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NBA Season Preview: New York Knicks

Dec 15, 2011, 6:30 AM EDT

Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony AP

Last season: 42-40 — good enough for a middling playoff seed and a first round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics.

Head Coach: Mike D’Antoni, who has an intriguing roster but will have to step out of his comfort zone. As a playmaker, Toney Douglas isn’t Steve Nash…or Raymond Felton…or Chauncey Billups. As such, D’Antoni’s typically PG-heavy offense will have to evolve in order to better feature Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, all while keeping everything from devolving into an intolerably lengthy series of isolation plays.

Key Departures: Chauncey Billups, Ronny Turiaf

Key Additions: Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Mike Bibby, Baron Davis

Best case scenario: Chandler becomes the centerpiece of a competent (but obviously sub-elite) defense, and the Knicks’ offense soars behind the sheer power of the team’s two highly productive scorers. That pushes New York toward a favorable playoff seed, a first round victory, and an improbable second-round toppling of a deflated Boston Celtics squad. The Heat still swoop in to quickly usher the Knicks out of the postseason, but what really matters is the journey, not the destination, right?

For that to happen: Toney Douglas will have to Do What Toney Douglas Do each and every damn night. Mike Bibby, Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert each have their strengths, but Douglas is the team’s best option at the point, and he’ll have to make the most of a pretty incredible opportunity. (Davis will give you flashes of brilliance but more consistently bad decisions, like pull up threes 5 seconds into the shot clock, taking shots away from ‘Melo, Stoudemire. And his defense will put more of a strain on Chandler. Douglas is the better option.)

That goes beyond shooting well from the perimeter (which Douglas often do) and pestering every defender in sight; Douglas will need to be a more functional creator this season than he has been in years past, and help Stoudemire, Anthony, and Chandler fit into a coherent offensive system. That’s a lot of responsibility to put on a player who’s only played limited minutes to date, but the situation calls for Douglas, and New York hopes he’ll call back. Or at least text or something?

Beyond that, the non-Chandler Knicks will have to make their newly acquired center’s life as easy as possible. That means no more pointing for you, Melo. And no more biting on pump fakes for you, Amar’e. Keep your man in front of you, shuffle those feet, and let Chandler serve as a safeguard rather than a one-man team defense. He’s clearly capable of providing a dominant defensive influence, but the degree of difficulty in New York is far higher than it ever was in Dallas.

More likely, the Knicks will: Boast one of the league’s best offenses, but nonetheless allow their defense to get them into some serious trouble. Chandler will be killing himself to thwart pick-and-rolls and challenge drives to the hoop, but the various defensive sieves on the roster (Anthony and Bibby being the prime offenders) could create more turmoil than he could ever hope to counter.

New York’s robust scoring is enough to nab a solid playoff seed and a first round victory, but this team just isn’t yet equipped to grapple with the truly elite clubs. A second-round out by the hand of the Bulls or Heat seems imminent.

Prediction: 40-26, good for the East’s fourth seed.

  1. turnmymicup - Dec 15, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    Looking forward to seeing how this offense will run w/o billups. Douglas has to step it up big time.

  2. drobstad - Dec 15, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    Fourth seed? Second round exit? The Knicks are the second best team in the East now. Possibly the best Eastern Conference team for the playoffs. The Heat have no big men. Melo & Amare had to learn to play on a brand new team mid season last year. Impossible to have chemistry at that point. I think the entire league is going to be surprised by how good this team will be.

    • dirksimmons - Dec 16, 2011 at 2:54 AM

      Admit it. You’re a little bias. I’d gladly put New York third, but not ahead of the Bulls or Heat. Once they actually prove they can play defense when it counts, we’ll talk.

    • borderline1988 - Dec 16, 2011 at 9:43 AM

      “Impossible to have chemistry at that point”

      I don’t believe it’ll ever be possible for Amare and Carmelo to have proper chemistry…neither of them are passers or creators. They’re scorers with the ball. Amare can at least work with the pick and roll but who’s going to run it with him? Lebron and Wade had trouble finding chemistry last year, and they’re both far greater passers and playmakers than both Amare and Carmelo. Chemistry will be a struggle.

      And as the blogger said, Chandler makes any team better, but he’s not the answer (on the defensive side).
      Of course, the Knicks will still overwhelm teams who don’t have the personnel to defend 2 elite scorers. But in a grind out game with Chicago, the Knicks won’t win.

      This is all on Dantoni. If the Knicks can play some decent defense and maintain fluidity on offense, the Knicks will be very dangerous. Otherwise, they’ll be an easy out in the 2nd round.

  3. gnyj85 - Dec 15, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Agreed. The Knicks will turn in on come playoff time, especially in front of the home crowd. Melo can actually play D when he wants to. I remember last year against the Heat, I think in Miami..Melo was playing great D because the game got hyped. We ended up winning 80 somethin to 80 something because both teams wanted so bad they actually played D. Playoff basketball is a whole different type of game, you just have to get there first.

    • drobstad - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:00 PM

      Agreed, also… People have not seen Carmelo Anthony play with other superstars except in the Olympics (where he is the teams best scorer). He was paired with who? Iverson? Nene? Kenyon Martin? Billups? How about Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler? This is the best situation Melo has ever been in. STAT & Melo are the leaders of the NYK. How can anyone possibly think they will “not play defense.” The Garden is going to be insane this year. I am beyond excited for this season.
      & PS.. Toney Douglas is a lot better than people think

  4. dysraw1 - Dec 15, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    congradulations tony if its true u got the starting job have no fear keep hitting stat & melo an you will be ok

  5. a185 - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    Knicks lose to the Bulls or Heat… who on the Bulls or Heat can stop Melo? I think Melo’s last game winner as a Nugget was against the Bulls and the Last time Melo and LeBron faced off the Knicks won. The last time they played as Cavs and Nuggets didn’t Melo hit the game winner over LeBron. Bosh is supposed to stop Amar’e, I don’t think so. Amar’e is better than Bosh and has more big game playoff experience. Amar’e has played against better PF’s his whole career in the West… Gasol, Sheed, a young Duncan and KG, who is Chris Bosh? Those guys have rings. Plus with them not having a center Chandler could either guard Bosh or roam free on D. The same thing with the Bulls he could either guard Boozer or roam off Noah who isn’t an offensive threat. The Bulls are a one man team and the Heat are a team made of 2 guys who play exactly the same… neither can shoot great unless their hot and are dangerous when driving to the basket. If they could shoot they would’ve won, but lost cause they couldn’t penetrate the zone. Plus Melo is clutch and can play good D… when the Nuggets went to the western conference finals he played D… good enough to beat Dallas.

    • dirksimmons - Dec 16, 2011 at 3:04 AM

      Wait, what? Who on the Knicks can guard Derrick Rose? You are sucking on some crazy juice with that messed up logic.

  6. passerby23 - Dec 15, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    I would love nothing more than to see the Knicks make a good run at the Heat, but I still don’t see this team having enough depth to compete. What made Dallas so good against the Heat was their continual depth where they could just keep rotating fresh bodies and give hard fouls. If Chandler or Amare get in foul trouble, then what? They’re still a player or two away from being in the upper echelon of contenders. 40 wins sounds about right.

  7. edweird0 - Dec 15, 2011 at 9:22 PM

    LOL at all you knicks fans. I feel you for hyping your team but for the idiot who said they were the 2nd best team in the east, possibly the 1st?!?! Can you pass what you’re smoking? No one likes a hog.. Regular season & playoffs are TWO diff things. When push comes to shove, the Knicks are gunna break.

  8. thenoblefacehumper - Dec 15, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    A defeat at the hands of Miami or Chicago is plain and simply not nearly as imminent as you make it out to be. Would the Knicks be the underdogs? Sure. But if ‘Melo can play the way he usually does against LeBron, you’re setting your Miami based readers up for disappointment with this article.

    As for Chicago, again, it’d be hard. But if Douglas can DWTDD on Rose…good luck Chicago.

  9. theghostofwillisreed - Dec 15, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    normally kurt is laughingly off base with his knicks reporting but aside from the asinine observation about toney douglas not playing a lot of minutes which is completely erroneous, he’s pretty much right.

    unless the knicks improve defensively, they can’t be expected to be ranked any higher than fourth right now and that may be more due to the fact the other contenders have fallen into ‘pretender’ status and the potential surprise teams will fall short talent-wise.

    if the knicks can find their way into the lower teens in team defense ranking then they officially become a problem because outside of the heat, no one in the east will match their offensive firepower.

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