2013-2014 New York Knicks Season Preview
The New York Knicks are coming off their best season this century, winning 54 regular season games and finishing with the second best record in the Eastern Conference. The postseason ended in disappointment, however, as they were handily swept aside by the Indiana Pacers in six games. The question now is whether the Knicks can improve upon last season’s success. Will they plateau in 2013-14 or will they slide back to the pack? The team returns largely intact. They lost Jason Kidd to retirement and Chris Copeland via free agency, but they will bring back free agents J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni. New York drafted Tim Hardaway Jr. and traded for Andrea Bargnani. Then, late in the summer, they were able to sign Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih. However, with the rest of the division and conference improving around them, the Knicks will be hard-pressed to match the 54 wins they notched last season, even if things break right. Nonetheless, they should still find themselves in the thick of the East’s playoff picture.
In & Out
Additions: Andrea Bargnani, World Peace Artest, Beno Udrih, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jeremy Tyler, C.J. Leslie
Subtractions: Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace, James White
Five Guys Think…
There’s no question that the NBA is an infinitely more entertaining product when the New York Knicks are one of the best teams in the league, and there’s a better-than-average chance that they’ll be one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams again in 2013-2014. Adding Metta World Peace to the roster was just about the most New York thing the team could have possibly done, and his veteran toughness and championship pedigree added to a healthy roster that now also includes Andrea Bargnani should make for another interesting year at Madison Square Garden. They probably won’t finish with the second-best record in the Conference this year, but they’re top five in the East again, for sure, and definitely in the mix for another year with homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
2nd place – Atlantic Division
– Joel Brigham
The Knicks should finish as one of the top-five teams in the Eastern Conference, along with the Miami HEAT, Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls. They have a talented core and they should only get better this season after adding Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Beno Udrih this summer. The only problem for New York is that every other contender in the East has significantly improved as well. The Knicks should win a lot of games and make some noise in the postseason, but it’s hard to imagine them coming out of the East or hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
2nd place – Atlantic Division
- Alex Kennedy
The Knicks won 54 games in 2013, their best regular season since 1995, but the club was unceremoniously bounced in the second round of the playoffs by the upstart Indiana Pacers. The offseason was a relatively quiet one for New York due to their salary cap position. But the franchise was able to re-sign high scoring guard J.R. Smith, acquire former No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani in a trade with Toronto and lure the underappreciated Beno Udrih into town on a veteran minimum deal. The potential for New York, however, falls on the shoulders of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony. The veteran led the league in scoring in 2013 but struggled mightily with his shot during the playoffs and the team went downhill as a result. A strong bounce back campaign from former All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire would give the team a needed boost, but at this point the veteran may only be a specialty player. Still, the Knicks have enough talent, and chemistry, in place to secure the Atlantic Division crown in 2014.
1st place – Atlantic Division
- Lang Greene
This is going to be a very interesting season for the Knicks, one that will play a big role in dictating how their future plays out. The team has a lot of talent, especially on the offensive end. Individually they’re not a team full of great defenders, but they have a defensive oriented head coach in Mike Woodson and one of the best defensive centers in the game in Tyson Chandler, both of which help shore up a lot of weaknesses on that end of the floor. Andrea Bargnani, the big acquisition for the Knicks this offseason, has been highly criticized throughout his career as he’s failed to live up to the high expectations that come with being a former No. 1 pick. However, he could be a particularly good fit with the Knicks, where for the first time in his career he can be a secondary option rather than a primary. The health of Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith are critical for the Knicks if they’re going to be more than a second round playoff team next season. They’re a safe bet to finish second in the Atlantic, but the potential of this team is much greater if they can stay healthy and adequately defend.
2nd place – Atlantic Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
Last season’s 54-win Atlantic Division champions have added Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih and first round draft pick Tim Hardaway, Jr. Gone are Chris Copeland, Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd. That is a net-plus considering it was mostly the play of J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and the backcourt combination of Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton that helped Carmelo Anthony lead the team to a 14-1 record down the stretch of last season and run away with the division. The Knicks are a more talented bunch than last year and have a nucleus in Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Smith, Felton and Anthony that is finally enjoying some continuity. Those factors, as well as the fact that the aging Brooklyn Nets will not necessarily be playing its staters 38 minutes per game in March and April bode positively for the Knicks odds of repeating as division champions. The biggest wildcard is coach Mike Woodson’s ability to adjust his sometimes rigid and unimaginative game plan. Still, picking the Knicks to repeat as division champions is a safer bet than most believe.
1st place — Atlantic Division
- Moke Hamilton
Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is the NBA’s reigning scoring champion, and one of the most lethal offensive forces in the entire league, or planet earth for that matter. His 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. However, he isn’t a one-trick pony. He can see the floor and distribute better than most give him credit. In addition, he rarely wastes possessions by carelessly turning the ball over. Last season, Anthony became the first player in a decade – and just the eight player in NBA history – to average at least 28.5 points per game, yet fewer than 2.7 turnovers.
Top Defensive Player: Tyson Chandler. Despite a disappointing 2012-13 regular season, and an even worse postseason, Chandler is undoubtedly the Knicks premier defender. Back in 2011-12, he became the first Knick in franchise history to win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award. A tenacious and aggressive defender, Chandler nearly single-handedly changed the culture of the Knicks upon his arrival in NYC, demanding far more effort and intensity on the defensive end from his teammates. And despite nagging injuries that left him limited over the second half of last season, he still led New York in boards and blocks.
Top Playmaker: Raymond Felton. Playmaking has been an issue for the Knicks in recent years, as consistent PG play has been lacking in NYC for the better part of a decade. However, Felton, along with Pablo Prigioni, did a solid job of facilitating the NY offense last season. Felton led the team in assists 38 times during the 2012-13 campaign. He was also a bit better than advertised on the defensive end, and played some of his best all-around ball of the season in the Knicks first round victory of the Boston Celtics, where Felton was the primary defender on Paul Pierce.
Top Clutch Player: Carmelo Anthony. He’s been one of the league’s truly elite clutch shooters in end-game situations since the day he was drafted. The numbers speak for themselves: Entering last season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Anthony had 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 since 2003-04. 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: Iman Shumpert. Coming into the NBA out of Georgia Tech, defense and athleticism were Shumpert’s calling cards. His playmaking and shooting ability were major questions marks. More than a year removed from major knee surgery, his athleticism and, in turn, his hounding perimeter defense was on full display late in the regular season and into the playoffs. Moreover, he shot the ball better than ever. Shumpert has explained that during the majority of his rehab, he was limited to shooting drills, as he couldn’t run or jump for months. The extra work spent perfecting his form clearly paid dividends during the 2013 playoffs. Among players who appeared in at least 10 postseason contests, Shumpert was the only player to shot above 42 percent from three-point territory and over 85 percent from the free-throw stripe.
Best New Addition: Metta World Peace. While signing the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest was a risk, due primary to age-related flaws on the floor and a litany of off-the-court issues, taking a chance on World Peace at just a portion of the mini-mid-level exception was a smart decision by GM Glen Grunwald. As a result of their cap situation, NY is forced to roll the dice on flawed, risky players with talent. And adding a defensive-minded small forward – who is also capable of knocking down corner 3’s – definitely upgrades the Knicks talent level. In addition, World Peace at the small forward means more Melo at the “4,” which is how the Knicks prefer to play.
Who We Like
1. Iman Shumpert – When the Knicks matched up with the Pacers in the second round of the playoffs last May, there was just one player in the Indiana roster over the age of 27 (David West). However, the Knicks featured just one player younger than 27; their promising shooting guard, Iman Shumpert. Considering the limited roster flexibility due to the fact that they are flush against the salary cap, and the fact they have traded away an inordinate number of future draft picks, Shumpert’s importance to the Knicks both in the short and long term can not be overstated. Luckily for New York, Shumpert looked fully healed from ACL surgery during the postseason, and is considered one of more well-rounded young two-way players in thee NBA. The sky is the limit for the kid.
2. Carmelo Anthony – Just how good has Anthony been since arriving in NYC? He is the only player in franchise history (with at least 150 games played) to average at least 26 points, six rebounds and three assists per game in a Knick uniform. And, in many respects, the Knicks can only go as far as Anthony takes them. With as much as the Knicks rely on him for offensive production, New York will have a very difficult time advancing deep into the postseason if Anthony doesn’t deliver in the postseason.
3. Pablo Prigioni – Last summer, when he inked a deal with the Knicks, most stateside pundits assumed Prigioni would only play sparingly, if at all. There were simply too many obstacles for an ancient rookie to overcome, right? Fast forward to late March. After the Knicks had lost their first four games on a brutal West Coast road trip, Coach Woodson decided to “go small” and start Prigioni alongside Felton in the backcourt. The Knicks beat the Utah Jazz that night, and went on to amazingly win each of their next 12 games. In the process, Prigioni would become the first rookie in over 20 years (since Boston’s Danny Ainge) to win each of his first 13 career NBA starts. His consistent and reliable production has carried over into the postseason as well, including an incredible display of confidence in the clutch by knocking down a career-high four three-pointers in the Knicks’ Game 6 victory in Boston. Overall, Prigioni’s plus/minus numbers last postseason are staggering. With Prigioni on the floor, the Knicks scored 109.4 points per 100 possessions, and allowed just 85.4 points per 100 possessions. That net rating of +24 was the highest on the team.
4. Tyson Chandler – After exceeding even the highest of expectations in 2011-12 (when he was the first Knick ever to take home the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award), Chandler took a step back last season. Some pundits have assumed his diminished production was the result of a nagging neck injury and other assorted ailments. The low-point of the Knicks season, and the nadir Chandler’s tenure with New York, was the second round matchup with Roy Hibbert and the Pacers. Hibbert absolutely dominated Chandler and helped carry Indiana past New York. In order for New York to be considered a serious contender in 2013-14, it imperative they have a healthy and productive Tyson Chandler.
5. Glen Grunwald – Heading into the offseason, it seemed highly unlikely that GM Glen Grunwald would find a way to improve the roster. Because they were over the cap, they only had the mini-midlevel exception to entice free agents. And they had multiple free-agents of their own (J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Pablo Prigioni) to bring back before even pursuing other players. However, Grunwald walked away from the summer with Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih, and Andrea Bargnani; in addition to (Smith, Martin, and Prigioni). Amazingly, Udrih, World Peace, Prigioni, and Martin will be paid less than $5 million combined next season. That said, the Bargnani trade, which cost the Knicks a future first-round pick, will have to work out in order this to be considered a completely successful offseason.
Head Coach Mike Woodson came to New York with a reputation as a “defense first” disciplinarian, but the Knicks were extremely explosive on the offensive end last year. New York finished the 2012-13 season ranked third in the NBA in offensive efficiency – behind only the Miami HEAT and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Knicks also led the entire league in three-point makes (their 891 3PM set a new NBA all-time, single-season record). In addition, New York took extremely good care of the basketball, committing just 11.6 turnovers per game – by far and away the lowest total number of turnovers in the NBA (28 of the 30 teams in the league committed over 13 TO’s per contest).
While the offense exceeded expectations last season, the Knicks defense was a major disappoint. New York finished the 2012-13 regular season ranked just 17th in defensive efficiency. This was due in large part to their inability to rebound and/or block shots. New York finished 25th in the NBA in total rebounds and dead last in blocks. In order for this team to take strides forward next season, they will need to a better job limiting penetration from opposing guards and defending the paint.
The Burning Question:
What will New York get from back-up bigs Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani?
The X-factor in NYC may be Stoudemire. Will they get anything out of their oft-injured $20 million power forward? The offense often sputters when Anthony and Stoudemire are on the court at the same time, and Stoudemire’s defense was subpar even before injuries limited him athleticism. In Bargnani, the Knicks decided to roll the dice on a tall and talented but disappointing former No. 1 overall pick, who had worn out his welcome in Toronto. He was remarkably ineffective and startlingly inefficient last season, but just two years ago, during the 2010-11 campaign, he led Toronto in scoring, pouring in 21.4 points per game. That season, he was one of just seven players in the entire league to average at least 21 points, five rebounds and one three-pointer per game. The other six players to match those totals that season: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.