2012-2013 New York Knicks Season Preview
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Yes, the 2011-12 Knicks season had a little bit of everything. From the depths of the lockout to multiple losing streaks, a head coaching change, and fines for inappropriate twitter pictures, to the dizzying heights of Linsanity – the truncated campaign had it all. In the end, the Knicks qualified for the postseason, but were quickly dispatched by the eventual champion Miami HEAT. What does 2012-2013 have in store for New York?
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2012-13 New York Knicks.
Five Guys Think…
The New York Knicks are clearly in win-now mode and have a roster that should be able to produce respectable results. The top of the East is brutally tough, though. The Knicks have enough talent to finish in the top four, but their season is contingent on their ability to build chemistry and play well together. Their strength is on the frontline where they feature Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. The point guard position is a major question mark for them. Raymond Felton was more than serviceable during his last stint in the big apple. If he can get back to that level the Knicks won’t miss former point guard Jeremy Lin, now with the Houston Rockets, at all. They decision to go with Felton or Lin could either be ingenious or terrible. We should know in short order; either way it will have a big impact on the Knicks.
3rd Place – Atlantic Division
– Yannis Koutroupis
On paper the Knicks should be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference this season, but the question remains as to whether or not they can live up to that paper-popping potential. It will help to have a full training camp with the defensive-minded Mike Woodson running the show, and adding Jason Kidd into the mix won’t hurt, either. Still, players like Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire have never been committed to the defensive end, and without their increased attention to defending the Knicks will struggle against the elite teams. It doesn’t help that they play in the toughest division in basketball.
4th Place – Atlantic Division
– Bill Ingram
The New York Knicks look great on paper, but we’ll see if their talent can translate into wins. There are a lot of question marks surrounding this team. Which Raymond Felton will show up in New York? What kind of contributions can we expect from Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, who are three of the oldest players in the league? Will Amar’e Stoudemire return to form? Will Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith be able to play within the flow of the offense? Will anybody other than Tyson Chandler and Ronnie Brewer play defense? How effective will Iman Shumpert be when he returns from injury? Will the Curse of Jeremy Lin haunt the team? There’s never a dull moment in New York so this season will certainly be entertaining. Best-case scenario: The Knicks mesh and make a deep playoff run. Worst-case scenario: The Knicks implode and become an extremely interesting soap opera.
3rd Place – Atlantic Division
– Alex Kennedy
Three of the six oldest players in the NBA are on the New York Knicks’ roster this season, which should be a bad omen for things to come, except for the fact that two of the three (Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas) improve the team defensively, and the third (Jason Kidd) is a seriously stabilizing presence for a team that was sort of all over the place a year ago. They might be older, and perhaps a little bit slower, but there’s a lot to like about the Knicks this year. Plenty of people are gung ho for the Nets, but I think the Knicks are a more complete team, which is why I picked them to finish higher in the Atlantic this year.
2nd Place – Atlantic Division
– Joel Brigham
The New York Knicks ended the 2012 campaign on a very sour note, but heading into training camp for the 2013 season everyone on the team is saying all of the right things. Amar’e Stoudemire says he’s healthy again and in great shape, Raymond Felton told HOOPSWORLD in Las Vegas he was as hungry as ever to get back on the court, Carmelo Anthony is saying he sees titles in the team’s immediate future and Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby are both saying they’re willing to sacrifice their numbers in order to push the team over the hump. The Knicks look really good on paper, but the game isn’t played on a stack of loose-leaf paper. I’m not personally sold on the Knicks putting it all together this season. If they do, they can definitely make some noise but I’m not ready to co-sign this as a formality just yet.
5th Place – Atlantic Division
– Lang Greene
Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: Carmelo Anthony is inarguably one of the most lethal offensive forces in the entire league, or planet earth for that matter – as he proved by lighting up Olympic competition in London. Melo’s versatile skill set is a nightmare to match up against. He can post up and abuse smaller defenders on the block and, just as easily, blow by bigger/slower forwards by putting the ball on the floor. Add it all up, and you have a guy that pours in 25+ points nearly every time laces up his Nikes. However, Melo isn’t a one-trick pony. He can see the floor and distribute better than most give him credit for. Carmelo was one of only four players to average over 22 points and 3.5 assists per game last season (the other three were Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, and LeBron James). As the centerpiece of the Knicks offense, New York needs arguably the best season of Anthony’s career in order for New York to take that next step towards the league’s elite. Can Carmelo deliver?
Top Defensive Player: It had been a very long time since the Knicks were respected, let alone feared, for their defensive prowess. In fact, for the better part of a decade, New York was a league-wide laughingstock and Madison Square Garden was a place where opposing players all too often penetrated into the paint with extreme ease. All that changed once Tyson Chandler landed in the Big Apple last December. The numbers that highlight this fact are simply remarkable. Last season, New York held its opponents to 94.7 points per game compared to the 105.7 ppg it allowed in 2010-11. In addition, opponents’ field-goal percentage, which was at 47.2 percent the prior season, plummeted all the way down to 44.2 in 2012. In the 62 games Tyson started last season, opposing teams averaged just 93.8 ppg (on 43.8 percent shooting); in the four games he missed due to injury, New York allowed a whopping 108.3 points per contest (shooting 50.0 percent from the floor). The runaway winner for the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year award, Chandler amazingly transformed the Knicks into a top-five overall defense.
Top Playmaker: The two previous choices (top defensive and offensive player) were no-brainers. This pick is certainly not as clear cut. New York decided let Jeremy Lin walk and received nothing in return, while turning their attention towards adding Raymond Felton. Now the Knicks need Raymond to be a reasonable facsimile of the player that starred under Mike D’Antoni during a short stint in New York back in 2010; as opposed to unimpressive, out-of-shape Felton that showed up in Portland last season. Having a competent point guard to facilitate the offense will be crucial to the Knicks success this season. With the elder statesmen Jason Kidd as a backup-up plan, New York is hoping the combination of these two veterans can get the job done.
Top Clutch Player: Melo has been one of the league’s truly elite clutch shooters in end-game situations since entering the league. The numbers speak for themselves: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since 2003-04, Anthony has shot 24-52 (.462) from the field in the final 15 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime in a game-tying or go-ahead situation. Anthony ranks first in FG percentage (.462) among players with at least 20 FGA in the final 15 seconds of fourth quarter/overtime. Anthony’s 24 field goals rank second behind Kobe Bryant’s 26 FG over the past ten seasons in the final 15 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime.
The Unheralded Player: Of the many moves the Knicks made this summer, re-signing J.R. Smith at the bargain basement price of $2.8 million for the 2012-13 season might very well prove to the best “bang-for-the-buck” contract on the books. There are undeniable flaws in Smith’s game, principally shot selection on the court and immaturity off the floor. However, at under $3 million, the upside far outweighs the potential drawbacks. Smith likely could have garnered more money had he hit the open market, but showed loyalty to his hometown team. Smith is the first to admit he struggled a bit during his short stint as a Knick last year, shooting just 40.7 percent from the floor and 34.7 percent from three-point territory. Over his five previous NBA seasons, Smith had shot over 38 percent from distance and nearly 44 percent from the field. Safe to assume J.R.’s percentages should creep back to a higher ground next season. And, most encouraging, he found other ways to contribute to victories even when his shot wasn’t falling. Smith was asked to play PG far more often than he would have preferred, by he did a fine job facilitating the offense – kicking out to Steve Novak three-pointers on a nightly basis. J.R.’s defense was also better than expected. New York was 12-4 in games in which Smith played at least 30 minutes. In addition, the Knicks shooting guard situation remains up in the air, as Iman Shumpert rehabs from a torn ACL (return date tentatively sounding like February) and Ronnie Brewer recovering from minor knee surgery as well. While J.R. is probably best suited to come off the bench, Smith may be primed to prove he is a solid NBA starter. His career Per-36 minutes averages are surely encouraging: 18.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists.
The Best New Addition: As noted above, NY’s interior defense was badly exposed whenever Chandler went to the bench for a quick rest, or was prematurely sidelined due to foul trouble. In addition, rebounding was an issue for New York last season as well. The Knicks averaged just 41.7 rebounds per game, which landed them in the bottom third of the league. Enter Marcus Camby. Despite his advanced age (38), Camby remains one of the NBA’s elite rebounders and is still a solid shot blocker and paint protector. Camby has led the NBA in Rebound Rate each of the past three seasons. Despite seeing reduced playing time in the latter stages of his career, Marcus has been remarkably efficient. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, Camby has averaged 14.1 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.1 steals Per-36 minutes. With both Camby and Chandler on the squad, the Knicks are the only team in the league with multiple Defensive Player of the Year award winners on the same roster. In addition, Camby will allow Mike Woodson to limit the minutes of Chandler and Stoudemire, which could have far reaching long-term benefits.
- Tommy Beer
Who We Like
1. Tyson Chandler: Chandler’s dominance on defense was highlighted in detail above, Tyson’s contributions are not solely limited to the defensive end of the floor. Converting nearly 68 percent of his field goal attempts, he led the entire league in field goal percentage. In fact, Tyson finished third on the all-time FG percent list for a season, behind only the incomparable Wilt Chamberlain. Tyson is also a pest on the offensive boards, constantly keeping possessions alive by slapping caroms back to teammates waiting on the perimeter. He was unquestionably the Knicks’ MVP, and would have been a legit candidate for league MVP had the Knicks posted a better record.
2. Iman Shumpert: New York will have to wait a few months before Shumpert is fully healed and ready to roll, but once he returns, the Knicks will get an immediate and welcomed infusion of energy, athleticism, and defensive tenacity. Shump instantly became a fan favorite inside MSG last season via his impressive play and infectious personality. The Knicks found themselves a keeper in this kid. He ranked in the Top-6 among rookies in free throw percentage (79.8 percent, sixth), minutes (28.9, fifth), assists (2.8, eighth), and points (9.5, ninth). Assuming there are no set backs in rehab (the early returns have been promising), Iman could be a key piece over the second half of the season.
3. Carmelo Anthony: The 2011-12 campaign was a whirlwind for Melo. For the final three months of the season, he was barbecued by some in the press and branded, at various times, as selfish, lazy, out-of-shape and a coach-killer. During the height of Linsanity, some went so far as to imply that the Knicks would actually be better off without Melo on the team. Anthony brought some of this on himself due to an inability to politic with the press, but much of the vitriol from the tabloids was misplaced disgust at the organization itself, not an individual player. While there certainly are flaws in his game and public relations abilities, pinning the Knicks struggles on Melo’s shoulders (as many have done) is simply unfair and unwarranted. For instance, during the nine playoff games Melo has played in a Knick uniform, you could make a legitimate argument that Anthony Carter was the most efficient/consistent point guard he has played with. Nonetheless, it is time for Anthony to "put up or shut up". At 28 years of age, and nine seasons of experience under his belt, New York needs the face of its franchise to deliver the best ball of his career.
4. Jason Kidd: Kidd played his first playoff game following the 1996-1997 season. And he has participated in the NBA’s postseason tournament each and every single season since. Yes, for 16 straight years, the team J Kidd played for, qualified for the playoffs. Coincidence? Probably not. Coach Mike Woodson is legendary for his love of veterans, and in Kidd he now has one of the smartest and savviest playmakers on the planet on his team. Statically, Kidd’s resume speaks for itself. He ranks second in NBA history in total assists (11,842) and total steals (2,559), third in three pointers (1,874) and eighth in assists per game (9.0). He is a five-time All-NBA First-Team selection and was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team four times. Not bad for a backup point guard. And, in the Knicks offense Kidd will likely frequently find himself open from beyond the arc. Dismissed as a below-average jump-shooter early in his career, Kidd honed his craft and developed into a reliable three-point catch-and-make shooter. Since 2007, Kidd has knocked down 38.4 percent of three-point attempts (In contrast, his teammate Dirk Nowitzki has shot just 37.6 from distance over that same stretch). As a matter of fact, Kidd has nailed more three-pointers in his career than Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Kevin Durant combined.
5. Ronnie Brewer: Glen Grunwald landed himself a bargain by inking Brewer to a contract at the veteran’s minimum (less than $1.1 million) – Brewer has made over $9.4 million during his previous two seasons in Chicago. Strong wing defenders are essential in today’s NBA, and Ronnie has proven himself to be just that. Moreover, while Brewer’s offensive game is far from pretty, to paint him as a complete liability on offense is unfair. Although he did struggle with his shot last season, Ronnie’s career FG percentage sits at 50.1 percent. To put that in perspective, Tyson Chandler was the only Knick to shoot over 50 percent from the floor last season. Lastly, Brewer maximizes possessions; he was one of just five players in the NBA last season to average over one steal but less than one turnover per contest.
6. Steve Novak: Of course Linsanity dominated the headlines last season, but Jeremy Lin wasn’t the only waiver-wire sensation Glen Grunwald plucked off the trash heap last winter. Steve Novak absolutely thrived in a Knickerbocker uniform, emerging as the best long-range shooter in the entire league in the second half of the season. Over the final 35 games last season, Steve Novak shot 48.5 percent from three. As a point of comparison, over that same stretch, NY’s starting shooting guard Landry Fields shot 48.1 percent from the free-throw line. Whenever he was on the floor, almost always camped out behind the three-point arc, Novak put immense fear into opposing defenses. He is essentially a one-trick pony, but that one trick was undeniably effective. The Knicks inked Novak to a four-year, $15 million contract, which is probably overpaying him a bit, but New York was already way over the salary cap. And because of the court ruling which allowed the Knicks to maintain his “Bird Rights,” the signing of Novak did NOT impact Grunwald’s ability to use the mini-MLE. The only real impact was to Jimmy Dolan’s wallet, both via the salary itself and the corresponding luxury tax hit. However, it should be noted that Novak was locked up by the Miami HEAT’s stifling defense in their first round matchup with New York in April. Novak was held scoreless in two of the Knicks four losses and connected on just four three-pointers in the entire series.
– Tommy Beer
Coming into the 2011-2012 campaign, the Knicks had held their opponents under 90 points just five times in their previous 95 games. However, last season alone, New York’s defense held their opponent under 90 points in 22 of their 66 games. All told, the Knicks finished the season ranked fifth in the NBA in overall defensive efficiency. This newfound ability to suffocate opponents on the perimeter and limit easy scoring opportunities will keep the Knicks in most ballgames, giving themselves a good chance to win each night. (The Knicks were 21-1 games in which them held the opponent below 90 points last season).
– Tommy Beer
Two important offensive categories in which the Knicks struggled last year were turnovers and three-point shooting. Despite Steve Novak’s deadeye accuracy, the Knicks finished last season 21st overall in three-point percentage. Outside of Novak, the Knicks don’t have a true spot-up shooter that can camp out behind the three-point stripe and stretch a defense. If Novak regresses, this could be a major issue for the Knicks, as teams will be able to run double-teams at Carmelo and clog the paint, preventing penetration. Hopefully for New York, J.R. Smith bounces back and sees an increase in his long range efficiency.
One other bugaboo which bedeviled New York last season was turnovers. The Knicks turnover rate ranked amongst the worst in the entire league (27th overall). With Felton and Kidd, replacing Lin and Baron Davis, Woodson is hoping this is much less of a concern going forward.
– Tommy Beer
What Needs To Be Said On Opening Day….
Let everyone talk about Jeremy Lin. Those people don’t know how much better our team is going into this year. We have improved our depth, and if some of our more grizzled veterans can stay healthy, I think we have every reason to be optimistic going into the season. However, there are some things we need to all understand. There is still some confusion over roles with this group, and how to fit some of our pieces together. The good thing is we have a backup point guard and leader now in Jason Kidd who has played on some very different teams and can lend his wisdom to our situation. Raymond and Jason both like to push the ball, and if you guys want the rock, you better start running with them. That brings me to you two, Carmelo and Amar’e. The truth is that we will only go as far as the relationship between you two allows us to go. There is no doubt in my mind you can not only co-exist, but you can thrive. But, you have to want to. If you do, the sky is the limit.
– Anthony Macri and Brett Koremenos
The Burning Question
Can Stoudemire bounce back and co-exist with Carmelo successfully?
Just three players (Anthony, Chandler, and Stoudemire) account for a combined $53 million in 2012-13 salary – and a combined $57.2 million the following season. It’s not that you can’t have two or three superstars clogging your cap; you just have to make sure those superstars are terrific two-way players, who can stay healthy and somehow ensure that the team can find a way flesh out the rest of roster with solid role players. There are currently only three organizations that have multiple players amongst the top-20 highest paid players in the NBA: The Knicks, the Lakers, and the HEAT. One of these teams is not like the others…
While there certainly is potential for this New York triumvirate to develop into the core of an elite and cohesive unit, the early returns have not been all that promising. The offense often sputters when Melo and Amar’e are on the court at the same time, and Stoudemire’s defense was subpar even before he back stated acting up. Moreover, the litany of Stoudemire injuries seems to grow by the month. The knees were the primary initial concern (and a major reason why Phoenix decided to let him walk); but, the recurrent back problems are now obviously a significant cause for concern going forward. Nonetheless, Amar’e has been working out on a daily basis this summer and claims to be in great shape. The Knicks have to hope he body can withstand the rigors of an 82-game schedule.
- Tommy Beer