Winners and Losers from Week 2 of the NY Knicks' Preseason
With two preseason games in the books, we're starting to get a sense of what the New York Knicks will be this season.
So far, the new-look Knicks have had their ups and downs. With Mike Woodson reshaping New York's roster this offseason, this is now a team built around physical play on defense and ball movement on offense. Between some new schemes and new personnel, Woodson's crew is going to fight through some growing pains before the season starts in November.
What did the Knicks do right in their first games? What do they still have to work on moving forward? Read on to find out.
Winner: Tyson Chandler
With Amar'e Stoudemire sitting out the first two preseason games, Tyson Chandler has stepped up and produced in the pick-and-roll offense.
Given his otherworldly offensive efficiency (Chandler shot .679 from the field last season, leading the league by far), the Knicks would be wise to incorporate him into the offense more.
In 48 minutes so far this preseason, Chandler has scored 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting. It's a small sample size, but if that's how Chandler's going to play when he has more touches, New York has to keep feeding him.
Chandler's work on the pick-and-roll has also opened up the offense for the rest of the team. New York built a 17-point lead against the Washington Wizards in the first quarter behind the pick-and-roll tandem of Chandler and Raymond Felton. Against the Boston Celtics, the Knicks scored 44 points in the paint, with Chandler running the play with Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni.
He's the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but Chandler is not just a one-dimensional guy. As the Knicks figure out how to spread the touches around more on offense, it looks like Chandler is earning a bigger role in the offense.
Loser: Ball Movement
Some habits are hard to shake, and the Knicks still need to learn how to move without the ball.
As explosive as New York's offense looked at times this week, there were still instances where there were a bunch of Knicks standing on the perimeter and watching Carmelo Anthony. Knicks fans know how this story goes: Melo gets his points, but the offense ultimately suffers.
Note that this is not entirely Anthony's fault. The Knicks need him to pass more when he has the ball in his hands, but he cannot be expected to distribute when no one is working to get open.
By default, the onus is on Mike Woodson as well. He must drill into his players what they must do when Melo has the ball; if an isolation is Melo's only play, the Knicks will continue to struggle.
Of course, the preseason is meant for working out kinks in the game plan. Through the first two games, however, Woodson's squad has not shown much progress on this front.
Winner: Bench Scoring
Woodson's full arsenal of bench scorers was on display against the Wizards.
Though J.R. Smith has publicly stated that he'd prefer to be a starter, his performance versus Washington exemplifies how much more valuable he can be as a sixth man.
With an erratic player like Smith, you take the great games when you can get them. So when he scores 20 off the bench on 8-of-11 shooting, the Knicks rejoice; his surprising six assists are just a nice bonus. On the other hand, Woodson knows that Smith could just as easily miss 8-of-11, so it's best to just ride him when he's the hot hand and avoid the droughts.
The Knicks' three-point shooting was also on display against Washington. It helps when the best marksman in the league is on his game. Steve Novak led the team with 21 points hitting all seven of his attempts from long range. Pablo Prigioni also showed some nice touch from downtown, hitting four of his eight attempts.
This Knicks team looks to be deeper than it has been in years. When Woodson goes to his bench, he's liable to find someone who can come in and score on any given night.
Loser: Guard Defense
The tradeoff to getting a bigger and tougher team is getting a slower team, and the Knicks have shown their slothfulness on defense.
It's not like the Knicks had a defensive answer for Rajon Rondo before, but they've done nothing to solve it now. Don't mind his 3-for-9 shooting performance against the Knicks last week; instead, focus on how he used his quickness to give the Knicks fits.
Rondo and his teammates ran New York into the ground and beat them in transition; they just couldn't find a way to make baskets. On another night, the Knicks might not be so lucky.
New York does have a good defensive backcourt, but not one that can stop speedy guards. The three point guards have all shown some hard-nosed defense, but all lack the fleetness of foot to stay with the Rajon Rondos of the league.
Iman Shumpert is the only guy on the Knicks roster who could potentially do the job, yet they cannot rely on him to do so coming off of an ACL tear.
Heading into next season, the Knicks are poised to trot out the oldest roster in NBA history. From what they showed last week, their foot speed might show their age.
Winner: Chris Copeland
No one expected it when Chris Copeland exploded off the bench to power the Knicks past the Celtics.
After a short stint in the D-League and five years in Europe, the 28-year-old is making the most of this NBA tryout. He didn't see the court in the first half against Boston, but then he exploded for 21 points in just 19 minutes of play to put the Knicks over the top.
No one is claiming Copeland is the next Carmelo Anthony, but he showed a number of signs that he could be a poor man's Melo for the second unit. He's a small forward who dominated the scoring load when he was on the floor and was able to get to the line by bullying his way into the paint. That's the type of play that will make the Knicks think twice about their pursuit of Josh Howard.
Heading into this week, it didn't look like the Knicks had anyone who could emulate Anthony's style of play off the bench. With his revelatory performance versus Boston, it looks like Copeland has just played himself into a guaranteed roster spot.
Loser: Post Age
While the Knicks may have built their team from the inside out, it doesn't look like they can sustain too many injuries to their big men.
In the second quarter against the Wizards, Tyson Chandler and Kurt Thomas were both taking breathers on the bench. With Amar'e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace all unavailable to play, Woodson was forced to play a lineup consisting of Felton, Prigioni, Copeland, Novak and John Shurna. At 6'10", 235 pounds, Novak was the center on the floor for all intents and purposes.
Not surprisingly, that lineup got ravaged on defense. The lead Chandler and Felton built evaporated in a flash as Washington exploited the Knicks' dilapidated lineup en route to a 22-0 run. New York sorely missed any semblance of a post presence on either end, and the box score prove it.
Of course, the Knicks' big men will likely choose to play through their nicks and bruises when the games start counting. On the other hand, every Knicks post player has had their struggles with injuries in their careers, with no reason to bet on any of them to make it through the season unscathed.