Biggest Questions NY Knicks Must Answer Before 2013-14 Season
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The New York Knicks received a heavy dose of reality from the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the playoffs. Mike Woodson and his staff will have to make some changes heading into the 2013-14 season.
Woodson must determine what style of play will maximize his players' abilities and give them the best shot at defeating the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. He needs to decide on a position for a few of his key players and settle on a starting lineup.
Woodson must also figure out how to incorporate newcomers Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani into the rotation, while managing the minutes of his returning veterans. It remains to be seen which combinations will develop chemistry on the court.
The Knicks found diamonds in the rough during the past two training camps. But it's too early to tell which camp invitees will fill out the back end of the roster this season and what kind of impact they may have.
Will NY Continue to Play Small Ball?
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The New York Knicks won 54 games last season playing "small ball" with Carmelo Anthony at the 4, surrounded by three shooters. With outside threats at four positions, the Knicks were able to spread the floor and keep defenses off-balance. New York ranked third in offensive efficiency and set a league record for most three-pointers in a season.
However, Mike Woodson's small lineup was overwhelmed by a physical Indiana Pacers team in the second round of the playoffs. Three of the four teams to beat in the Eastern Conference—the Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets—have big frontcourts, which could force Woodson to counter with a more imposing front line.
The acquisition of seven-foot forward/center Andrea Bargnani suggests that Woodson could move Anthony back to the 3. Yet, Melo's sensational 2012-13 season combined with the Knicks' success as a whole has to give Coach Woodson pause before making such a major change.
Who Will Be the Fifth Starter?
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Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler will be in the Knicks' starting lineup. The fifth spot is up for grabs.
Mike Woodson could opt for the same starting lineup that led the Knicks to a 13-game winning streak late last season, with Pablo Prigioni starting in the backcourt alongside Felton, and Shumpert playing the 3 spot. However, with Jason Kidd no longer on the team, Woodson may want Prigioni to guide the second unit.
Metta World Peace could slide into the 3 spot, which would allow Anthony to remain at the 4. World Peace can spread the floor and alleviate Melo's load by cross matching against physical power forwards. That would also allow Shump to return to his natural position at the 2-guard.
Reigning Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith has expressed a desire to start in the past, though Woodson likes him coming off the bench. Smith's recent knee surgery does not help his cause. The Knicks' intention to limit Amar'e Stoudemire's minutes will likely relegate him to the bench as well.
Andrea Bargnani may be the most likely candidate to fill out the starting lineup. The former Toronto Raptor has the size to defend power forwards, without compromising the team's offensive spacing. Bargnani, like Stoudemire, is a terrible defender. By inserting the Italian into the starting lineup, Woodson can assure that the two big men will not be on the floor at the same time.
What Will Amar'e Stoudemire's Role Be?
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Amar'e Stoudemire is still just 30 years old, though his body has been breaking down for a few years now. STAT played in just 29 games last season due to surgery on each of his knees and was limited by back injuries during the two prior seasons.
The six-time All-Star was still effective when we he was on the court last season. Amar'e relied on a newly developed post game to average 21.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, while shooting 58 percent from the field. However, the Knicks' spacing and defense suffered when he was in the game and his individual output did not translate into victories. New York went 16-13 in his 29 games.
According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Mike Woodson said the Knicks will limit Stoudemire's playing time this season. There will also be fewer minutes available at power forward after the additions of Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace.
Stoudemire will be with the Knicks for at least two more seasons. The $45 million remaining on his uninsured contract renders the former star virtually untradeable. Woodson needs to figure out how to utilize Amar'e skills.
4. Who Will Fill the Last Roster Spots?
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The Knicks have 11 players singed to guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season: Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani, J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Metta World Peace, Pablo Prigioni, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kenyon Martin.
Teams can dress 13 players and carry as many as 15. That leaves up to four open spots on the roster.
New York would like to add a veteran point guard for the veteran's minimum. Free agents Beno Udrih, Sebastian Telfair, and Euroleague standout Bobby Brown, who has worked out with the team twice according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.com, are all potential candidates.
Rookie C.J. Leslie has the inside track on a roster spot. The Knicks signed the 6'9'' forward to a partially guaranteed contract after he went undrafted out of North Carolina State. Leslie is a tremendous athlete and averaged 15.1 points 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots during his junior season.
According to Jonah Ballow of Knicksnow.com, big man Jeremy Tyler also earned an invitation to training camp with an impressive showing for the Knicks' summer league team. Tyler, who spent some time with the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks, has a solid frame and above-average athleticism for his size, though his game is pretty raw.
How Will Carmelo Anthony Handle Questions About Free Agency?
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Carmelo Anthony's contract extends through the 2014-15 season, though the star forward has an early termination option which would allow him to become a free agent after this season. Melo is almost certain to opt out of the deal and sign a new maximum-salary contract.
He is likely to re-sign with the Knicks, who can pay him $33 million more than any other team. However, that will not stop speculation that the Brooklyn native will sign elsewhere, especially if the Knicks struggle.
ESPN's Ramona Shelbourne and Brian Windhorst reported that the Los Angeles Lakers plan on making a run at Anthony. TMZ recently asked Melo if he could see himself playing in the purple and gold. Anthony responded, "Ummmmm, I doubt it."
The plight of superstars like Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Anthony himself has created a distraction for their respective teams. Even innocuous comments like the one Melo made to TMZ feed the media frenzy around his pending free agency. It would be in his and the Knicks’ best interest for him to state unequivocally that he will not address his contractual situation until after the season and then stick to it.