As training camp grows closer, players around the league are starting to talk about the changes their teams made and expectations for the coming season. The Knicks are no exception as Raymond Felton, Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert, and more have come out and shared their thoughts about where the Knicks are headed. The Knicks made a lot of moves this offseason: trading for Andrea Bargnani, resigning J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni, and signing Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih. The question now is how much did these moves help the team?
Let’s take a look at some of the Knicks biggest strengths and weaknesses for the 2014 season:
Lineup Versatility: The Knicks have arguably one of the deepest rosters this season (we’ll get to how this could hurt the team later), which allows Coach Mike Woodson to play many different lineups with different players at different positions. Carmelo Anthony proved last season he is unstoppable at the 4, but he can always play small forward as well. This allows for Andrea Bargnani to share the floor with ‘Melo, creating an excellent perimeter offense that will be extremely difficult to guard.
Coach Woodson could also opt to go with the two point guard backcourt that he used so often last season. Raymond Felton can fit in well with both Prigioni and Udrih, who are known to be pass first options. If Woodson chooses to get rid of his double point guard system, he always has Shump, J.R., and the rookie Hardaway Jr..
Woodson can play small, big, fast, slow, etc with the variety of players on the roster.
Offensive Firepower: Any team with Carmelo Anthony is going to have a strong offense, but add in Andrea Bargnani, J.R. Smith, and Amar’e Stoudemire and you should have an extremely high scoring offense. Last season, ‘Melo led the league in scoring and J.R. Smith won sixth man of the year with his performance off the bench. Andrea Bargnani is a former number one pick in the draft who has always been known for his ability to score inside and out as a primarily perimeter big man. Amar’e Stoudemire, while not the player he once was, is a capable scorer in this league, averaging 14.2 points in only 23.5 minutes a game.
The offense last season was at times isolation heavy, and that should be the biggest concern on the Coach Woodson’s mind because that allows for defenses to focus on ‘Melo and render the rest of the team ineffective. Instead Woodson should continue to keep a lot of the D’antoni offense that remained last season and improve ball movement. This is a necessity with the amount of scorers on this team in order to prevent the old there is only one basketball line being tossed around.
Continuity of the Roster: The Knicks kept their core from last season (Felton, Shumpert, Smith, Anthony, Chandler) which should allow them to build off what they accomplished last year. A big turnover was typical of the Knicks from the 2000’s, but the team kept the squad together while adding new talent under a strict salary cap. The consistency should help both the coaches and the players to put out excellent quality basketball night after night.
Defensive Holes: Last season’s team wasn’t terrible defensively, but there was definitely room for improvement with specific holes in the roster. Outside of Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, and Kenyon Martin, there were no players known for their defense. The addition of Metta World Peace (a former defensive player of the year) should help things, but won’t fix them.
Mike Woodson was known as a defensive oriented coach in Atlanta, and was even brought in as a defensive coordinator under Mike D’antoni, so this is where he should excel. He needs to get everyone on the same page, but more importantly needs to make sure everyone puts consistent effort on both sides of the ball (talking to you STAT and ‘Melo).
Poor Rebounding: Rebounding played a large role in the second round exit from the playoffs, as the Indiana Pacers controlled the boards the entire series. That wasn’t the only time poor rebounding reared its head last season, and sadly it won’t be the last. The team did little to bolster its rebounding this offseason. They added 7 footer Andrea Bargnani, but his largest weakness is arguably his rebounding skills. Besides that they signed C.J. Leslie, a 6-9 rookie, and Jeremy Tyler, who is 6-10.
The Knicks retained Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler, but them alone is not enough to make up for the entire team’s rebounding production. Carmelo, when at the four, must be active on the glass. The same goes for Stoudemire.
How the Pieces Fit: Arguably the biggest question mark/weakness is how the team will mesh together. Andrea Bargnani, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Amar’e Stoudemire are all scorers. Metta World Peace is a loose cannon. No one knows what Pablo Prigioni is saying half the time. This group creates doubts among analysts for some of those reasons, and they are valid.
There are not many great two-way players on this roster outside of Shumpert andChandler. On top of that, ‘Melo and STAT have STILL not proven they can win big together, and they both, along with J.R. and Andrea, need the ball in their hands. Mike Woodson has his work cut out for him in training camp to make everything come together and get player roles worked out. Good luck Woody, you’ll need it!