New York Knicks: Complete Preview, Predictions & Storylines to Watch in 2012-13

Alex Kay@AlexPKayCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2012

New York Knicks: Complete Preview, Predictions & Storylines to Watch in 2012-13

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    In February of 2011, there was a buzz around the New York Knicks that hadn’t been felt in years. The team had just acquired Carmelo Anthony in a blockbuster trade, and the Big Apple knew its basketball team finally had pieces in place that could compete for a championship.

    Fast-forward to the present, and while the roster still has 'Melo and Amar’e Stoudemire, there is nothing but gloom and question marks surrounding this squad.

    After a disappointing first-round exit to the Miami Heat in the 2012 playoffs, the Knicks brass decided to blow up the roster and bring in a number of veterans to surround their two superstars with. However, the personnel decisions have been highly questionable, and it seems unlikely that a Finals contender has been assembled over these summer months.

    Let’s take a closer look at whom the Knicks added, to whom they said goodbye, the projected starting lineup and final roster, some scenarios and predictions for the 2012-13 campaign and much more. 

Key Arrivals

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    Marcus Camby (Trade with Houston Rockets)

    Kurt Thomas (Trade with Portland Trail Blazers)

    Raymond Felton (Trade with Portland Trail Blazers)

    Jason Kidd (Free Agency)

    Rasheed Wallace (Free Agency)

     

    The Knicks struggled with their rotation and depth in 2011-12, which is a large reason why they saw it fit to go out and get proven backups for the upcoming season.

    Unfortunately, they may have gotten veterans past the point of grizzled and nearing their expiration dates.

    Center Marcus Camby, who was acquired in a sign-and-trade for backup guard Toney Douglas, reserve F Josh Harrellson, C Jerome Jordan and two second-round picks, was given a three-year guaranteed deal at the ripe age of 38.

    Big man Kurt Thomas, who was dealt from Portland along with PG Raymond Felton in exchange for Jared Jeffries, Dan Gadzuric, the rights to two European players and a second-round pick, will be 40 years of age when the NBA season gets going

    Free-agent PG pickup Jason Kidd isn’t a spring chicken either, signing a three-year deal despite being born over 39 years ago.

    Finally, Rasheed Wallace has been coaxed out of retirement by the Knicks, which is crazy considering he is 38 years old and hasn’t played a single NBA minute since the 2010 Finals.

    New York’s only offseason acquisition projected to get big minutes under the age of 30 is Felton, who is coming off a poor outing with the Trail Blazers and isn’t likely to find the same success that he had in then-Knicks coach Mike Dantoni’s system.

    It remains to be seen how coach Mike Woodson plans to use all of these seasoned veterans, but injuries and missed games from these players are an almost inevitable nightmare that he will have to find a way to get through as the campaign drags on. 

Key Losses

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    Jeremy Lin (Signed with Houston Rockets)

    Landry Fields (Signed with Toronto Raptors)

    Jared Jeffries (Traded to Portland Trail Blazers)

     

    After Jeremy Lin experienced a breakout 25-game stretch—dubbed “Linsanity”—it was widely expected that the Knicks would match any offer sheet that came the restricted free agent's way this summer.

    Obviously, that wasn’t the case, and the organization let him walk for a paltry three-year, $25.1 million offer from the Rockets. His departure has left the Knicks razor-thin at the PG position, with the mercurial Felton starting and the aging Kidd as his primary backup.

    Pablo Prigioni, 35, has also been brought over from the EuroLeague to provide depth at point guard, but the fact is the team suffered a major blow when it lost the 24-year-old emerging star.

    The Knicks also had to say sayonara to Fields, who was poached by the Raptors in an effort to prevent their Atlantic Division rival from using him in any potential sign-and-trades for Steve Nash. He was given a three-year, $19 million deal that the Knicks would have been crazy to match.

    Last year’s rookie sensation—Iman Shumpert—should be able to take over the starting SG duties and become the top perimeter defender on the team. It all depends on when he gets back to full health after suffering a torn ACL in the Knicks' first playoff game.

    The other notable loss for New York is Jared Jeffries, a utility big that played all over the court. His solid length and athleticism will be missed when these plodding, aging bigs that the team brass brought in struggle to guard some of the younger, more explosive players in the league.

    Overall, the Knicks lost a lot in Lin and didn’t add enough to replace him or address their main concerns this summer in finding reliable backups.

Projected Starting Lineup and Depth Chart

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    When healthy, the Knicks' starting five should see Felton starting at PG, Shumpert at the 2, 'Melo at the SF spot, STAT banging at the 4 and Chandler anchoring the defense from his center position.

    Depending on Felton’s play, that is a respectable unit. But one clearly identifiable problem is depth, which has been an issue for this team over the past few seasons, and nothing has changed.

    J.R. Smith, an extremely streaky gunner, is probably the best scorer the second-unit has, and Steve Novak will have to continue his incredible shooting to prove he’s worth the four-year, $15 million deal the franchise doled out this summer.

    Aside from them, Camby, Thomas, Kidd, 'Sheed and Prigioni make up a plethora of bigs that are simply old and downright creaky. There is no conceivable way that one of them will be able to step up and play big minutes at the 4 in the seemingly inevitable case that Stoudemire goes down for an extended period of time.

    While the Dallas Mavericks proved two years ago that hungry vets can win championships, the age of this Knicks bench doesn’t seem ready to compete with the Miami Heat or any of the other true contenders in the East.

    Hopefully, the Knicks can make an in-season move to address their desperate need for a true backup 4 that can log serious minutes.

    Position

    Starter

    Bench

    Reserve

    Point Guard

    Raymond Felton

    Jason Kidd

    Pablo Prigioni

    Shooting Guard

    Iman Shumpert

    J.R. Smith

    Ronnie Brewer

    Small Forward

    Carmelo Anthony

    Steve Novak

     

    Power Forward

    Amar’e Stoudemire

    Rasheed Wallace

     

    Center

    Tyson Chandler

    Marcus Camby

    Kurt Thomas

Strengths

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    If this Knicks team is going to make a serious playoff run, it’s going to be on the back of its combined NBA experience.

    Some of their veterans have championship experience—Kidd, Wallace and Chandler—while others have been around for what feels like forever and have yet to raise a banner—such as Thomas, Camby, Anthony and Stoudemire.

    The combination of the entire roster’s desperation to win a ring, the star power of STAT and 'Melo and the sheer size that the Knicks possess are going to have to be what finally pushes them over the hump.

    These vets are going to have to take care of their bodies to stay healthy, learn to coexist and keep everyone happy (not the easiest thing with Carmelo stopping the ball) and come together in order to pull out one of the more unlikely postseason coups imaginable.

    Veteran know-how is certainly something that the New York front office values, and their fate will now rest on how this calculated gamble to stock their roster with senior players pays off.

Weaknesses

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    The most glaring flaw for NY is the point guard position.

    A trio of Felton, Kidd and Prigioni are expected to somehow play 48 minutes per night and find a way to keep the rest of the playmakers on the floor happy. That’s an extremely tall task, especially with guys like Amar’e and Carmelo in need of the rock to make an impact.

    They are going to have trouble defending some of the speedier guards in the league, something Kidd can no longer do and Prigioni will be baffled by. That leaves Felton as the only one who will be able to consistently cover his man.

    Aside from these PG woes, the Knicks are going to be in between a rock and a hard place if and when one of their starting big men goes down with injury.

    As we mentioned earlier, there just isn’t a realistic chance that Thomas or Wallace can log major minutes at the 4, and Camby is more suited to the center position. That’ll leave the Knicks scrambling to bring in any serviceable body from the streets in an effort to milk a few minutes and fouls.

    While that might work in the regular season, an injury in the playoffs means this team’s already miniscule chances to advance are instantly cooked. 

    New York is going to have to pray that its squad doesn’t suffer any serious injuries this season. 

Storylines to Watch

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    One of the more interesting stories to keep an eye that concerns the Knicks will take place over 1,500 miles away.

    Every New York fan is going to want to see how Jeremy Lin performs in Houston, and there will be non-stop comparisons to how Felton, Kidd and Prigioni are running the show in the Big Apple. If Lin goes off and continues his dominant run, there is going to be an extremely vicious and public backlash towards the organization.

    However (and the Knicks front office is praying that this is the case), Lin may be nothing more than a mediocre point guard who was simply overpaid by the Rockets. It’s definitely worth watching at the outset of the season.

    Another story that not many fans know is that Hakeem Olajuwon was hired to work out with the Knicks forwards and centers this offseason. The Dream’s tutelage on Stoudemire, 'Melo and the rest of the big men should be noticeably impactful—as it was with LeBron James when the two worked together in the summer of 2011.

    Coach Mike Woodson is also worth observing, as he finally has a full training camp under his belt and is going into the season without an “interim” tag. This is his team and it is expected to be successful. Should the Knicks fail, there’s a chance he ends up in unemployment—just like when the franchise cast aside D’Antoni after a subpar performance last year.

    With a team like the New York Knicks, there is never a shortage of plots and subplots, so expect plenty of drama to pop up as the season starts rolling. 

Best-Case Scenario

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    If the Knicks are going to put together a spectacular 2012-13 season, it’s going to come down to health and consistency.

    This is a group that can’t afford debilitating injuries to major players, as their rotation players are exactly that and not much else. They cannot depend on the backups to step up and log starters minutes and still find success.

    Consistency goes hand-in-hand with this, as Mike Woodson needs to find a solid rotation and stick to it. Allowing all of the new pieces on the roster to gel and find a way to work with and around 'Melo’s unique and selfish style of play will be important.

    If the Knicks accomplish these simple but lofty goals, they are certainly going to be playoff bound as one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference. Having a fit starting lineup and all of their key backups intact for the postseason run will be necessary.

    Should New York draw a decent seeding, it will hopefully be able to avoid the Miami Heat until the Eastern Conference Finals. If this squad meets its nemesis in the conference finals, it will have to get some luck.

    Perhaps Miami suffers key injuries to LeBron or Dwyane Wade or its already thin front line is deteriorated to glorified D-Leaguers. New York would then be able to throw its grizzled group of bigs into the paint and dominate.

    While it isn’t likely, the Knicks could seriously make a Finals appearance in 2013, with a few lucky breaks (literally).

Worst-Case Scenario

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    It seems that the worst-case scenario already came true for the Knicks in the offseason, when they lost a talented PG, spent an exorbitant amount on ancient players and never truly addressed the true problems that held them back from being a real contender in the conference.

    Should New York be stricken with injuries throughout the regular season, it will have to settle for limping into the playoffs with a rag-tag group of players that likely has little chemistry and almost no hope of advancing.

    While there is no doubt that this squad is playoff-bound, earning a low seed will practically guarantee it is sent packing in the first round again by one of the premier Eastern Conference franchises.

    The Knicks took a huge step forward last season, but it appears they took two back in the summer. 

Season Prediction

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    45-37, second place in Atlantic Division, fifth seed in Eastern Conference

    As we noted, the Knicks are certainly a postseason team, but they will have their struggles in the regular season—especially in the early goings and definitely if they have to lean on their depth more than expected.

    They’ll finish second in a stacked Atlantic Division, ahead of the resurgent Brooklyn Nets and just behind the wily Boston Celtics, which should help earn a solid No. 5 in the playoffs.

    Once the Knicks make it to the best-of-sevens, they’ll likely meet up with a beatable team like the Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers or Milwaukee Bucks to start their championship quest. It’s not unreasonable to expect NY to win its first playoff series since 2000, when it made it all the way to the Conference Finals.

    However, the Knicks will be exposed in the second round when they have to face the No. 1-seeded Miami Heat. There is just no way that LeBron and Co. falter to a team that doesn’t have the chemistry, athleticism or skill to match up.

    It’s going to be a disappointing end to a long year that started with a mismanaged offseason back in June 2012. After the inevitable defeat, it’s back to the drawing board for the New York Knicks.