New York Knicks: 5 Guys Who Will Improve in 2012-13 Season
The Knicks showed glimpses of brilliance throughout last season.
However, none seemed brighter than when Mike Woodson became interim coach. He transformed players into defensive machines, almost to the point where the team seemed unrecognizable.
Every season there are players who show improvement over the previous year, and it's no different for New York.
The New York Knicks are heading into the 2012-13 season with a revamped roster consisting of aged veterans and a handful of All-Stars.
But which of the new-look Knicks will actually improve this season?
Jason Kidd, PG
Jason Kidd was brought in to be a mentor to the Knicks' starting point guard—from the looks of it, that will be Raymond Felton—and to be the backup point guard.
Kidd will come to New York and be the pass-first point guard that he's always been. Last season in his 48 starts with Dallas, Kidd averaged 6.2 points per game with 5.5 assists per game. Coming off the bench, this kind of production is being overlooked.
Many people are focusing on Kidd's age as a negative factor, rather than focusing on having a proven point guard as a backup. The 39-year-old is a better option to man the backup point duties than anybody New York had on last year's second unit.
The California native will be the veteran many guys in the locker room look up to. Every team he's ever been on had nothing but good things to say about Kidd.
Two seasons ago, during the Mavs-Heat Finals, Jason Terry praised Kidd's leadership (via espn.com).
"It's all about our leader, Jason Kidd...The way he plays the game, the way he has always played the game rubs off."
Now that he's in the second unit, Kidd won't be put through the hardships an everyday starter goes through. Don't get me wrong, he's going to get some good minutes in, and he'll have his moments where he has to choose where to go for the go-ahead basket, but his 30-minute games are a thing of the past.
J. Kidd will come into training camp knowing his role and will play a critical role in the Knicks progression toward a championship.
Marcus Camby, C
Marcus Camby could have been a starter elsewhere, but he chose to sign with the Knicks in hopes of getting to the NBA Finals.
His choice will prove to be a great one as he'll improve the backup center position behind Tyson Chandler.
It was no secret that, when Chandler was not on the court last season, opponents would attack the basket because there was no physical presence down low. Now with Camby coming off the bench, one Defensive Player of the Year replaces another.
In his 19 games last season with Houston, Camby averaged 7.1 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game, including an average of three offensive rebounds per game. It's easy to see what Camby brings to New York.
The Knicks will limit Camby's minutes to keep him healthy for the whole year, but that shouldn't worry fans because those numbers I mentioned came in 24.1 minutes per game. Because of this, you can be assured that Camby will have his share of big moments.
Let's just say I trust Camby down low more than I did Jared Jeffries.
J.R. Smith, SG
J.R. Smith wanted to remain in New York.
That decision alone will allow him to improve.
It was clear that he became a better player under Coach Woodson, and Knicks fans should look for that to continue in the 2012-13 season.
His shooting will still be a bit streaky, but we all know the deal: When J.R.'s on, he's ON!
Smith used this summer to better himself, which in turn will benefit the team. Smith took time out with ESPNNewYork.com's Jared Zwerling to talk about what he's been up to:
"Some summers have just been really getting my shot up quicker or something strictly related to my shot. But this summer, for me, my focus is definitely putting the ball on the floor more, whether it be one dribble or two, or going to the hoop and drawing fouls and that kind of stuff. I think my big emphasis is going to be upper-body strength and just being more comfortable putting the ball on the floor."
If J.R. practices what he's preaching, I expect his averages of 12.5 points and 2.4 assists to increase.
Amar'e Stoudemire, PF
Everyone believes that Stoudemire's career is coming to an end and that he's no longer the player that he was in Phoenix.
Based on last season, that's a reasonable assumption. But Amar'e looks to become a top-five power forward once again.
As many know, Stoudemire is currently in Houston working with Hakeem Olajuwon. This commitment shows that Amar'e understands he's no longer the player he used to be.
It might safe to assume that his post-up game this upcoming season will be the best we've yet seen from him. Afterall, working with The Dream does this to you—just ask Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
Having a reliable post-up player adds dimension to the Knicks offense. We know that Carmelo Anthony can shoot, but now with Amar'e down low, opponents need to prepare for both of New York's weapons.
Let's also note that Amar'e again has a point guard who can make plays for him—Raymond Felton's no Steve Nash, but he and Stat had success last season, so it will be interesting to see if the duo picks up where they left off.
Stoudemire ended last season averaging 17.5 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game. These numbers aren't ones to snicker at, but Stoudemire—relying less on his jumper and more on his post-up game—might be able to put up closer to 20 points and an additional board or two more per game.
Carmelo Anthony, SF
Carmelo Anthony knows all eyes are on him, and he's prepared for the scrutiny that comes with being public enemy No. 1.
Under a ton of criticism last year, Anthony still managed to average 22.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Melo is the Knicks superstar, and fans should expect to see him kick it into overdrive this season.
Carmelo finally has pass-first point guards. Whether it be Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd or possibly even Pablo Prigioni, they will look to get Melo the ball. Anthony doesn't have to control the tempo of the game; instead he can focus on becoming the scorer he was when he had Chauncey Billups at the helm of the offense in Denver.
It's also safe to believe that, in assessing his Olympics performance, Melo has been preparing for the upcoming season for quite some time. He's in shape, he's improved his shooting and he's more inclined than ever to drive fearlessly to the basket.
This should carry over to training camp. Remember—because of the trade midway through the previous season and last year's lockout—this is Melo's first real offseason in New York.
Expect Melo and Stat to finally determine their roles and develop chemistry. Once this happens, the Knicks will be very, very, very lethal.