Will it be the same old for the Knicks next season?
Figuring out which players on the Knicks are in need of refocusing during the offseason reminds me of all the times I stood at the door to the my room as a teenager, staring at the floor covered in clothes, tempting to clean and wondering: where do I even begin?
That's the Knicks, a cluttered room of mostly overpriced clothes.
But, there's potential. The Knicks enter every offseason with a list of holes to fill. Even if they fill them, they somehow manage to disappoint during the regular season. And playoffs? Well, they haven't seen too many of those recently.
So yet again, here are were in the middle of June wondering what in the world a dysfunctional franchise with overpaid players and underwhelming defenders can do to best position themselves for a turn-around year.
Here are five Knickerbockers who should use the time before training camp to really think about where the team fell short and how to improve their own game to make next season one that, well, doesn't resemble anything like the previous decade.
Novak, you can hit 3's. Now do something else.
Steve Novak can drain three's with the best of them. In fact, he led the league in three-point shooting for most of the 2011-12 season. But defenders have figured him out and it showed in the first round playoff series against the Miami Heat. He just camped out on the three-point line all season and consequently was no where to be found when it mattered most.
Novak needs to find another way to score. He needs to work on developing his pull up jumper and a few post moves or some sort of dribble-drive...anything! Study Dirk, Novak. Perfect the fall away jumper.
He's obviously got the talent, but with such a limited skill set, he's going to be shut down on many occasions when the Knicks really need him.
He's also completely deficient on defense. And the Knicks as a team are awful on D, though Tyson Chandler definitely made them better. Besides Chandler and Iman Shumpert, who is out for a while, no one on the Knicks provides weak-side defense and comes over when a defender gets beat. And Novak gets beat a lot.
He's a liability one one end of the floor and completely predictable on offense. It's time to step up your game, Novak. Otherwise, the pretty shooting isn't worth the subsequent headaches.
Jared Jeffries is supposedly a good defender.
Jared Jeffries is known as a defender, but I've seen him get killed on crucial possessions down the stretch. But fine, let's all buy into the notion that he's a good defender. Assuming this much is true, we all know it to be a fact that the rest of his game is deplorable. He is the opposite of Novak. Some defense but virtually no offensive game.
Jeffries needs to spend this offseason getting comfortable with receiving the ball down low on the post, or developing a set of go-to moves after grabbing an offensive rebound in order to allow him to do something productive with the ball instead of panicking and causing a turnover.
I mean, let's face it. For every charge he takes, he messes up a play on offense He needs to work on his jumper and a few low post moves. He's a tall guy and with a seasoned baby-hook he could average 10 points a game.
The best thing J.R. can do this off-season? Not resign with the Knicks.
J.R. Smith is like John Starks on steroids. When he's on, he wins game. When he's off, man.
If it were up to me, I'd get rid of him in an instant. But that's probably not going to happen, although it's not so certain he'll come back to New York either.
In any case, assuming he's back, he needs to become mentally stronger this offseason. Let's face it. Smith is a headcase. He needs to make smarter decisions so that he doesn't ruin his own game or the game of his teammates.
In fact, besides the Starks comparison, Smith is very much like Carmelo Anthony. The play often stops with him, and therefore the Knicks live and die with his performances.
Too many times this past season, I've watched the ball rotate like a hot potato until it finally lands in the hands of Smith. The Knicks are doing a better job at swinging the ball and setting screens for each, and sometimes the ball ends up in his hands with a lot of time left on the shot clock.
At that point, one of two things usually happens. Either Smith shoots right away without looking to see if there's a play forming, or dribbles out the clock and tries to make a last second, ill-advised shot.
The Knicks can barely win with one ball-stopper on the team. The fact that Smith is pretty much the same problem leaves me wondering if he's truly a piece of a winning team.
Toney's is going to be ask to step up next season in the absence of so many injuries.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of Toney Douglas. He's young, quick and not afraid to take (and make) some big shots.
But this next season is going to be different for him. Coach Mike Woodson is going to ask more of Douglas in the absence of so many injuries, namely to Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis and an aging, always-ailing Mike Bibby. Jeremy Lin is, of course, the starter but there are going to be times that Lin is dogging it because he's not used to playing so many games.
Douglas will likely average the most minutes of his budding career this season. He needs to become a better distributor in the half-court setting, something Woodson obviously preferred to the seven-seconds-or-less D'Antoni offense, and Douglas needs to shoot better. He barely shot 30 percent this past season.
This is his chance to show why he belongs on the Knicks roster for the long run. He's got a lot of energy and plays with confidence. But he needs to step up his game to the next level, particularly in shooting and passing, if he hopes to remain the break that Linsanity will need on a regular basis.
Carmelo needs to realize he's only as good as his teammates.
Ah, and now we come to Carmelo Anthony.
There's not one single thing I can point to that Melo needs to work on. We all know he can score and he's a good rebounder and not so bad of a passer.
But beyond needing to learn how to play defense for crying out loud, Melo needs to just learn that he's not a franchise player insofar as he's not good enough to carry a team on his shoulders. For years, he's been given the chance to show why he could be that player, but let's face it: he can't carry a team like Dirk, LeBron or Durant. Is he as good a scorer as anyone? Sure, but what separates him from those elite players is an awareness to know when to defer to others.
Melo always wants to be the Man, and being in New York City doesn't exactly calm that kind of swag. But while he's going to carry the team on some nights, he's going to have some pretty bad games, too. The key for him this offseason is to learn how to realize it's not his game to do all of the scoring.
People criticize him for being a ball hog, and it's hard to argue otherwise. The rotation literally stops once it hits his hands. Melo needs to spend this offseason with Jeremy Lin in order to understand that while he may be the most talented player offensively on the team, perhaps in the league, the team is only going to be good if Lin runs the show.