Breaking Down Why the New York Knicks' Depth Only Looks Good on Paper
The Knicks are thin. The Knicks are not guaranteed a playoff spot next season. If you accept the second premise, then the first is concerning.
Great teams need not worry about depth so much. Does that sound strange? In theory, every team must be concerned about bench play. While bench play always matters, it matters less to superstar-laden squads, the kinds that often compete in June. It's great to have depth, depth is a bonus. But a deep team can seem deceptively great during the regular season only to fall short against a team with no bench (prime example: the 2011 Bulls vs. the 2011 Heat).
This is because a thin team looks better with a playoff-shrunken bench than a deep team will. Considering that New York's best backup may be Ronnie Brewer (slated to make less than $900,000 next season), the Knicks will be a better playoff team than regular-season performer.
During the postseason, more minutes to Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler should only help. So, if the Knicks make the playoffs as a low seed, they easily could upset a higher-seeded squad (Indiana, for example).
The Knicks should be a high seed if they keep everyone healthy, but since when have the Knicks ever managed to keep everyone healthy? This year, they return with the aforementioned Anthony and Chandler, the fading Amar'e Stoudemire, the erratic J.R. Smith and the sweet-shooting-though-unathletic Steve Novak. If Anthony or Chandler misses considerable time—both are injury-prone players—there isn't much of a returning safety net. New York could point to the return of promising, defensive-minded Iman Shumpert, but unfortunately this happened.
Shump will be back in the fold eventually, but you have to allow for some recovery time for an ACL tear. Shumpert also fits the profile of a wing who depends heavily on athleticism. It could take awhile for him to get back to form.
Raymond Felton is a new addition who once performed adequately in New York and later woefully in Portland. I fear that he'll trend toward the latter in his Madison Square sequel. D'Antoni's style suited Felton nicely. Mike Woodson's Melo-iso-ball might not jibe so well with Felton's fast-breaking ways.
The bench is not inspiring and not entirely capable of improving. First, let's look at the guards. Jason Kidd has been signed to, well, hopefully not drive into anymore metal poles. In all seriousness, the 39-year-old point guard can still throw an alley-oop or two. Chandler should receive some dunks by Kidd's hand, and that's about it. Kidd can't really move anymore, and his shooting is far from elite. He's an all-time great whose game has diminished to near D-League status.
Another veteran point guard backs up Kidd—perhaps you saw him in these Olympics. Pablo Prigioni was the steady hand through which much of Argentina's offense was run. Were this 10 years ago, Knicks fans could get excited for the signing. Prigioni likely doesn't have much to offer these days. He's about as fast as Kidd is and likely a worse shooter. If the Knicks get anything from the 35-year-old Euroleague vet, they should consider themselves lucky.
Moving along to the frontcourt, where the Knicks also have stashed some senior citizens: Marcus Camby (age 38) and Kurt Thomas (age 39). First of all, let us pause to consider that New York's bench should probably be one big rocking chair. Secondly, Camby still may be a decent player. He put up an above-average 16.2 PER last year, and his length enables him to maintain defensive quality. It's shocking that he's still playing, especially at a moderately high level. As for Thomas, I think he's all but done in this league.
New York has names—big names. But some of these names (Kidd, Camby, Thomas) were better in the 1990s. New York could still find a route to a second-round playoff berth. Any injury though, leaves the Knicks vulnerable to the whims of age.
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