The New York Knicks' 5 Biggest Questions Heading into the Regular Season
Heading into the regular season, the New York Knicks are a team with a lot of question marks.
On the whole, the offseason has been a successful one. Most—if not all—new additions are upgrades, and the Knicks now have a much deeper roster than they've had since Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony joined forces in 2011.
Still, things are hardly perfect, and there are still some huge questions that need to be answered about the upcoming season.
The Knicks have hopes of a deep playoff run this season, and the answers that eventually develop to the following questions will dictate whether or not that's a realistic aim.
Will Carmelo Anthony Back Up His Media Day Promises?
Back on media day, Carmelo Anthony made one of the most promising statements Knicks fans have heard since Amar'e Stoudemire told reporters that the franchise was back upon his arrival in 2010.
Though it's a little harsh, Anthony has earned a reputation as a selfish player, but according to the New York Post, he's finally learned what's required to take his game—and his team—to the next level:
"I’m done trying to score 35, 40 points to win the basketball game. I don’t want that role anymore...we need a more well-rounded team. If I have to sacrifice on the offensive end, I’m willing to do it. It’s easy for me to sit here and say it. But this year it’s going to be locking in and doing it as the leader of this team."
For much of his career, Melo has been an elite scorer, but his style hasn't always worked out well for his teams. Only once in his career has he gotten out of the first round, and as good as he is individually, he's never been part of a truly elite team in the NBA.
Interestingly, he has looked completely different when playing international ball for Team USA, and has had success there playing a more team-oriented brand of basketball.
Granted, for Team USA Anthony is playing with the best of the best, but it's still noticeable how much better he can be with teammates that he really trusts.
Now, the Knicks have built a team full of Anthony's former teammates from Denver and even a few from Team USA, and it's time for him to once again adapt that style of play.
Melo still needs to be the primary option for the Knicks, but doesn't need to dominate the ball as much, and it sounds like he knows it.
This is a huge change for a player like Anthony, though. Saying it and doing it are two completely different things.
Can the Aging Roster Survive the Rigours of an 82-Game Season?
Though the Knicks have built a talented supporting cast over the summer, they've also built an old one. In fact, the new additions have made the team the oldest in NBA history.
When healthy, the Knicks are one of the most stacked teams in the league, but with their age and penchant for injury, it's hard to see them being completely healthy very often.
Already, the Knicks are without two starters in Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, with the pair slated to miss six weeks and three months, respectively.
Even in the preseason, New York struggled to cope, with Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby and J.R. Smith all missing time.
So long as they can keep their key players Carmelo Anthony and Chandler healthy, with a decent supporting cast around them, the Knicks will remain a competitive side, but they won't reach their peak without a full roster.
At this point, it's looking unlikely that the Knicks will be able to avoid certain players missing significant time during the regular season, and instead they'll have to focus on managing minutes and making sure they go into the postseason unscathed.
If they can scrape homecourt advantage in the East, and go into the playoffs with the majority of their players healthy, the Knicks will be in a position to do some damage.
it won't be easy, but the Knicks can wave their title hopes goodbye if health and age continue to hold them back.
Just How Good Will the Defense Be?
With Mike Woodson at the helm, we know the Knicks are going to be a good defensive team. It's their bread and butter, and he's been preaching it all preseason long. The real question is more about if they can make the leap from being a good defensive team to a great one.
Last year, the team finished 11th in points allowed per game, and fifth in defensive efficiency, but as a team that's success will come down to defense, it's time to move up even higher.
The Knicks know what they're going to get defensively out of certain players. Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby, Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer are all going to be the elite defenders they've shown they can be.
What will really help the Knicks improve is every single player buying into this defensive movement—including their notoriously bad defenders Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith.
All three players should see a lot of minutes in 2012-13, and the Knicks can't afford for them to be liabilities on the defensive end during these minutes if they're going to be a top-tier team.
Luckily for Knicks fans, even these players showed real improvement on defense thanks to Woodson's influence late last season, and this should hopefully carry on into the new year.
How Will Amar'e Stoudemire Fit in Upon His Return from Injury?
Just when things were starting to look up, with health finally on his side, Amar'e Stoudemire is out again. This time, a ruptured popliteal cyst will keep him out for six to eight weeks.
As frustrating as it is, the Knicks may actually be better off without Stoudemire in the short term. STAT's absence allows for Carmelo Anthony to play at the four, and helps to buy him space to work with on offense.
On the defensive end, Anthony's strength makes him an able defender of power forwards, allowing for a more skilled defender—this time Ronnie Brewer—to cover the opposition small forward.
We saw last April just how successful the Knicks can be without Stoudemire, and if they're to have repeat success this time round it just begs the question of what to do when he comes back.
A Knicks team with Stoudemire and Anthony working well together has the chance to be something special, but if the chemistry hasn't had a chance to develop fully in training camp, it's hard to see STAT and Melo making a great combo.
Plenty of fans have been pulling for Stoudemire to be used as a sixth man, but as nice as that sounds, it's hard to see the Knicks going in that direction, as it could leave a major dent in his confidence.
That said, if that's the direction the Knicks eventually want to go in, they're not going to have a better opportunity than if he comes back whilst the team is playing well.
At the very least, we should expect to see more of Stoudemire's minutes coming when Anthony is off the floor, but a more drastic move has a chance to make or break the Knicks' season.
Can the Knicks Win a Tough Atlantic Division?
With the age of this Knicks roster, the reality is that success needs to come sooner rather than later.
Success in the division is the best way to start, but in the tough Atlantic, it will be hard to come by. Though the Knicks have had a successful offseason, everyone else in the division has too, and there's a genuine chance that all five teams could make the playoffs come season's end.
As a good home team, homecourt advantage and a top-four seed would be huge for the Knicks, and a division title would all but ensure this.
Whether it be age, chemistry, youth or injury trouble, all five teams have their weaknesses, and the Knicks will need to play on these to get the job done.
It's been 18 years since the Knicks last took home the Atlantic Division crown, and in that year they eventually ended up in the NBA Finals.
Also, New York has made it out of the first round every time they've won their division, so that just goes to show how important it can be.
With injuries already hurting the team, it will take a bit of luck and a lot from the Knicks' stars, but with a top defense and a consistent offense, it can be done.