The New York Knicks experienced as much roster turnover this offseason as any squad in the NBA, but with the 2012-13 season tipoff fast approaching, the pieces are beginning to come together for a club that sees itself as a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.
After seeing Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields both depart as restricted free agents, the team's front office opted to bring in a slew of veteran players, wrangling Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Ronnie Brewer, among others, to provide depth, defensive effort and, perhaps most importantly, veteran savvy for a team that struggled with locker room cohesion at times during their controversy-filled 2011-12 campaign.
The team also kept a number of key free agents from last season's playoff squad, hoping to build on their late-season success, as both J.R. Smith and Steve Novak were welcomed back into the fold.
Clearly in win-now mode under head coach Mike Woodson, New York is hoping that their slew of new rotation players can gel with both the defense-first system and each other early on so that the team can come on strong and not struggle out of the gate as they have for the past two seasons.
Before we get underway, let's look back at the past 12 months of New York Knicks' basketball:
Final Finish in Standings:
Seventh in Eastern Conference
Second in Atlantic Division
New Acquisitions over Summer:
Oscar Bellfield; Ronnie Brewer; Marcus Camby; Chris Copeland; Raymond Felton; Jason Kidd; Pablo Prigioni; John Shurna; Henry Sims; Chris Smith; Kurt Thomas; Mychel Thompson; Rasheed Wallace; James White.
Landry Fields; Dan Gadzuric; Jared Jeffries; Jeremy Lin.
2012-12 Depth Chart and Head Coach:
Point Guard: Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni.
Shooting Guard: Ronnie Brewer, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert (injured), James White.
Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony, Steve Novak, Chris Copeland.
Power Forward: Amar'e Stoudemire, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace.
Center: Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby.
Coach: Mike Woodson.
With preseason basketball underway and final roster trimming coming shortly, let's take a look at what the New York Knicks' 15-man roster should look like when their season begins November 1 against the Brooklyn Nets.
For more information on the New York Knicks' 2012-13 season, check out Joel Cordes' and Ethan Norof's "Complete Season Preview for the New York Knicks" Podcast.
Point Guard: Raymond Felton
2011-12 Stats: 11.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.3 APG, 40.7% FG , 30.5% 3P
Raymond Felton's numbers during his lone season with the Portland Trail Blazers do not look horrendous on paper, but you would be hard-pressed to find a soul that was satisfied with the way the UNC product played during the 2011-12 season.
Felton played well off the ball during his brief tenure in Denver, something he will likely spend time doing in the 2012-13 season. He is a decent outside shooter who will certainly receive quality looks given that defenses will key in on stopping Anthony and Stoudemire. He must also be able to collapse a defense and create open shots for teammates because this Knicks squad comes equipped with lethal shooters like Steve Novak and J.R. Smith who can make a defense pay for giving them a foot of space.
Raymond Felton has a shot to prove that his season as a Trail Blazer was a fluke, and though this team may not suit his strengths, if New York wants to be a true contender, they need Felton playing as well as he did during his last stint at Madison Square Garden.
Shooting Guard: Ronnie Brewer
2011-12 Stats: 6.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 42.7% FG, 27.5% 3P
This starting spot will eventually belong to Iman Shumpert once the sophomore standout returns from his ACL tear, but for now, Raymond Felton's backcourt teammate should be Ronnie Brewer.
Brewer is a tremendous athlete and showcased an improved outside shot, although he will not be asked to be much of a floor-spacer. He excels at powering his way to the basket and finishing at the rim and has a decent handle, but with the firepower this team has, his main purpose out on the floor will be to shut down the opposing team's best wing scorer.
He does not have the offensive capabilities of a J.R. Smith, but at least for the beginning of the season he will be one of the team's most integral pieces. New York emerged as a very tough defensive squad at the end of the 2011-12 campaign, and in order to keep that intensity going, Brewer must hit the ground running.
Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony
2011-12 Stats: 22.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 43% FG, 33.5% 3P
Perhaps no player had a more controversial and trying lockout season than Carmelo Anthony. The star forward battled not only injuries, but also a barrage of criticism from both the media and New York fans due to his decrease in production.
Although he played strong basketball at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, 'Melo is still very much in the hot seat as fans are tired of the Knicks barely making the postseason and expect them to be one of the major powers in the conference given their maturity and talent. It is up to Anthony to lead them there, as he remains easily the most dynamic player on the roster.
Defenses will be looking to make the other New York players beat them, throwing plenty of double-teams and slow-down tactics at Anthony, meaning he must recognize when a teammate is open for a high-percentage shot and not be coaxed into taking the kind of low-percentage attempts he can sometimes fall in love with, much to the dismay of his fans and teammates.
Anthony has the talent to be a dominant all-around player, but is often criticized for looking solely to score instead of making the proper pass or playing aggressive defense. He needs to develop those other aspects of his game and take a leap if he wants to be the player that leads New York to a deep playoff run.
Power Forward: Amar'e Stoudemire
2011-2012 Stats: 17.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.0 BPG, 48.3% FG, 23.8% 3P
Amar'e Stoudemire's disappointing 2011-2012 season has been dissected to no end and though the high-flying big man undoubtedly looked a step slow, having an offseason to not only rest his body but also polish his game alongside Hakeem Olajuwon should certainly help Stat regain his past form.
In that season, Stat battled a laundry list of injuries, including a herniated disk that significantly hampered his ability to move and contribute on the court. He also had difficulty coexisting with Anthony, who spent a good amount of time playing as a stretch-4 in Stoudemire's absence.
Stoudemire is not a perfect fit for this team's offense as he plays best in an up-tempo style, but he showed great chemistry with Raymond Felton during their brief time together and perhaps can look to renew some of their pick-and-roll success even in a limited capacity.
This is considered by many to be a do-or-die season for Amar'e as New York is clearly looking to build their squad around Anthony, but if he returns to the court healthy and focused, do not be surprised if he looks like the Stoudemire of old.
Center: Tyson Chandler
2011-2012 Stats: 11.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.4 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 67.9% FG
Tyson Chandler was New York's marquee free-agent acquisition in the summer of 2011, and he absolutely lived up to the hype as he transformed the team's defensive culture and earned himself the league's Defensive Player of the Year award.
He provided more than just excellent help defense and a strong rebounding presence as he was a vocal leader on the court and helped to make his teammates care about stopping opponents instead of merely outscoring them. Previous New York squads were content to just outgun the other team, but these Knicks, led by the play of Chandler, played spirited defense that many times helped them pull out close games.
Despite that the Knicks' front office acquired big men Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace, who are capable of playing reserve minutes at center, this is a completely different team without Chandler, their main force in the middle, out on the court. He may not put up Dwight Howard-like gaudy defensive stats, but he is just as integral to the success of his ball club.
Chandler gives New York a player who knows what it takes to win a championship and as long as he can stay healthy and out on the court, this Knicks squad cannot be counted out of the postseason contender conversation.
2011-2012 Stats: 12.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 40.7% FG, 34.7% 3P
J.R. Smith is the quintessential NBA sixth man: a pure scorer with a deadly shot that can create his own offense, but lacks the consistency necessary to be a full-time starter. Smith came to New York midway through the 2011-2012 season after leaving his Chinese team, and made an immediate impact providing three-point shooting off the bench, a role he will again be expected to fill.
For much of the year, Smith was miscast as a point guard and handled the ball too often, which led to him overdribbling and making questionable decisions or taking ill-advised shots. With Jason Kidd coming off the bench, Smith should see less time holding the basketball and as a result, slide more into his natural role of coming off of screens and trying to create open shots.
A tremendous athlete, Smith is more than just an outside shooter as he has the ability to slash his way inside, get to the free-throw line, make the correct pass and even, on occasion, play quality defense. Like Anthony, Smith needs to focus on showcasing every aspect of his game instead of merely his ability to put the ball in the basket.
According to Newsday's Barbara Baker, Smith wants to assume the starting 2-guard position, but this team will be much better if he continues to come off the bench and anchor the offensive of the second unit. The Knicks already have Anthony and Stoudemire, who will be taking plenty of shots, in the starting lineup, and if the club were to plug Smith in, it could have a seriously detrimental effect on their already questionable ball movement.
J.R. Smith's output is always difficult to predict given that he is capable of shooting his team both in and out of a game, but because he will undoubtedly see a good amount of floor time and shots, he needs to come out focused to start the 2012-2013 season.
No. 2 Point Guard: Jason Kidd
Despite being 39 years old and having a slew of NBA mileage on his body, the Knicks expect Kidd to be a key contributor in a reserve capacity next season. He is still an elite passer and a capable shooter and defender who will be looked at to give 18-20 minutes a night and provide a stabilizing presence both out on the floor and in the locker room.
No. 3 Point Guard: Pablo Prigioni
Most NBA fans had their first exposure to Pablo Prigioni while he was playing for Argentina in the Olympics, but the Latin American veteran will be making his NBA debut next season as New York's third-string point guard. Prigioni likely will not see much time on the court, but his steady handle and floor vision should earn him some garbage time minutes.
No. 3 Shooting Guard: Iman Shumpert
For now, Shumpert will sit out as he recovers from his ACL tear sustained in Game 1 of the playoffs against Miami. However, once the Georgia Tech product returns, expect him to pick up where he left off as a shut-down perimeter defender and surprisingly capable scorer, as long as his knee holds up.
No. 4 Shooting Guard: James White
James White started at shooting guard during New York's preseason game against Boston and though his play was not staggering, he is still an intriguing player and his athleticism will earn him a spot on the team's bench. That being said, don't expect much out of White, who has not been in the league since 2009.
No. 2 Small Forward: Steve Novak
Steve Novak parlayed an out-of-nowhere 2011-2012 season into a long-term deal with the Knicks and now is out to prove that his stellar year from beyond the arc is not a fluke. Novak is undoubtedly a quality shooter, but with defenses game-planning for him, he must find more ways to get open and perhaps diversify his play a bit.
No. 3 Small Forward: Chris Copeland
It is pretty apparent that New York is thin at small forward, and with that in mind, the team will likely retain Chris Copeland, who had a strong showing against the Celtics, notching 21 points and four boards in just 19 minutes of floor time.
No. 2 Power Forward: Kurt Thomas
Admittedly, this spot is a clear toss-up between Kurt Thomas and the newly signed Rasheed Wallace, but given that Thomas was not retired for two seasons, he will likely be Stoudemire's primary backup when Anthony is not logging minutes as a power forward. Thomas is still a solid defender, rebounder and mid-range shooter, which is all the team needs.
No. 3 Power Forward: Rasheed Wallace
The Knicks made major headlines by bringing 'Sheed out of retirement to provide frontcourt depth after he retired following the 2010 NBA Finals. While it is unclear just what Wallace can give the Knicks on a nightly basis, expect plenty of three-pointers, spotty rebounding and technical fouls.
No. 2 Center: Marcus Camby
Sensing the need for a quality backup behind Tyson Chandler, New York pulled a sign-and-trade for veteran Marcus Camby, who last played for the Knicks in 2002. Despite his age, Camby will provide great minutes off the bench as a rebounder and shot-blocker, keeping the defensive play intense when Chandler needs a breather.
The New York Knicks are headed into the 2012-2013 season as the single oldest team in the history of professional basketball, and the success of their season will largely be defined by whether they can manage to stay healthy. The 2011-2012 campaign was rife with injuries and the team's roster was completely decimated by the time the playoffs rolled around.
Five years ago, a team with Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace and Jason Kidd would have easily been the best in the league, but today they are considered by many too old to be true contenders.
Still, never discount what motivated veterans are capable of doing on the court. The main issue for New York may actually come down not to age but to chemistry, something that has eluded them for much of the past two seasons.
The Knicks also need to get Carmelo and Amar'e on the same page finally. Adding a pair of pass-first point guards in Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd should help considerably, but it is up to the two stars to make a more concerted effort to move the ball and focus on more than just putting the ball in the basket.
New York is unfortunately in one of the toughest divisions in the league, an Atlantic Division that features five teams capable of making playoff runs (yes, even the Toronto Raptors). They need to bring their A-game to every one of those 16 match-ups as they could have serious implications on playoff seeding come April and May.
This team has plenty of depth at every position except for small forward and with Mike Woodson at the helm features one of the league's more formidable defenses, meaning New York should be able to contend with anyone as long as their offense stays crisp and not stagnant.
It may take some time for the completely revamped bench to develop chemistry, but with so many aging players this squad is undoubtedly in win-now mode and another low playoff seed and first-round exit is simply unacceptable.
For a team looking to prove they are a legitimate postseason threat, every game is crucial for the New York Knicks, but there are a handful of contests this season that deserve the attention of not just New York basketball fans, but anyone who enjoys the sport.
November 1st at Brooklyn Nets
The Knicks open their season in hostile territory at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Nets have built a playoff caliber team around Deron Williams and fully believe they have the capability to not just win, but capture the hearts of New York's basketball fan base.
Both teams have a slew of proven talent and expect this to be the first of four heated match-ups between these in-state rivals.
January 7th vs. Boston Celtics
The Knicks-Celtics rivalry has been rekindled in recent years and is currently one of the NBA's most heated. All four contests last season were competitive with the teams ending up in a 2-2 split.
Boston and New York are considered the two top contenders for the Atlantic Division crown and with it a guaranteed fourth seed or higher, so expect both teams to bring their all to Madison Square Garden despite it being a January game.
March 13 at Denver Nuggets
The lockout cost us an opportunity to see Carmelo Anthony return to Denver in a Knicks jersey, but that will not be the case in 2013 as his squad travels to the Mile High City to face a resurgent Nuggets squad that has more depth and athleticism than almost any team in the NBA.
Beyond the 'Melo storyline, fans should expect a competitive, uptempo game between two teams vying for playoff seeding in their respective conferences.
April 2nd at Miami Heat
The Knicks travel to Miami early in December, but their second trip to South Beach will come when the team has had time to fit its new pieces together and will also likely have a much bigger impact on playoff seeding.
American Airlines Arena is where New York's season ended in 2011-2012 and with the possibility of another playoff meeting being very high, expect the Knicks to come out aggressive and try to get a statement win in the Heat's territory.
Second in Atlantic Division
Fourth in Eastern Conference
Eighth in NBA
How the Season Will Finish:
The key for this Knicks team is staying healthy, as they undoubtedly have the talent to be a major factor in the Eastern Conference. As long as their main contributors can mange to stay on the court and Iman Shumpert comes back strong from his knee injury this team has a great chance of earning home court advantage even if they cannot leapfrog the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics or Indiana Pacers.
As the fifth seed, I would expect them to either face the Brooklyn Nets or Philadelphia 76ers, a pair of Atlantic Division rivals that New York has some serious history with. While both of these squads boast plenty of talent New York has the size to throw at Andrew Bynum's Sixers and the gritty defense both inside and on the perimeter to disrupt Deron Williams' Nets squad.
Unfortunately, should New York win their first round series it very likely means yet another postseason meeting with the Miami Heat. While the Knicks are an improved squad and have the talent to win a game or two against the defending champions their season will ultimately end in defeat as New York is just not on the same caliber as Miami.
Still, an appearance in the Eastern Conference semifinals would definitely be a positive step for a club that has a combined 1-8 record in their past two playoff appearances.
The central issue for this team, besides their collective age, is whether not the team's pair of superstar forwards can finally gel and demonstrate the chemistry that they have been lacking for the past two seasons.
For a more in-depth look at the best and worst case scenarios for the New York Knicks, Bleacher Report's Joel Cordes, Will Leivenberg and Ethan Strauss examined the squad's strengths and weaknesses headed into the 2012-2013 season.
While a playoff spot is extremely likely based off of pure talent alone, where exactly the Knicks will land in the bracket is very much up in the air.
1) Carmelo Anthony: 24.6 points per game
2) Amar'e Stoudemire: 19.1 points per game
3) Raymond Felton: 12.7 points per game
1) Tyson Chandler: 9.1 rebounds per game
2) Amar'e Stoudemire: 7.8 rebounds per game
3) Carmelo Anthony: 6.5 rebounds per game
1) Raymond Felton: 7.0 assists per game
2) Jason Kidd: 4.5 assists per game
3) Carmelo Anthony: 3.9 assists per game