2013-14 New York Knicks Preview

12:07 PM, Oct 14, 2013   |    comments
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(SportsNetwork.com) - Last season, the New York Knicks won the Atlantic Division title for the first time since 1994.

They enjoyed a borderline MVP performance from Carmelo Anthony, forged a new rivalry with their neighbors in New York, the Brooklyn Nets, but lost in the second round of the playoffs.

In the offseason, the Knicks didn't need to do much to improve. The roster was solid, but that didn't stop New York from bringing in two polarizing forwards.

Andrea Bargnani, the former first overall pick, was acquired from the Toronto Raptors. The price was steep, not so much in Marcus Camby, Steve Novak or Quentin Richardson, but in a first-round pick.

Metta World Peace was amnestied by the Los Angeles Lakers and returned home to the Big Apple.

Once again, the Knicks have assembled a great roster, loaded with veterans. That doesn't mean that the Knickerbockers aren't without problems at the dawn of this season.

Amare Stoudemire very quietly underwent another surgical procedure on his knees. Head coach Mike Woodson will immediately monitor his minutes.

Then, there's the matter of reigning Sixth Man of the Year, J.R. Smith. After an ill-fated suspension in the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics, Smith re-upped with the team in the offseason. It was hailed as the right move. He was the second-best offensive player for the Knicks behind Anthony.

However, Smith underwent knee surgery almost immediately after the ink dried on his contract. He may not be ready for the opener, but that date will be delayed no matter what. Smith was suspended five games by the league for violating the drug policy. (The suspension will begin as soon as he's healthy enough to play.)

Woodson said it was time for Smith "to grow up." Woodson also said that Smith has a chance to start when he's healthy.

Just before camp, owner James Dolan brought Steve Mills back as organization president and general manager, replacing Glen Grunwald. In two seasons, Grunwald made the Knicks Atlantic Division champs and vaulted them into legitimate title contenders.

That just seems to be another strange decision in the Dolan legacy. It shouldn't affect the on-court product too much. After all, Grunwald put a tremendous team together before being replaced by the guy who derailed the franchise.

2012-13 Results: 54-28, 1st in Atlantic. Lost in East semifinals to Indiana.

ADDITIONS: F/C Andrea Bargnani, F Metta World Peace, G Beno Udrih, C Cole Aldrich, C Jeremy Tyler, G Tim Hardaway, Jr.


PG- Raymond Felton SG- Iman Shumpert SF- Carmelo Anthony PF- Andrea Bargnani C- Tyson Chandler

KEY RESERVES: G J.R. Smith, F Amare Stoudemire, F Kenyon Martin, G Pablo Prigioni, F Metta World Peace, G Beno Udrih, C Cole Aldrich

FRONTCOURT: Anthony won the scoring title last season with a 28.7 ppg average. He rebounded well at 6.9 per game and he logged heavy minutes. What worked so well for Anthony last season was that Woodson played him at the power forward spot, creating matchup nightmares for the opposition. It sounds like Woodson is leaning toward moving him back to his natural small-forward position, but either way Anthony is one of the game's best scorers and is actually an underrated all-around star.

Bargnani will be the starter if Woodson goes with Anthony at the three. If Anthony stays at the four, then World Peace will probably get the nod.

But it seems like Woodson has fallen for his new Italian big man.

"He's one of those gifted players I think I can reach," Woodson swooned. "He's good enough to help us."

Bargnani can extend the floor with legitimate three-point range. He's been injury-prone and probably hasn't lived up to being the No. 1 overall pick. Plus, Bargnani makes a shade under $12 million. But, when on the floor, Bargnani is very productive. Over 97 games spanning the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, he averaged 20.8 ppg.

Chandler is a premiere defensive big man in the NBA. He's made the All- Defensive team three straight seasons and averaged a double-double the last two. Chandler hasn't shot below 63 percent from the field in the last three years. He was outplayed pretty badly by Roy Hibbert of the Pacers in the postseason, so expect Chandler to play with a chip on his shoulder this season.

BACKCOURT: Felton had a decent season in 2012-13, when he averaged 13.9 ppg and 5.5 apg. Stats aren't the way to judge Felton - he is a great point guard for the Knicks.

Shumpert is a great defender and should be even better this season after he has more time removed from his ACL surgery. His minutes were down last season as he worked his way back into shape and thus, his scoring sank.

BENCH: This group is a wide-ranging mix.

Smith was dominant at times last season, but he'll have to shrug off the disappointment of the offseason, mostly of his own doing. Woodson indicated Smith would get a chance to start, but it doesn't make much sense. He'll be on the floor to end games and the Knicks played better with him on the second unit.

Stoudemire should probably resign himself to finishing his huge contract as a reserve. When healthy, or whatever passes as healthy for Stoudemire, he can be an effective big man for 18 minutes a night. He doesn't have the explosiveness that earned him a living anymore, but he's still a smart enough player to know how to score.

World Peace brings a championship pedigree and can still defend and make corner threes. He can spell Anthony and play with him in a small lineup.

Prigioni started at the end of last season and that lineup worked well. He doesn't take over games, but he protects the basketball and picks up full- court. At 36, Prigioni is a proto-type second point guard.

If Prigioni starts some, Udrih is capable.

Martin came in last season and made a big impact, especially on the defensive side. He's a great veteran who gives you 15 minutes a night of great defense and intensity.

There's a lot to like about this group and the versatility of the Knicks roster as a whole.

"We've got to assemble all of these pieces together and make sure that it works," said Woodson. "I like the guys we've assembled. We've got some versatility."

COACHING: Woodson finished third in NBA Coach of the Year voting last season. Before the start of this one, the Knicks picked up his contract option for 2014-15.

The fact is this - Woodson is 72-34 in the regular season as skipper of the Knicks. He is the right man for this job, right now. Woodson preaches defense and has the personnel to really cause havoc for the opposition.

He has some juggling to do with a ton of minutes-worthy guys. Plus, Woodson has some potential headaches in Smith and World Peace.

OUTLOOK: The Knicks are going to the postseason. The roster is deep and committed to playing defense and letting Anthony take over games offensively.

Whether they successfully defend their Atlantic Division title remains to be seen. The Nets improved drastically in the offseason, so the Knicks will have stiff competition.

The lowest possible regular-season outcome for the Knicks is fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Anything lower is a massive disappointment.

Anything higher wouldn't be shocking. New York was second last season, but with Derrick Rose back for the Chicago Bulls and the stronger Nets, the fourth or fifth seed sounds right.

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