What We Still Don't Know About the NY Knicks
A number of big questions still remain unanswered, so the final stretch of the regular season is going to be very significant.
There are plenty of things we do know. Carmelo Anthony is an elite scorer, the Knicks have the oldest roster in the NBA, and the offense relies heavily on the three-pointer. But even so there are still a few unknowns.
Let's go through the key things we still don't know about the 2013 Knicks.
Do They Have a Consistent Second Scoring Option?
Carmelo Anthony has always been an elite offensive player, and this season has arguably been the best of his career in that regard. As it stands, Melo is a shade behind Kevin Durant as the league's top scorer, and has a genuine chance to finish as the scoring champion.
For the Knicks to survive in the playoffs, however, they will need someone to step up as a consistent second option behind Melo.
Heading into the season, Amar'e Stoudemire was supposed to be just that. Following his latest injury, he should be back just in time for the playoffs.
When healthy, Stoudemire has proven that he can be an efficient option, and certainly has the quality to be the second option the Knicks need.
The real problem for STAT is that he can't be relied on to stay on the court. Even if he does make it back in time for the postseason, the likelihood is that he'll have a significant minutes limit and will take a few weeks to get back in form.
New York will need to look elsewhere for its second option, and the two primary candidates are Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith
Both players were good enough to be considered consistent scorers back in November, but as the season has developed, they've failed to keep up the same level of play.
For Felton, it has been a case of injuries holding him back; Smith just hasn't had his head in the game often enough.
As the next month plays out, one—or preferably both—of these players will need to regain form, or the Knicks will be left scrambling for offense in the playoffs.
They simply can't afford for Felton and Smith to continue taking as many shots as they do without converting them at a higher rate.
Are They a Good Defensive Team or Not?
Heading into the season, the Knicks were supposed to be an elite defensive team.
In 2011-12, they finished fifth in defensive efficiency, and Tyson Chandler was crowned the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year.
Mike Woodson did a great job of getting everyone on the roster to buy in, and with so many veterans added in the summer, the team looked like it was going to continue to make strides on D. So far, it just hasn't worked out, despite the personnel on the roster.
The main problems for the Knicks have come on the perimeter. Raymond Felton was never a great defensive player, and this year he's continued to be mediocre guarding the point.
Felton has mostly been sharing the backcourt with Smith and Jason Kidd, and both have struggled due to a lack of effort and age, respectively.
Iman Shumpert's return looked like it was going to change things, but until recently, he hasn't looked like the same player he was in his rookie year.
As Shump continues to improve following the injury, he should be able to shore up the perimeter, but he can't do it on his own. Felton and Co. will need to step up too and stop making it so easy for opposing guards to get inside.
In the paint, the key for the Knicks is health. Tyson Chandler does a fantastic job inside, but as with Shumpert, he isn't good enough to do it all single-handedly.
Luckily for the Knicks, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby are both available off the bench, and are capable of bringing the defense the team misses when Chandler is off the floor.
If Camby can stay relatively healthy, and Martin can get in game shape, the Knicks should be just fine in that regard. Until we see it actually play out, however, it can't be something we bank on.
Was Their Early-Season Play Just a Mirage?
For the most part, this season has really been a tale of two halves for the Knicks.
In the first couple of months, the Knicks played dominant basketball. They were one of the best offensive teams in the league. Though it wasn't perfect, their defense was relatively good as well.
Since late December, things just haven't been the same. New York has hovered around .500 since then, playing mediocre basketball and just about managing to hold on to a top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Injuries, rotation changes and tiredness have clearly had their impact on the Knicks. As a result, it's still hard to tell which of the two teams the Knicks are.
The best way to look at it is to see the early-season Knicks as an example of what they can be, if they play the right way.
If everyone on the team buys into ball movement and defensive effort, the team has a high ceiling, but if the offense is stagnant and the defense is lackluster, they will be no more than an average playoff team.
The reality is that the Knicks do have a talented, deep roster, but they aren't making the best of it at the moment.
Time is running out for Woodson to make the necessary changes, and if they don't come within the next month, it's hard to see New York making much noise in the playoffs.
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