On paper, the New York Knicks are in a tough spot.
The Brooklyn Nets, New York’s crosstown counterparts, scooped up two savvy veterans in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for a heap of draft picks and the pu pu platter of Gerald Wallace and others. The Indiana Pacers quickly re-signed behemoth David West and stole Chris “I Get Buckets” Copeland to shore up a wanting bench. The Chicago Bulls will get MVP guard Derrick Rose back on a strong ACL, and the Miami Heat are still the Miami Heat.
All signs point to a relapse for New York, a stumble back to the middle of the Eastern Conference’s Rat Pack (Atlanta, Milwaukee, Washington, etc.) But with scoring champion Carmelo Anthony leading an annoyed, younger and hungrier Knicks bunch, the Knicks have all the tools to be contenders next season.
Why does New York stand a chance to make some noise this season? Let’s check it out.
1. The Andrea Bargnani Effect
Since the deed was done at the start of free agency, folks everywhere have decried the trade that brought Andrea Bargnani to New York City.
For contract reasons, they have a point: Bargs carries a huge cap hit ($12 million this year, $12 million next year depending on cap) for a team looking to escape large salaries and certainly hasn’t lived up to the hype that follows a No. 1 overall draft choice. (At least he ain’t no Kwame Brown.)
But for basketball reasons, this is a trade that instantly improves New York. Minus the first-rounder New York parts with (top-15 protected, which would possibly net Toronto a rotation player in an average draft year), Bargnani replaces two dead playoff bodies with one solid rotation big. Steve Novak was fish food for the sharks in Boston and Indiana, and Marcus Camby moved around last year like he’s ready for a car designed by Edward T. Welburn.
With Bargnani, the Knicks don’t have to run from small ball. Allow Carmelo to post on the right block (his preferred area of operation, according to CourtVision) and let Bargs dine on wing threes (career 36 percent from three, per Basketball-Reference) and opposite-block high-post jumpers.
On defense, anything’s an upgrade from the matador Novak, and if Bargnani can give New York anything close to his usual five to six rebounds per game (averaged 3.3 boards for a career-low last year), the Knicks can play him and not bleed profusely on the defensive end.
2. Amar’e Stoudemire Will Be Back and Better than Ever
Let's look at Amare Stoudemire’s games played since 2009:
2009-10 = 82 games
2010-11 = 74 games
2011-12 = 47 games
2012-13 = 29 games
Yikes. However, for the first time during the Mike Woodson era, Amar’e is healthy to start training camp. Woodson has openly expressed a desire to involve Amar’e in the offense but wants to limit Amar’e's minutes to protect his health, per Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Even though Amar’e voices his discomfort with the minutes cap, the stats prove otherwise. Last year, per Basketball-Reference, in a per-36 sample size Amar’e boasted a respectable 21.8 points and 7.7 rebounds. If Amar’e can duplicate his ability to do more with less, the Knicks will have themselves a serious offensive weapon off the pine.
Now, here’s hoping Amar’e can play above sieve-level defense.
3. Metta World Peace
“No need to look at the contract,” World Peace said. “What’s the number, a dollar? Just give me the paper, I gotta sign that.”—Metta World Peace, in an interview with MSG Network.
He wants to stop animal abuse, is a beast at cornhole, told ClevverNews (h/t ESPNNewYork.com) he wants to change his name—again—and is cool with signing his services away for what equates to a large tip at Clyde Frazier’s in Midtown West. Is there any other reason not to love this signing?
Metta is a true small forward for a team bereft of those types, a defensive body who can meddle with the timing and intricacies of opposing defenses and play big or small where necessary. He’s another ready-made playoff body for a team looking for a rotation and an identity.
The prodigal son has returned.