Six Pack: 6 Predictions for the 2012-13 Knicks
With so many team previews already populating the web, below is a slightly different look at the upcoming New York Knickerbockers season. With the Knicks much anticipated 2012-13 campaign about to begin, here are six somewhat bold, long-shot predictions.
1. Pablo Prigioni will finish the season second on the team in assists (ahead of Jason Kidd).
Not much was expected of the 35-year-old Argentinean when the Knicks initially signed him, but Pablo Prigioni looked surprisingly impressive during preseason action. He finished the exhibition season averaging 6.2 assists per game, which tied for sixth in the league, despite playing fewer than 24 minutes per contest. Prigioni exhibited the passing skills that won him international acclaim throughout his career overseas. He’s not a great shooter (just 35 percent from the floor in the preseason), but he rarely looks for his own shot and takes jumpers only out of necessity. His primary focus is setting up scoring opportunities for his teammates. As the quarterback of a second unit featuring J.R Smith and Steve Novak on the wings, he should have plenty of opportunities to spread the wealth and rack up assists.
As an aside, this is not necessarily a knock on Jason Kidd, who admittedly looked a step slow last month. However, due to the Knicks’ lack of depth at the shooting guard position, Kidd may end up seeing minutes at the two, playing off starting point guard Raymond Felton, or alongside Prigioni at times as well. This may limit Kidd’s opportunities to dish out dimes.
2. Steve Novak will lead the NBA in three-point attempts and makes.
Not going out on a limb here, as Steve Novak was among the league leaders in both categories during the 2011-12 season. Novak was second in three-point field goals made over the second half of last year (behind Randy Foye), and Novak led the NBA in three-point field goal percentage with 47.2 percent (133-282). He became just the second Knick to lead to the league in three-point percentage, joining Campy Russell in 1981-82.
After signing a four-year, $16-millon dollar extension this summer, it’s clear that Knicks head coach Mike Woodson is determined to make the most of Novak’s long-range marksmanship. Only Carmelo Anthony played more preseason minutes than Novak, and Novak averaged 6.5 three-point attempts per game. With Amar’e Stoudemire injured (we’ll get to that shortly), Novak will see an uptick in minutes playing next to Anthony on the frontline, and subbing in for Carmelo when he sits down.
3. The Knicks will not make any significant in-season trades.
New York’s roster in late April will likely look very similar to the one we see on opening night, for a variety of reasons. First, the Knicks have very few young, attractive assets that other general managers would be willing to trade for. As we all well know, the Knicks have the oldest team in the NBA. Knicks GM Glen Grunwald has constructed this team to compete in a three-year window. Marcus Camby was signed to a three-year deal, as was Jason Kidd. This wasn’t a coincidence: Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire all have three seasons left on their current contracts. In fact, Steve Novak is the only player currently on the roster who has a contract with guaranteed money past 2014-15.
Considering the age of the vets that populate the roster, and onerous contract of Stoudemire that obviously no other team would touch, the likelihood of deal going down is unlikely at best.
Furthermore, the Knicks already used their annual $3 million allotment of cash over the summer, which means they can not include any money in a trade until July of 2013. In addition, the Knicks can’t trade a first-round draft pick until 2016 and they have already traded away each and every second-round pick over the next four years.
Here are the gory details of the Knicks’ trade debt going forward:
* Washington Wizards will receive New York’s 2013 second-round pick via the Ronny Turiaf trade on 12/10/11.
* Orlando Magic will receive less favorable of Denver Nuggets/New York Knicks’ 2014 first-round pick via Dwight Howard trade on 8/10/12
* Houston Rockets will receive New York’s 2014 second-round pick via Marcus Camby trade on 7/11/12.
* Houston Rockets receive New York’s 2015 second-round pick via Marcus Camby trade on 7/11/12.
* Denver Nuggets will receives rights to swap 2016 first-round picks with New York via the Carmelo Anthony trade on 2/22/11.
* Portland Trail Blazers will receive New York’s 2016 second-round pick via Raymond Felton trade on 7/15/12.
4. Amar’e Stoudemire will start fewer than 20 games this season.
Heading into training camp last month, the grand plan was that Mike Woodson and his coaching staff would use October’s practice sessions to finally figure out a way to maximize the offensive potential of both Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Since Anthony arrived in NYC, on-court chemistry between the stars has been elusive. Anthony has often experienced his best success with Stoudemire sidelined, and vice versa. Woodson’s goal was to create an offensive system that effectively incorporated the skill sets of his two highest-paid players.
With Stoudemire finally recovered from a back injury that severely limited him last season, this was supposed to be the year the Knicks hit their stride. On media day, some of Anthony’s first comments to reporters reflected a new-found approach.
“I’m done trying to score 30 or 35 or 40 points for us to win a basketball game… I don’t want that role anymore,” Anthony said. “I can do it. It is what it is, that’s what I do best. But in order for this team to be successful with the guys that we have on this team right now, we need a more well-rounded team. So if I have to sacrifice doing some things out there on the offensive end I’m willing to do it.”
However, there were early roadblocks to a successful transition. Back on October 21, Stoudemire was originally diagnosed with a ruptured cyst behind his left knee that was only supposed to sideline him for two to three weeks. Yet, when it was announced that he would be flying to Phoenix for a second opinion, Knicks fans began to fear something worse was on the horizon. Then, on Tuesday, the team announced that Stoudemire would undergo a procedure to remove tissue in the knee, which could keep him sidelined for the better part of two months. As it stands, it would be surprising if Stoudemire played more than 50 games this season.
So, where does this leave the Knicks as they are about to embark on a challenging and important 2012-13 campaign? While it’s never a good thing to lose a player that was an All-NBA performer in his prime, the startling fact is that Stoudemire’s absence may not impact the Knicks nearly as negatively as some might think. There are some facts that bolster this opinion. For instance, the Knicks defense allowed 104.7 points per 100 possessions with Stoudemire on the floor last season, but allowed opponents to score just 99.7 points per 100 possessions when Stoudemire was out of the lineup. In addition, he had the single worst net plus-minus (-44) of any Knick last season. Yes, Stoudemire’s +/- was worse than that of Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas. Lastly, the Knicks actually had a higher winning percentage with their star power forward sidelined.
And for those New Yorkers looking for a silver lining associated with this bad news – when Stoudemire does come back, it may be an opportunity for Woodson to use him as a sixth man, which is something many pundits have been calling for since last season. Using Stoudemire off the bench would limit the amount of time he and Anthony would be forced to share the floor (and scoring opportunities). As the principal scoring threat on the second-unit, the offense could more frequently be funneled toward Stoudemire, and he would be able to work in spaces he is most comfortable more often. It would be a major adjustment for Stoudemire, who has been a starter since he first learned to dribble, but it may be what’s best for both the team and the player.
5. Chris Copeland will average over seven points per game in November and December.
Here’s a trivia question that will stump your buddies at the bar this weekend: Name the player who posted the highest single game scoring total during the 2012 preseason. Third-highest was Paul Pierce with 29 points. Second on the list was Kobe Bryant with 31 points. Number one? Yup, you guessed it: Chris Copeland, who poured in 34 points against the Celtics.
Copeland played his college ball at Colorado and has spent the past five seasons playing overseas in Europe before signing with the Knicks this summer. Copeland can play either forward position and is a natural scorer. He has a solid outside stroke, and at a lanky 6’8, he can get his shot off against most defenders. He also proved to be remarkably effective on the pick-and-roll, particularly when teamed with Pablo Prigioni. That Prigioni/Copeland pick-and-roll was undoubtedly the Knicks’ most consistent and efficient play throughout the entirety of the preseason. Copeland’s defense was somewhat disappointing and his rebounding was essentially non-existent, so he’ll have to improve in those areas to fully gain Mike Woodson’s trust.
Nonetheless, while Kurt Thomas will likely start at power forward if Woodson chooses not to start Carmelo Anthony at the four (which will be discussed below), with Amar’e Stoudemire out and Marcus Camby questionable due to a calf injury, there are certainly minutes to be had. If Copeland can continue making shots, Woodson should ride the hot hand and see if that preseason success can carry over into November and beyond.
6. Carmelo Anthony will enjoy his finest season as a New York Knick – playing primarily as a power forward.
“Should Carmelo Anthony play power forward?” The question is one that has received plenty of attention in and around Knicks-land dating back to last season. Driven by the tremendous success the Knicks collectively, and Anthony individually, experienced while he manned the four, many believed that he would certainly see ample time at power forward in 2012-13. However, both Woodson and Anthony have been hesitant to embrace the concept.
Zach Lowe of Grantland.com authored a terrific, comprehensive look at the situation:
“Carmelo Anthony should play power forward, and Stoudemire’s injury gives New York cover to make that very tricky political move. The Knicks were wildly successful when Anthony slid to big forward late in the season, when Stoudemire had to sit for a few weeks with a herniated disc in his back. Anthony tortured slower big men by taking the ball to the perimeter, especially on the wing, and blowing by them… data showed that Melo was the league’s most effective driver…it might suggest that slotting Anthony at the four would encourage him to drive and discourage him from settling for 20-footers over wing defenders quick enough to stay in front of him.
There is also the notion that playing down low against bigger guys could minimize the impact of Melo’s subpar defense. Melo is a smart player who tries hard in high-profile one-on-one matchups, but his bad habits and so-so effort consistently hurt his team. At small forward, Melo has to chase players around screens, and he’s prone to calling for switches as players crisscross around the court. In the right doses, such switching is fine, and both Mike D’Antoni and Mike Woodson installed it as part of New York’s scheme last season. But Melo often goes too far, calling for switches that produce untenable mismatches and sometimes catch teammates by surprise. All of that has a trickle-down effect that can produce an open look two or three passes down the line; other defenders have to sag into the post to help a smaller guard deal with a bulky small forward (once Anthony’s man), and the switching can leave players confused about who should be rotating to whom on the weak side. Confusion about split-second decisions is bad…”
There are many reasons given as to why Anthony might prefer to stay in his comfort zone at small forward, but all signs point to greater success at the four. If Anthony is truly committed to sacrificing for the greater good, this could be a prime opportunity.