Why the Knicks Will Rule NYC This Season
One of the NBA’s most anticipated story lines this season will be the new rivalry between the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets. While the Nets dominated the front-page headlines this offseason with their trade for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, the Knicks quietly made some nice additions to keep up.
When the calendar flips to late April, which team will be sitting atop the Atlantic division? Will the Knicks reclaim their division title, or will Brooklyn be crowned kings of New York?
Brooklyn’s additions will no doubt make them more competitive than last season—when they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Chicago Bulls in seven games. But are they better than the Knicks?
Let's find out.
While New York did not pull off any flashy moves, such as Brooklyn's trade for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, they managed to pick up a handful of players who have the potential to make some big contributions this season.
The Knicks added Andrea Bargnani this offseason in a trade centered around a 2014 first round pick to bolster their perimeter shooting. The Knicks lived and died by the three-point shot last season and Bargnani offers them another strong perimeter shooter (.361 career mark).
The Knicks also added backup point guard Beno Udrih in free agency for the veteran’s minimum ($1.27 million). He will be the team’s third point guard, but may actually serve as the backup if Mike Woodson chooses to start two point guards as he did late last season. Udrih, a solid ball handler who can knock down the three, provides solid depth for the Knicks.
Executive Vice President and general manager Glen Grunwald managed to re-sign J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin to keep the Knicks' bench among the deepest in the league. Smith, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, will provide scoring off the bench, while Kenyon Martin gives the Knicks a tough defensive presence in the paint.
Grunwald also re-signed Pablo Prigioni to a team-friendly three-year contract. The native Argentinian will compete for a starting spot and performed well last season. The Knicks love his hard-nosed defensive approach and full court pressure.
Grunwald's moves have put the Knicks in a position to have a better and deeper team than Brooklyn.
The Knicks' starting lineup is still in question, as Mike Woodson has only guaranteed three of the five spots. Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler will stay in the starting lineup, but the other two spots remain open.
New York has several other possible starting lineups. The different scenarios include, but are not limited to:
*This starting lineup was used in the playoffs last season.
PF: World Peace
For arguments sake, let’s say they will send out the same starting five as they did in the postseason last year. With a starting five consisting Pablo Prigioni, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, the Knicks have a lineup they know has chemistry together, something that is impossible for Brooklyn to have right now.
Meanwhile, Nets coach Jason Kidd has a great starting lineup on paper in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez. However, Kidd and Williams will have to find a way to keep everybody happy with their number of touches, which is no easy task.
The Nets may very well wind up with a better starting lineup than the Knicks if they can jell and work out their chemistry. Until then, the Knicks will have the edge, especially if they go with last year's playoff starting lineup.
The Knicks have one of the deepest team's in the league after their productive offseason. Despite limited resources, Glen Grunwald has pieced together a team that has depth at every position.
New York has Beno Udrih to come off the bench either as the backup point guard or third-string point guard, depending on the starting lineup (if Prigoni and Felton start, Udrih becomes the backup). Udrih has proved he is solid three point shooter and has only turned the ball over 1.5 times per game in an average of 23.5 minutes per game (via ESPN).
The Knicks will need the reigning sixth man of the year, J.R. Smith, to be more consistent this year than last. However, Smith is currently recovering from knee surgery and his status for opening night is in doubt. If Smith can return to full strength and perform well, he gives the Knicks an elite scorer off the bench, something Brooklyn lacks.
It is also possible that New York will have three big men available on the bench to back up Tyson Chandler. Andrea Bargnani, Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire each offer something different and Woodson will need to find ways to play to their strengths.
Bargnani is a solid three-point shooter, Amar'e has a solid mid-range game and K-Mart is the best defender of the three. Woodson will need to make time for all three to get on the floor.
Brooklyn has also invested in their bench this offseason. They added Jason Terry in the trade with Boston to give them a scorer off the bench. While Terry is a solid offensive player, he is nowhere near the level of player as J.R. Smith (at least not anymore).
The Nets also added Andrei Kirilenko to their bench this summer. Kirilenko is the ultimate glue guy who will play more than most people think in part to the advanced age of Garnett and Pierce. The two veterans will likely get more rest than they have in the past in an effort to keep them fresh for the playoffs and Kirilenko is sure to get some of those minutes.
Brooklyn shored up their backup point guard situation after signing Shaun Livingston to a one year deal worth the veteran’s minimum. The 27-year-old is a solid ball-handler and has only averaged 1.5 turnovers per game for his career.
In one of the most under-the-radar offseason moves, Brooklyn managed to retain big man Andray Blatche with a one-year contract worth $1.4 million. This signing is huge for Brooklyn because Blatche gives Brooklyn a solid big man off the bench to spell Garnett and Brook Lopez.
While Brooklyn significantly improved their depth, New York's bench is much deeper. The Knicks have more big men off the bench and still have plenty of shooting with Smith and even Metta World Peace. Brooklyn is not too far behind, but New York's bench is one of the deepest in the league.
While Brooklyn made a flashy move and hired future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd to be the head coach, Mike Woodson will once again be coaching the Knicks this season. Kidd has years of playing experience, but no coaching experience at the NBA level (or any level)—Woodson has both.
Kidd has always been a cerebral player and has demanded respect from his teammates by leading by example on the court over the duration of his career. However, coaching will be a difficult transition, according to Patrick Ewing.
In an interview with ESPN New York 98.7 radio (via Jared Zwerling on ESPNNewYork.com), Ewing explained the difficulty he had transitioning to an NBA coach and how Kidd will have a more difficult time doing so.
It was a big difference for me going from a player to an assistant coach when I did it in Washington. When you're a player, you don't realize how much time commitment that being a coach is...But then going to being a head coach, the buck stops there with him. That's where all the heat's going to be going.
Meanwhile, Mike Woodson has seven years of experience as a head coach. Woodson coached the Atlanta Hawks for six seasons before coming to New York and experienced both the highs (53 wins in 2010) and the lows (13 wins in 2005).
He was brought to New York for the 2011-12 season to serve as a defensive assistant to then head coach Mike D'Antoni. Woodson took over in March after D'Antoni's firing and led the Knicks to an 18-6 record to finish the season. Then, Woodson led New York to a 54-28 record and a playoff series victory last season.
While Kidd may, and most likely will, make a great head coach some day, there will be a steep learning curve this season. Woodson has the experience and because of that, I have to give the coaching edge to the Knicks.
The Knicks will have great chemistry this season. Mike Woodson knows how to get the most out of his players. He demands respect and holds each and every player accountable for their play.
Meanwhile, Kidd is still learning the ropes of what it takes to be a coach. Can Kidd hold players accountable? Probably, but not the same way Woodson does. Woody is a disciplinarian, while Kidd has always led by example as a player. Will his relaxed style work for Brooklyn? Having KG and Pierce certainly helps, but Kidd will have to put his foot down when necessary to gain the respect he needs as a coach.
Kidd also has the challenge of having a new team. The Nets will be trying to jell with two new starters (Pierce and KG) and a completely new second unit (Blatche is the exception). Woodson has the option to go with a familiar starting five which already has great chemistry.
Time will tell, but right now, Woodson and the Knicks have better team chemistry than Brooklyn. Their camaraderie is the biggest difference between New York and Brooklyn right now.