Over the next month, Blazer's Edge will be rolling out season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature, we discuss the New York Knicks with Jonathan Schulman and Joseph Flynn of Posting and Toasting. (Yesterday's preview: Minnesota Timberwolves)
New York Knicks 2014-15 Season Preview
2013-14 Record: 37-45, No. 3 in Atlantic Division, No. 10 in Eastern Conference
Roster additions: Quincy Acy, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Cleanthony Early (rookie, No. 34), Langston Galloway (rookie, undrafted), Shane Larkin, Travis Outlaw, Orlando Sanchez, Jason Smith, Travis Wear (rookie, undrafted)
Roster subtractions: Shannon Brown, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Kenyon Martin, Toure' Murry, Jeremy Tyler,
SB Nation affiliate: Posting and Toasting
Blazer's Edge: Amar'e Stoudemire is looking to make a full-time return this year after struggling with injuries recently. Does this effectively move Carmelo Anthony to small forward full-time?
Jonathan Schulman: Oh, absolutely. Amar'e's injuries are recent, distant, current, futuristic, retroactive and omnidirectional. He'll be 32 this year, and is in a contract season. The Knicks have a lot of questionable depth and will have to take some time to figure out who deserves what minutes.
Regardless, Carmelo is a small forward for defensive reasons. The Knicks won't change where he gets the ball, but how he gets it is going to be completely re-worked, and with any luck (hard work) will get him the mismatches that made him such a dominant 4-man.
It's really about getting the best two-way players the most amount of minutes, and Carmelo is not at his best when he is defending the power forward position. Lest we forget, he tore a labrum doing it last year.
Joseph Flynn: If this is for the good fans in Portland, then let me just say I apologize profusely for ever doubting you guys about Ray Felton. I thought you were blowing the hatred a tiny bit out of proportion...how wrong I was. That guy is really, really annoying.
Amar'e has been declaring his intentions to play a full 82-game campaign for at least three years now. It's a nice sentiment, but at this point the guy has knees composed primarily of chalk dust and rusted screws. He's become a divisive figure among Knicks fans, with his supporters pointing to the fact that the team surged at the end of the season with him in the starting lineup, and his detractors pointing to New York's astounding 63-28 record over the past three years with Amar'e in street clothes.
As for Melo, he's already come out and essentially declared himself a full-time small forward. I don't know if it will last, but they seem dead set on starting the season that way.
BE: Can Samuel Dalembert hold down the center spot for the Knicks? They appear fairly thin up front..
JS: Probably not for more than 10 random minutes every fifth game. He's in a contract year, tho. Maybe that means he's gonna give a damn salembert.
JF: Dalembert was a serviceable 20 MPG player for a bad defensive Mavs team last season, and I expect the same in New York. Like many Knicks fans, I have an irrational love of Cole Aldrich, and think he'll make at least a decent rotation big. They should be able to make up for the loss of Tyson Chandler with some more sensible defensive schemes and smarter lineups. They'll be a bad defense, but they were a bad defense in 2012-13, when they won 54 games.
BE: How about New York's backcourt rotation? There's some depth at shooting guard with Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, but what about at the point?
JS: As with the front court, there is questionably a lot of depth in the backcourt. Jose Calderon is most likely your starter and should be able to keep the floor spaced very, very, extremely nicely, and that's paramount for the triangle offense. Pablo Prigioni is the second best player in the NBA and he probably just kissed your mom. On the cheek, and said "Hello" in a pleasant and friendly accented way, and helped her to her seat, and was just the most delightful and gracious host. What a lovely young man! Then there's Shane Larkin who has the potential to be a JJ Barea type of player in the league. He hasn't figured it out quite yet, but I'd bet he gets something going this year. Even if it's only for a stretch and despite not getting consistent minutes.
JF: The Knicks have quite an intriguing trio of shooting guards in J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway. Smith was arguably New York's best player over the past five weeks of 2013-14, and if he were anybody else, we might be looking forward to his 2014-15 campaign. But he's J.R. Smith, so the only thing we know for sure is that there will be shenanigans. Shumpert and Hardaway are polar opposites as players -- Hardaway gives you scoring and nothing else, and Shumpert gives you a little bit of everything except points.
Personally, I hope the team doesn't split up Shumpert and Smith, who posted a net rating of +10.0 points per 100 possessions in 833.6 minutes on the floor together. But the Knicks seem dead set on keeping Melo at the 3 as much as possible, so this might not work out.
As for the point guards -- they won't defend at all, but they're also not Ray Felton. And that's good enough for me!
BE: What do expect from coach Derek Fisher? That sure was a splashy hire..do you expect results in the win/loss column his first year?
JS: No major expectations from Coach Fish. I like what I hear when he speaks. I like what I hear when people speak about him. The Knicks just aren't very clear right now, and probably because the roster is very much up in the air. At the very least I expect him to get us in the 6-10 area of the Leastern Conference. Shouldn't be hard to appear better than they were last year. Woodson was a complete dope.
JF: The most important thing I can say about Derek Fisher is that he isn't Mike Woodson. I could write a "War and Peace"-length tome about the damage that man did to the Knicks last season, but I'll simply sum it up with this factoid: He willingly played a frontcourt consisting of Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani for over 214 minutes. And it would have been more if Bargs hadn't injured himself trying (and failing) to dunk from the foul line.
As for Fisher, he already won the hearts of hardcore Knicks fans with his work in Summer League. Not only did his offense function better than anything the big club ran last season, you could actually see Fish on the sidelines, teaching and encouraging the young players. A coach who coaches...how refreshing!
BE: Give us your best case, worst case and most likely scenarios for the Knicks this year:
JS: Best case scenario, Shumpert makes the leap into a true blue starter. Stoudemire makes it through the season injury free, and re-signs for the minimum. They finish last in the league, draft Emmanuel Mudiay. Sign Marc Gasol and some other dudes who totally beast. Then meet the Blazers in the Finals next year.
Worst case, Knicks have the most insane unstoppable offense and get the 1st spot in the playoffs. Make it to the Finals with home court and lose in four to the Timberwolves.
Most likely the Knicks are playing to get into the playoffs most of the year. They struggle, but never go on any crazy big losing streaks, even tho they can't defend anyone. They snaggle the 7th or 8th spot and put on a show, but don't get out of the first round.
JF: I'm bullish on this year's club, if only because the 2013-14 team finished so close to a playoff spot despite being actively undermined by their coach's incompetence. They were a top-five team in terms of offensive efficiency once Bargnani got hurt, and that was with Felton running the point and an offense consisting of "y'all four guys just stand around and watch Melo."
The best-case scenario for me would be a return to the playoffs and a decent showing in the first round. The worst-case scenario would be James Dolan suddenly realizing the club will have cap space next summer, putting down his kazoo, and taking the reins from Phil Jackson. Most likely, the Knicks will stay around the periphery of the playoff race.
Special thanks to Jonathan Schulman and Joseph Flynn of Posting and Toasting for taking the time to discuss the New York Knicks' upcoming season with Blazer's Edge. Brian can be found on twitter @aighttho and Joseph is @ChinaJoeFlynn. Posting and Toasting has you covered for Knicks news and analysis.
-- Chris Lucia | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter