Five Things To Watch: New York Knicks

woodsonThe New York Knicks were stuck in neutral while other Eastern Conference teams improved mightily this offseason.

Are they still No. 2 as they were last regular season? Probably not.

After a disappointing loss to Indiana in the Eastern Conference semifinals that denied them a shot at the NBA champion Miami Heat, the Knicks essentially replaced Chris Copeland, Jason Kidd and Steve Novak with Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih and Andrea Bargnani. The team also re-signed J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni and Kenyon Martin.

Meanwhile, Miami remains the class of the East and added Greg Oden; Indiana gets back former All-Star Danny Granger with a bolstered bench featuring Copeland, C.J. Watson and Luis Scola; Brooklyn made a bold move by acquiring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry plus signing Andrei Kirilenko; and Chicago gets back former MVP Derrick Rose.

That leaves the Knicks as the fifth best team in the conference.

This may not sit well with J.R. Smith according to his recent tweet.

Despite a more competitive conference, the Knicks are still contenders. After all, the core remains intact from a team that was the second seed last season.

With that in mind, here are five questions the Knicks must answer to win their first championship since 1973.

1. What is the most effective starting lineup? Coach Mike Woodson has only guaranteed starting spots to center Tyson Chandler, forward Carmelo Anthony and point guard Ray Felton. Since New York is committed to “Meloball,” keeping Anthony at power forward – where he played the best basketball of his career – seems logical. That almost certainly eliminates Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire from starting.

As a result, Iman Shumpert is the best option to start at small forward. Shumpert is regarded as one of the league’s best on-ball defenders and a freakish athlete as evidenced by this dunk. His game also expanded in the playoffs as he became a 3-point threat (.429) and a solid rebounder (six per game). By performing at a high level on a big stage, Shumpert should get the nod over World Peace and enjoy a breakout third season.

Finally, Prigioni can start alongside Felton in a two-guard lineup that was effective down the stretch of the regular season and during the playoffs. Prigioni will replace Kidd as the poised veteran who orchestrates the offense, Prigioni featured imagelocates Anthony in prime scoring positions and spreads the floor with his shooting ability.

2. Can Anthony expand his game? Anthony led the NBA in scoring (28.7 ppg) after setting career highs in 3-point percentage (.379) and free throw percentage (.830) to finish third in MVP voting last season. While Anthony has proven to be one of the NBA’s greatest scorers, his defense and passing leave more to be desired.

If Anthony ran more pick-and-roll sets as a facilitator, he would create easy scoring opportunities for Chandler and Stoudemire while lightening his load. When Anthony gets double-teamed, as he often does in isolation sets, he can find those rolling big men darting toward the basket. On pick-and-pop plays, Anthony can dish to Bargnani floating beyond the arc.

Anthony also showed more effort on the defensive end under Woodson, who is known for holding players accountable. Woodson must convince Anthony to attack the glass with the same abandon as he attacks opposing defenders.

If Anthony becomes half as good a passer and defender as he is a scorer, he still won’t be considered an elite all-around superstar in the same breath as LeBron James, but he’d put New York much closer to a championship.

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  1. says

    Cell: All the Celtic fans can hold our heads high. They played with heart and grit. And Shelden Williams didn’t play. lolTo the ones arfiad to speak: Yall crazy!! Win, lose or draw speak your mind.

  2. renegade jon says

    This is the most interesting Knicks roster we’ve had in a while. We were versatile at the beginning of last year until injuries began to limit our options. Now were even more versatile with the ability to floor an additional physical small-ball lineup with Prig, Shump, MWP, Melo, and Tyson. We also have someone who can stretch the floor from the 5 position in Bargnani, we saw the potential what that can do for us for a stretch when Rasheed was playing. Bargnani is not a good rebounder or defender like Wallace was but I predict that he would be more consistent offensively. Amare’s health will be a big variable, as he was our best post presence when he was healthy. We also did a great job maintaining our playmaking ability by replacing Kidd with Udrih. Kidd’s decline in production really hurt us down the stretch. Injuries happen all the time, but at least we don’t have a roster full of guys that will break down because of age. This season will probably be the most coaching Woodson will have ever done in his career, and so much of our success will depend on how the team and rotation is managed.

  3. PC3 @swhtown20 says

    The Knicks Are Like The Old Lakers A Pure Mess..The Difference is The Knicks Have A SuperStar Cast Of Thugs That Cant Be Controlled.. Its Called Growing Up Guys..Felton Would Rather Fight w/Coach ThenOtherTeams..JR Smith Showed Everyone Why He Is Not Valuable Last Post Season+ Little Bit Insane Ron Artest Anybody.. Theirs A Reason Why Bargnani Was Traded Its Called Ujiuri Aka Dmorey=Genuis…Tyson Is The Only Champion On Team But Nobody Listens2Him..Was This Team Better When Amare Was Running It w/Less Talent..Can Melo Do Anything Else But Score=Kobe Any1..Management Is Awful Thats The Knicks Problem

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