New York Knicks: Who is This Year’s Breakout Performer?


The New York Knicks underwent a lot of significant changes this offseason. The franchise made a change in both the front office, Phil Jackson, and the coaching staff, Derek Fisher. Along with the new personnel comes a new way of thinking and certainly a new system. With all these changes in mind, who will benefit the most from them? To add to that, who will be this year’s breakout performer?

J.R. Smith

I feel like this one is a no brainer. He got off to such a poor start last season that it is hard to see him replicating that this winter. A lot of this had to do with him coming back too soon from his late offseason knee surgery, but at the end of the day, he was tough to watch the first couple of months. That being said, Smith may just be the biggest beneficiary of the installment of the triangle offense.

Smith has a tremendous amount of talent; no one will argue that. It always comes down to what J.R the Knicks are going to get that night. Seeing that Jackson has been able to handle some crazy players in the past (Dennis Rodman, Metta World Peace, even Andrew Bynum), I don’t see Smith acting as immature this season.

The reason why he could be the breakout performer this year is that his game is very intriguing in the triangle offense. Smith is a very good shooter (of course he thinks he’s the best ever) and has the ball handling skills to beat virtually anyone off the dribble. He uses picks well and is actually a threat when he attacks the basket, therefore creating shots for his teammates on the floor. This skill set will allow Smith to flourish up at the top of the triangle where he will be able to initiate the offense from virtually any spot. It is critical to have positional flexibility in the triangle offense, and Smith has the ability to not only do that, but also score from anywhere on the court.

Amar’e Stoudemire

Prepare to see a healthy Stoudemire this year folks! For the first time in what seems like forever, we haven’t heard any news of an offseason knee surgery! Good fortune is headed our way!

All kidding aside, Stoudemire is primed for a big season. While Woodson often kicked STAT to the curb, Fisher will find that Stoudemire is a perfect fit for the offense. The big man can shoot (51.2% from 10-16 feet last year) and can get to the rim (15% of shots were dunks last year), which gives Fisher a versatile player at multiple positions. Last season, Stoudemire had a quietly effective year after the ridiculous minutes restriction was lifted.

I personally think he will start at center (the rumor is out there as well), which should allow the Knicks to get the most out of him in the last year of his contract. His per 36 minutes statistics last year were 19 ppg and 7.9 rpg, so if the Knicks do in fact start Stoudemire, they should expect big returns.

Combine all this with the fact that this is his contract year, which adds significant motivation, and Amar’e Stoudemire has a chance to become the Knicks’ breakout performer of 2014-15.

Iman Shumpert

Oh the enigma Shumpert is! Fabulous prospect, yet never seems to reach his potential.

While Shumpert definitely took a step backwards last year (37.8% shooting in 2013-14), the young perimeter player could bounce back quickly in the triangle offense. Mike Woodson’s iso-ball offense was one of the worst possible strategies when it came to developing a young player like Shumpert. Instead of highlighting his abilities, the offense last year exploited his weaknesses: spot-up shooting and creating his own shot.

The triangle offense is much better suited to Shumpert’s strengths as there is no true consistent isolation plays. His best attributes are his quickness and athleticism, which will both come in handy up at the top of the triangle offense. Shumpert as the guard in a pick and roll with Stoudemire, Jason Smith, or even Andrea Bargnani will allow the Georgia Tech alum to truly excel in the offense. If the Knicks can establish more fluidity to their offense with constant ball movement, Shumpert should be able to catch and shoot in rhythm, rather than being surprised he was actually passed to.

Defensively, Iman Shumpert is still the Knicks’ best option on the perimeter. This alone will get him extended crunch time minutes when the team needs a stop. It simply comes down to whether or not Shumpert takes advantage of his opportunities on the offensive end. He has the desired positional versatility, but he also has Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith breathing down his neck.