Grading Every Position Heading into New York Knicks Training Camp
Last time we saw the Knicks, they were getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row. Now they'll be looking to improve on that and advance past at least the second round in 2012-13.
In order for that to happen, though, a lot of work will need to be done in training camp. The Knicks need to iron out the chemistry issues that have dogged them for so long and to integrate the many players who have been brought in over the summer.
The Knicks are a talented team, and if all goes according to plan in camp, they should be right up there with the elite teams of the league by the end of the season.
As a preview of where the Knicks stand heading into camp, I'm going to grade them at every position based on how the roster looks right now.
Point Guard: B
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With the exception of the 26-game stretch of Linsanity, the point guard position was one of real weakness in the 2011-12 season.
After letting go of Chauncey Billups in order to make room for the arrival of Tyson Chandler, the Knicks were left with Toney Douglas and a pair of veteran's-minimum players in Mike Bibby and Baron Davis to man the point.
As you'd expect, the Knicks struggled to build chemistry with so much age and so little talent at the position, and this was one of the main reasons for their struggles in the first half of the season.
This offseason, the focus has been on completely revamping the position, and the Knicks have done that with their acquisitions of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni.
While not one of them is a top-tier point guard, they are all upgrades over their predecessors and are capable of giving the Knicks exactly what they need—someone to run the show.
Felton will likely take the starting role, and though he's not much more than an average point guard, having him on the team despite having so much salary invested elsewhere is a blessing.
Chemistry has evaded the Knicks for a while now, but with three pure point guards heading into camp, things are headed in the right direction.
Shooting Guard: B-
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The Knicks definitely have talent at the shooting guard position, but injuries are already a concern and the season hasn't even started.
Second-year man Iman Shumpert—who looks like he could be a star in the future—is out with a torn ACL suffered in the 2012 playoffs, and he may not be back until December at the earliest.
Ronnie Brewer was brought in to replace him, but even he is coming off surgery that will keep him out for much of training camp. This will hurt him when it comes to developing that all-important chemistry with his new teammates.
Erratic scorer J.R. Smith will be relied upon heavily in the early portions of the season. But if he can continue to improve under Mike Woodson, that may not be such a bad thing.
His shooting still isn't consistent, but his defense is much improved, and now that he won't be relied upon to initiate the offense so often, the Knicks will be able to utilize him in a more natural role.
The Knicks will get a B- at shooting guard for now, but as soon as the injuries clear up, it will be yet another strong point—and a deep one at that—on the Knicks roster.
Small Forward: A+
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Carmelo Anthony is one of the top three small forwards in the game His presence alone makes this position a strong point for the Knicks.
The Knicks' leader is coming off a fantastic end to the 2011-12 season and has had a summer just as good considering his stellar play with Team USA at the Olympics in London.
Melo will be looking to carry this form into the NBA season. If he does so, it won't be long before his many critics are quieted.
Behind Melo, the Knicks have one of the league's best three-point shooters in Steve Novak, who will continue to develop as a dead-eye shooter after breaking out last season.
After that, the Knicks don't have much with James White sitting behind them, but that shouldn't matter with the number of minutes that Anthony will be playing on a regular basis.
Despite nagging injuries here and there last season, Anthony isn't a player who's likely to miss much time with injury during the season, so the Knicks are fine with the depth they have behind him.
Power Forward: B+
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Amar'e Stoudemire was signed to a $100 million contract with expectations that he'd carry his superstar form from 2010-11 through the full five years. But based on his struggles last season, that may not be the case.
Still, only recently was Stoudemire considered a genuine MVP candidate, so it's hard to believe he's regressed that much over the course of just one season.
Injuries and the death of his brother Hazell took their toll on the forward and were key contributors to his poor output last season.
This offseason, Stoudemire is looking to make amends. He worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon, and now that he's healthy as well, he should be ready for a comeback.
Until he shows it, though, Stoudemire remains a question mark for the Knicks. It will be interesting to see if he comes out strong in training camp.
Depth could be an issue behind Stoudemire—especially when you consider how often he's injured—but the Knicks are actively trying to fix this.
So far, they have looked at free agents Kenyon Martin and Rasheed Wallace, and it's likely that someone will be signed before camp starts.
If not, the Knicks will have a pretty consistent guy in Kurt Thomas and a relative unknown in Chris Copeland. But it could turn out that they'll give the Knicks enough depth behind their star forward.
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Only as recently as the 2010-11 season, the center position was a real weakness for the Knicks.
A combination of Ronny Turiaf, Shelden Williams and Jared Jeffries made up one of the worst center rotations in the league, and the Knicks had to do something to fix this.
Two offseasons later, the Knicks have themselves the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler and a former winner in Marcus Camby to back him up. General manager Glen Grunwald must be credited for the huge upgrade he's made at the position.
Besides maybe only Dwight Howard, Chandler is the best defensive center in the league. His presence alone gave the Knicks a top-10 defense last season.
Foul trouble has been an issue for Chandler recently, but in Camby the Knicks won't lose too much production in the minutes that Chandler is off the floor.
In fact, Camby is still statistically the best rebounder in the league, which covers yet another weakness the Knicks had last season.
In a league that's short of centers, it will be tough to find a team with two better defensive players at the position than Chandler and Camby.