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.