10 Thoughts on the New York Knicks in 2011-2012 (NBA Season Preview)
December 19, 2011INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
1. The big news for the Knicks is, of course, the signing of Tyson Chandler. Having a real center, one who can anchor a team’s defense, is bigger for the Knicks than just about any other team in basketball. With forwards who are, at best, mediocre, and a young 2-guard, this team needed someone to protect the rim to contend. Few in basketball beat Chandler at that – this is the perfect fit.
2. But is it the perfect fit with Mike D’Antoni as coach? D’Antoni teams have historically been mediocre defensively, but moved extremely quickly. Can he adjust to what has to be a slow-it-down team and change his coaching to emphasize a quality big like Chandler’s strengths? This is a ridiculously talented team, but hopefully the pieces fit better than Isiaih’s ridiculously talented teams. That’ll be on the coach to ensure.
3. Carmelo and Amare Stoudemire will at least ensure the offense is great. They’re surrounded by spot up shooters, though, and will need to be willing passers to make sure it’s truly elite. Melo needs to become a lockdown wing, while Amare needs to be at least a team defender for the team to be elite. Still, so much of the team’s success will be finding Landry Fields, Tony Douglas, Mike Bibby and Baron Davis for open threes and then those players converting.
4. Amare’s big weakness, though, isn’t defense, but rather rebounding. He just doesn’t board enough for his size and positioning. Fortunately, along with Chandler being a beast on the glass, Melo is a top rebounding 3, and Landry Fields a top rebounding 2, so the weakness is covered up. Though lacking an ideal point guard, the pick and roll between Melo and Amare should be unstoppable, so this is near the ideal set up for Amare, as long as his knees hold up.
5. Losing Chauncey Billups hurts far less than it otherwise would. While he can orchestrate an offense and knock down jumpers, both of those skills are replicated in both Baron Davis and Mike Bibby. Toney Douglas can’t initiate offense as well, but is a far, far superior defender. Bibby, however, may be done as a useful player if his Miami numbers were any indication. Luckily, Douglas is certainly good enough to hold the fort until Baron Davis is healthy at which point, assuming he’s in shape, this team could be great.
6. Is Jared Jeffries really the main frontcourt backup on this team? I know D’Antoni likes a short rotation, but sheesh. He doesn’t rebound at all, and with the quickened season pace, I have no clue how he’s supposed to play big minutes and relieve the injury prone Chandler and knee-free STAT.
7. I’m hearing a lot of love for Iman Shumpert, but there are already 3 point guards on the roster and one, Douglas, essentially mimics Shumpert’s best skills – defense and speed – except add a shot. For Shumpert to get any burn he’s going to need to play a hugely athletic game or pick up his shooting. At least he’s long…
8. Bill Walker and Renaldo Balkman are among the weaker wing reserves in basketball, though the former can shoot and the latter can defend. Luckily, they’ll mainly be backing up Melo, who plays huge minutes, as the logjam at the 1 should lead to Baron or Douglas playing a lot of 2.
9. This season is the start of what should become Melo’s long-term legacy. How hard he plays and if he rises to the occasion determine if he can go down as an NBA All-Time great or just another also-ran. So far in his career he’s probably not been top 10 in the league (in no order – Dwight, Lebron, Wade, Kobe, Paul, Deron, Dirk, Rose, Durant, Pau), but to become a factor and for the Knicks to compete, he’d better top at least half of those guys.
10. This will be a year in transition with a lack of depth and experience playing together keeping the Knicks from being fully competitive until the playoffs. Once there, they should have the firepower to make teams pay for their earlier troubles, if they can remain healthy and D’Antoni can figure things out. This should easily be a second round playoff team and might even make the conference finals with a few breaks.