Predicting NY Knicks' Rotation for the 2012-13 NBA Season
As the 2012-2013 NBA season draws closer, the New York Knicks' final rotation is anything but set. There are currently 15 players on the team's roster, and only 12 will suit up at the start of the new campaign. Given that the Knicks have greatly improved their overall depth this summer, coach Mike Woodson is going to have a tough time deciding who will have a key role in his system. Naturally, the fans will be glued to any and all position battles that may pop up.
For example, yesterday I spoke of the point guard position and who should start there: Raymond Felton or Jason Kidd. The answer may SEEM obvious, but all factors must be taken into consideration, from Felton's conditioning to Kidd's age. No matter how you look at it, it's anything but a settled position battle at this point. For that, we have to wait for the preseason and training camp.
Yet, I'm in the mood to play soothsayer and as a result, I present to you loyal readers my final predictions for the Knicks' 12-man rotation this season.
Point Guard: Raymond Felton
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Though he is coming off of the worst season of his career thanks to being out of shape last year, Felton is still the best option for the Knicks to start at the point. In spite of his underachieving last season, the former North Carolina Tar Heel has averaged 34.8 minutes per game for his career, proving that he is more than capable of running an offense when he's in top shape.
More importantly, Felton knows the New York fans, having spent half a season with the Knicks in 2010 before being sent to the Denver Nuggets in the Carmelo Anthony trade. Before the deal, he was averaging 17.1 points and nine assists in then-coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offensive system.
He won't put up numbers like that in current coach Mike Woodson's defensive style, but Felton still has respectable career numbers at 13.4 points, 6.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Those numbers indicate that he's used to playing one way: get the ball to the top guys and only take over when necessary. Given the way Woodson's system works, Felton will surely have no trouble adjusting, and thus snagging the starting job.
Shooting Guard: Iman Shumpert
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Shumpert won't be the starting shooting guard until January, when he returns from a knee injury sustained in last year's playoffs, but the overall potential he showed last season is enough for him to step back into the starting rotation once he's ready to play again.
On paper, it would appear as though he had a below average season for a 2-guard. He averaged just 9.5 points per game and shot just 30 percent from long range. However, although his jump shot was inconsistent, Shumpert was great on defense as he averaged 1.7 steals and was named to the All-Rookie First Team.
That being said, the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket still showed enough on offense last year that he could very well become an effective scoring shooting guard in the next couple of years. Sure, his jumper wasn't great compared to others at his position, but he had enough high-scoring games to warrant a spot in the starting lineup.
Once he's ready to play this season, he'll pick up right where he left off.
Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony
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Coach Woodson runs an isolation offense, which means that the guys who come up in crunch time are the veteran scorers who know how to put points on the board. In the Knicks' case, one of those options is Carmelo Anthony, who is the best scorer on the team despite the drama he may have caused last year.
No matter how you look at it, the man can score. He averaged 22.6 points per game last year, which is actually considered low for him despite being a very respectable number. The lack of a true point guard getting him the ball for most of the season can be named as the primary culprit in that department.
That said, there is no reason to believe that Anthony won't be in the starting lineup next year. He is one of the best players in the NBA today and seeing as how Woodson's plan since taking over last year has been to build the offense around the former Syracuse star, how can he not start?
Power Forward: Amar'e Stoudemire
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Stoudemire's season was also a disappointment last year, as he averaged just 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds. Those numbers aren't bad, but considering how the former first-round pick averaged 25.3 points and 8.1 boards his first season in New York, it's clear why fans weren't satisfied with his production in 2012.
However, much like his teammate Carmelo Anthony's struggles last year, Stoudemire's numbers dropped much in part to his not having a legitimate point guard getting him the ball for most of the season. Once Woodson took over as head coach, it was like the Amar'e of Old had returned as the 6'11" forward shot 56 percent from the floor over the final two months of the season.
Seeing as how he and Anthony will be carrying the offense in Woodson's system, it's safe to say that barring injury he'll retain his starting spot.
Center: Tyson Chandler
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Chandler came to New York after winning a championship with the Dallas Mavericks and proceeded to have a phenomenal first season in the Big Apple. Not only did he average 11.3 points and 9.9 rebounds, but Chandler also led the NBA in field goal percentage, shooting an astounding 68 percent from the floor.
On top of all that, Chandler was named last year's NBA Defensive Player of the Year as he was the Knicks' first effective big man since the days of Patrick Ewing. That being said, I think his starting job is quite safe.
Sixth Man: J.R. Smith
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The job of a team's sixth man is to be the primary option off the bench and put up starter-like numbers, and Smith is an ace at this. In just 35 games with the Knicks last year, due to playing in China for the first half of the season, he averaged 12.5 points while shooting a respectable 35 percent from beyond the arc.
Simply put, Smith is perfect for Woodson's offense as he can play both shooting guard and small forward, which is key so that Carmelo Anthony may get a few minutes' rest when necessary. He has a natural shooting and scoring touch and given how he'll have the opportunity to both shoot from long range and probably unleash some sick dunks as well, his versatility on offense makes him the perfect sixth man.
Silent Assassin: Steve Novak
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Novak may be 6'10", 240 pounds, but he doesn't necessarily look like a dominant athlete. He's quite skinny and not what one would call intimidating, but to underestimate him would be a grave mistake.
You see, Novak is one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA and actually led the league in three-point percentage last year, shooting a remarkable 47 percent from long range.
As a result, although Anthony and Stoudemire are going to be the collective focus of the team's offense, opposing defenses should always be sure to have a man on Novak should he be on the floor. If he's left all alone and gets the ball, it's only a matter of time before he drains a shot and fires up the fans. To add insult to injury regarding the opposing team, he'll probably rub it in a little bit too.
Backup Point Guard/Shooter: Jason Kidd
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Though he is still a great leader and positive presence on any team, 39-year-old Jason Kidd no longer has what it takes to be a starting point guard. Once a triple-double threat, he is little more than a three-point threat today and his body is starting to break down. Last year, a number of injuries limited him to 48 games.
That said, it's clear that Kidd shouldn't be starting for the good of his health. Still, that isn't to say he won't do good work as a backup on the Knicks. This is a team that has needed a positive leadership presence for years and Kidd provides that in a phenomenal manner.
On top of that, he is still a good enough distributor that he would have no problem getting the ball to the go-to guys off the bench, not to mention sinking the occasional three-pointer when the opportunity strikes. Also, seeing as how he averaged 28.4 minutes per game last year, he should be able to start in the event that Felton gets hurt.
Backup Big Man: Marcus Camby
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Camby may be getting old at age 38, but he is still one of the best defensive players in the NBA. Last year, in 59 games split between the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets, the former UMass Minuteman averaged nine rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 22.9 minutes per game. That's pretty impressive for someone his age.
In New York, however, it is unclear how much playing time he will receive, let alone if he'll see more time at power forward or center. Keep in mind, reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler currently holds the starting center's job. Regardless of those factors, Camby is on the Knicks for one reason: to play defense.
That said, while he will spend a majority of the year as Chandler's backup, don't be surprised if he gets a start here and there, especially since Chandler played most of last year banged up.
Pest: Ronnie Brewer
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Every team has a player whose job is to just come off the bench and play ridiculously pesky defense. This year, on the Knicks, that duty belongs to Ronnie Brewer, who spent the past two seasons with the Chicago Bulls.
Although he is a shooting guard who can score points when needed, Brewer's best skill is his ability to be on his man like white on rice. When he's covering someone, he just refuses to give up in battle and makes life difficult for the other team. He only averaged a steal a game last year, but is still beyond capable on defense.
In fact, though he will probably spend a majority of the season as a reserve, Brewer could very well get significant minutes in the starting lineup since regular starter Iman Shumpert is out until January. Shumpert's greatest asset is his defense and it will be greatly missed in his absence. Fortunately, Brewer's toughness on D should more than make up for the standout second-year player's absence.
Third String Point Guard/High Energy Man: Pablo Prigioni
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Though he's just entering the NBA at age 35, the Knicks have liked Prigioni for quite some time now, having spent three seasons trying to sign him. He isn't a top scorer or shooter, but that's all fine because the Argentinian floor general very proudly embraces a pass-first approach.
Still, the question remains: just how much playing time will Prigioni receive? Well, that remains to be seen. If he impresses enough in training camp and the preseason, perhaps Woodson will give him a good number of minutes each night.
Yet, the reality is probably that Prigioni will spend most of the season riding the pine, picking up garbage minutes as Kidd and Felton man the first two spots on the point guard depth chart. Still, given Kidd's age and how he is prone to sitting out games with minor injuries, Prigioni could very easily find himself getting good playing time every so often, even if he is the second to last guy off the bench.
12th Man: Kurt Thomas
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Thomas will turn 40 before the new season begins and as the 12th man, it's safe to say that in all likelihood, he'll only get to play under two circumstances: if the Knicks are blowing the other team out or getting blown out. Still, let's not count the veteran out just yet.
The former TCU star spent seven seasons in a Knicks uniform from 1998-2005, which means that he probably knows the New York fans better than anyone else on the roster. If he has a good training camp, perhaps Mike Woodson will look to give him some minutes as a backup power forward/center.
More importantly, let's not forget that the aforementioned Marcus Camby has been injury prone throughout his career. He is entering his 17th season, and he has appeared in over 70 games just three times. I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but I think it's safe to say that he'll miss time next year with a nagging injury.
Sure enough, with Thomas on the end of the bench as well as Tyson Chandler in the starting lineup, the Knicks' defense won't suffer greatly and still be one of the best in the league.