton and Kidd, I expect Amar’e to be a 20-point per game player once again.

Billy: Amare Stoudemire will return to his status as an elite player this year. Stoudemire is a very prideful player with a great work ethic who will not accept his performance last year. I personally believe Stoudemire was not as bad as people think he was, but there was a clear drop-off. A variety of factors, though, say that Stoudemire will have a bounce back season. One of which is the return of Raymond Felton, who had great chemistry with Stoudemire. The Hakeem Olajuwon factor could also be significant, as Stoudemire could see more baskets in the post after his training with the NBA Legend.

Scott: I think and hope very much that we’ll see Amar’e Stoudemire reinsert himself into the ‘elite power forward’ group. Stoudemire was certainly in the conversation in 2010-11, but last year was a tumultuous season for him due to conditioning issues, injuries, and personal strife. The additions of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, and Pablo Prigioni – all astute play-makers in the pick-and-roll – should help Amar’e have an easier time on offense. Similarly, I would like to think that Felton will have a bounce-back year and reform a potent one-two punch with Stoudemire. The two had great (underrated, even) chemistry during their brief time together in 2010-11, and though Mike D’Antoni and his gracious floor-spacing system are gone, both players seem motivated to have great seasons.

Matt: This will be the year that we finally see Amar’e and Melo play WELL together, on the court, at the same time, simultaneously…you get it! They have been very friendly this off season(lots of photo opps together and attending each other’s charity events), Melo isn’t that far removed from international play where he kept the ball moving, etc. and STAT is going to be 100% to start the season. Combine that with Melo’s “dedication” to fitness, STAT’s off-season work with Olajuwon, and both of them realizing that their window is closing will result in us seeing the best of both of them together on the floor. Is that saying we’re going to get a chip this year? No…but it is saying that when these two mesh, we are going to be very tough to beat, and will be an elite team in the Eastern Conference.

What’s the biggest question mark surrounding the team?

Jonah: After re-loading the point guard depth chart this off-season, I think the biggest question mark surrounding the team will be whether or not the point guards can effectively control the roster. Fortunately, as I said earlier, I think Raymond Felton is going to get in a solid rhythm with Amare Stoudemire, which would help the entire team, but all in all, the point guard play will make or break the Knicks’ season.

Danny: Offense, mainly how the point guards will get Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony to co-exist in an offense that not only benefits the superstar duo, but the role players, as well, and health. This is an old roster with many guys who have a history of injuries, so if they can all stay relatively healthy, the Knicks should be in a good position.

Billy: The biggest question mark surrounding the Knicks is whether or not the team can score enough points to contend with the elite teams in the NBA. The Knicks have made great strides on defense and look like they could be a top 5 defensive team. What will determine whether or not the Knicks will be just another playoff team or a team that will actually contend is if they can develop flow on offense. Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire have not looked like they can work together, but that can change. The Knicks’ point guard situation is certainly better than it was at the start of last year, but they are still not rock solid at the position… And Mike Woodson isn’t an offensive genius either. Ultimately, the Knicks have to prove they can be consistent on offense.

Scott: As a continuation of the answer above, I think the biggest question is whether the offense can actually live up to its potential. Much of that has to do with how effectively Stoudemire and Felton can perform. The offense, however, also has the potential to hit a wall. Aside from Steve Novak and J.R. Smith, assuming he returns to his normal shooting numbers, the Knicks have very few players who can space the floor. Without reliable three-point shooters, defenses will be able to pack the paint and suffocate the space Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Stoudemire use to score. Likewise, the Knicks will need Stoudemire and Anthony to consistently hit their jump shots to make their own lives easier. For the first time in a long time, the roster will be stable and have a coach with job security and a full training camp to work with.

Matt: How much can they really get from Jason Kidd? That’s the biggest question mark in my eyes. Camby and Thomas will be good in their roles of backing up STAT and Chandler. Felton still has some good tread on the tires. Kidd is definitely at the end. He was brought in to mentor Jeremy Lin and they let Lin walk. I’m not sure I see his purpose other than to knock down the occasional open three. Hopefully he can give some game to Felton and help Felton reach the potential he has failed to reach thus far. I really want to think Kidd can contribute, but I need to see it to believe it!

Finally, what’s your prediction?

Jonah: I’ll set the over/under at 52.5 and I expect them to finish right around there. If Shumpert was healthy for the entire year, I’d peg them closer to 55, but 52 isn’t too bad. As the division rankings, I think they just get beaten out by the Boston Celtics, and finish fourth in the conference. They make it to the second round, put up a solid effort, before failing to make it to the conference championship game.

Danny: As long as this team stays healthy, I see no reason why they shouldn’t win between 50-53 games and compete for a top four spot in the Eastern Conference.

Billy: The Knicks will win between 50-55 games this season and finish as a top four seed in the Eastern Conference. The team will fall short of overtaking Boston in the Atlantic Division, but will show signs of being a major contender. The strength of the Knicks will be their excellent defense and their depth, as Coach Woodson will be able to throw out a plethora of lineups that can compete defensively. The Knicks offense will be inconsistent, but Amare Stoudemire will give the Knicks the offensive boost it needs to be a top level team. The Knicks will reach the second round this year, but will fall short of the Eastern Conference finals.

Scott: Despite the fairly negative things I’ve just said about the team, I still am pretty optimistic about how this group can do. Their defense, with individual upgrades at many positions, should be among the best in the league. Their offense, as mentioned, while lacking in some areas, still has potential to be league average, at least. I’ll predict a 50-32 record, second in the division, third in the conference. And that prediction doesn’t actually fully indicate how good I think the Knicks could be. The Eastern Conference is much tougher this year, and the predicted 2-8 seeds could all arguably be placed in any order.

Matt: Right now, without Shump to start the season, and a lot of new pieces…I say 45-50 wins (give or take). They need to stay healthy, but other than that, nothing should stop them from getting close to the 50 win mark. They have to win the games they’re supposed to win (Cleveland, et al.) though…that has been a bug-a-boo for the last few years. This team will do better than the national talking heads think they will!

It appears we are collectively banking on a return to form for Amare Stoudemire, as well as he and Melo co-existing being the key to the team’s success. Only time will tell, but it looks like we’re in for a great season, folks!
Be sure to leave your answers to these questions below!
  • Scott Davis

    Wow, we were pretty much all on the same page! This was fun!

  • Ashwin Ramnath

    I’m extremely interested to see how flexible Woodson is as a coach with high expectations being placed on him and the team. I do not believe that Carmelo and Amar’e can form an effective pair offensively and their production together in lineups with a true center has been disastrous. Even accounting for an improvement stemming from having a training camp and better health (knock on wood) they are such a burden defensively together in extended minutes it won’t matter much.

    That being said with roster of players we have now I think there are a number of lineups either can function in offensively.

    For me Carmelo is the more talented player and I actually think defends the 4 at a higher level than Amar’e not to mention the matchup problems you can create with him offensively.

    Melo loves to iso at the elbow which we all know and where he is great operating from, but it’s imperative that you’re able to space the floor if this is the case.

    Amar’e also similarly is great running pick and roll or pick and pop when the action begins closer to the top of the key, which becomes much easier when Melo is off the floor. He also enjoys isolating from the elbow and needs players to space the floor for him. Maybe he’ll have a little bit of a post game after working with Hakeem, but I find it hard to believe that he will have a full array of moves and be completely comfortable with his back to the basket.

    In this regard it is important that both J.R. and Novak’s minutes are split effectively with units in which only of either Melo or STAT is on the floor. I’d expect Kidd to feature more heavily in lineups that are Melo based, while Felton will definitely be expected to rekindle the flame he had with Amar’e in his first stint.

    This is really a long way to say I expect Amar’e and Melo to struggle again together because even assuming they improve offensively with those two on the floor, Melo is a terrible wing defender and Amar’e constantly frustrates with his inability to make proper rotations and poor defensive instincts. If Woodson isn’t stubborn and is willing to use the versatility his roster offers rather than forcing this ineffective pairing to play heavy minutes together I think this team can definitely get to the Eastern Conference Finals.