Can Carmelo & Co. improve on last year's effort?
Despite their run to the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2013, the New York Knicks will suffer a significant regression in the upcoming 2013-14 NBA Season. Between the dilemma of fitting all of the pieces together in New York, their aging roster and the improvement of other contenders, the Knicks may just be one and done in next year's playoffs.
Can Mike Woodson Make it Work?
One of the biggest problems facing the Knicks this year will be determining what their best lineup is. Let me be clear in saying that there is plenty of talent on the roster. But Mike Woodson's ability to put the right pieces in place is half the battle.
At point guard, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni will take care of the job. The Knicks may look to acquire a veteran like Mo Williams or Beno Udrih to help out, but those players would have to accept a minimum contract in order to join the team.
Check out this article from Inside Hoops for more:
Now things get a little murkier. Iman Shumpert, reigning Sixth Man of the Year JR Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. can all play shooting guard, but Shumpert often gets minutes at small forward when the Knicks decide to play small ball.
Then there is Carmelo Anthony, whose natural position is small forward, but he played some power forward last year, too. On top of that, Metta World Peace was brought in from the Los Angeles Lakers to add a defensive spark to a team that has been far too reliant on Tyson Chandler.
At power forward, they acquired Andrea Bargnani from the Toronto Raptors in one of the most puzzling moves of the offseason.
Sure, they dumped the contracts of Steve Novak and Marcus Camby, but they also gave up three valuable draft picks. For a 7'1" man who has averaged a measly 4.8 RPG throughout his career, that may have been an overpayment.
Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire are certainly both talented guys, but neither has eclipsed the 50 games played mark in the past two seasons. Yikes.
At center, Tyson Chandler has been a defensive stalwart for the Knicks, winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and making the All-NBA Defensive Team in 2013. Though his offense has been questionable—particularly his 5.7 PPG in this year's postseason—he is a stabilizing force on a roster with a lot of uncertainties.
I've listed a bunch of different names of some great individual basketball players, but it's completely unclear as to how Mike Woodson will use all of them. Because of this, his coaching will be all the more important.
Check out this article by B/R Featured Columnist Vin Getz to see his breakdown of possible lineups.
Are the Knicks too Old?
Though this upcoming season's version of the Knicks is far different from the 2012-13 squad that ranked as the oldest in NBA history, many of the team's key members aren't getting any younger.
Carmelo Anthony is still one of the league's elite players, but he has always had durability problems. He hasn't played more than 70 games since the 2007-08 season. It's tough to win without your best player in the lineup, and at 29 it's unlikely Anthony will magically become more resilient.
At 30, Chandler likely has his best seasons behind him. He hasn't played more than 66 games in a season for the Knicks, and injury issues have followed him for most of his career.
Despite the fact that he had one of his best statistical seasons of all in 2012-13, he got exposed by younger players like Roy Hibbert in the playoffs, as you can see in the video below.
Other aging roster players for the Knicks include Metta World Peace (33) and Pablo Prigioni (36), while Raymond Felton (29) is no spring chicken, either.
You can say all you want about the Spurs vs. Heat matchup in the NBA Finals, but the Knicks aren't on that kind of talent level. It's a young man's game and the Knicks don't have many of them.
What About the Rest of the Eastern Conference?
While the Knicks were busy acquiring the enigmatic Andrea Bargnani and Mr. World Peace, other top contenders were getting better.
It's widely known that there are five legitimate teams in the Eastern Conference that will all likely occupy the top five playoff seeds next spring. These include the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, and New York Knicks. In order to improve on last year, they'll have to go through a few of them.
Though the Heat haven't had much of an offseason in terms of improving their team, only the most delusional New York sports fans would argue that the Knicks stand a chance in a head-to-head playoff matchup. Feel free to let me have it in the comment section if you truly believe otherwise.
Not only did the Pacers beat the Knicks this past postseason, they also got much better. Indiana returns a healthy Danny Granger, signed CJ Watson as a solid backup for George Hill and traded for another big man in Luis Scola.
Oh, and lest we forget, they signed the sharpshooting Chris Copeland away from the Knicks to address their biggest need. This team is significantly better.
Then there are the Bulls. It doesn't take a genius to realize that adding Derrick Rose to the team that had the third-ranked defense will make the Bulls much better. To add to that, Tom Thibodeau is one of the game's premier coaches, making this team exceedingly difficult to play against.
And, of course, I didn't forget the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets. All they did was add Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko. They may be an aging roster, but it's a deeper and more talented one than the Knicks can offer.
This leaves the Knicks as the fifth best team in the conference, which, last I checked, is still good enough to make the playoffs. But in the end, fifth place means a first round date with one of the four aforementioned squads.
Maybe in 2014-15, New York?