New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson landed the luxury of depth this offseason with the addition of four key players to his rotation: Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Tim Hardaway Jr. and C.J. Leslie.
Andrea Bargnani's presence in the lineup will open the offense for New York. He'll step in and compliment Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, as well as Amar'e Stoudemire, with his perimeter-based style of play. As Raymond Felton told the MSG Network, "Bargnani is going to space the floor from a bigs standpoint. When we play against Miami, Indiana, those guys can’t really help as much when you have a big guy who can shoot."
Bargnani possesses a unique skill set for someone his size: He isn't simply a spot-up shooter. With a tight handle on the ball and an illusive head-fake, as seen in the video below, Bargnani should have plenty of chances to score easily with all the attention Carmelo Anthony will command.
Playing alongside Anthony, J.R. Smith and Amar'e Stoudemire, Bargnani is likely to be the third or fourth option on the court, relieving him of the pressure he endured in Toronto from being a former number one overall draft pick.
In 35 games last year for the Raptors, he averaged 28.7 minutes per game—expect Bargnani, whether he starts or comes off the bench, to log a similar number with the depth the Knicks have up front. That should preserve his health for the postseason, where his perimeter shooting and versatility will be needed most.
His defensive shortcomings will also be masked by Kenyon Martin and newcomer Metta World Peace when the trio are in the lineup together.
Metta World Peace provides the Knicks with toughness and the defensive wherewithal that will be needed for New York to be taken seriously as a contender, as can be seen in the video below.
In the 2013 NBA Playoffs, against the Indiana Pacers, with Carmelo Anthony guarding David West and Roy Hibbert feasting on Tyson Chandler, the Knicks were outrebounded by an average of 10.4 boards per game. Thanks to the acquisition of World Peace, Anthony won't be susceptible to those defensive mismatches when Mike Woodson decides to run a smaller lineup on the court.
World Peace is capable of guarding all five positions over the course of a game. He averaged 33.7 minutes last season for the Los Angeles Lakers and shot 37.8 percent on corner three-pointers—shots he'll have the opportunity of knocking down regularly in New York.
He should play at least 25 minutes a game this season, splitting time at both forward positions, with an upwards potential to match and exceed last season's average, depending on the roster's health.
Rookies Tim Hardaway Jr. and C.J. Leslie could take minutes away from World Peace and other veterans on the roster, but it isn't likely that they average over 25 minutes a game combined. They'll both play off the bench and be used in situations to maintain the flow of the game, or when a burst of energy is needed.
Hardaway Jr. could emerge as the team's third ball-handler if a point guard isn't brought in through free agency.
Although he played off the ball in college and wasn't asked to distribute, the Knicks have players like Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, in addition to Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, that can create their own shots, and Hardaway Jr. would need to simply refrain from turning the ball over to be looked at as successful if placed in that position.
It would be in the Knicks' best interest to bring a true point guard aboard, however, adding another distributor besides Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, whom Hardaway Jr. should learn from.
C.J. Leslie will also have some learning to do this season, but with his slashing ability, athleticism and length, he'll contribute in some capacity when called upon. Leslie will impact the team most as a weak-side shot blocker and around the rim.
It will be difficult for him to get much playing time initially, but the 10 to 15 minutes he gets at both forward positions, should be enough for him to learn the NBA game and display flashes of promise.
The New York Knicks have had a solid offseason thus far: They added a versatile scorer, a tenacious defender and two talented youngsters with more than affordable contracts to their flashy core.