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New York Knicks: Ranking the Five Biggest Items Left on the Offseason Agenda

Zach GewelbCorrespondent IIAugust 18, 2013

New York Knicks: Ranking the Five Biggest Items Left on the Offseason Agenda

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    Despite limited cap space, the New York Knicks have had a very productive offseason. They managed to re-sign Pablo Prigioni, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin and also acquired the services of Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Beno Udrih, to name a few.

    While the Knicks have made the necessary moves to become a deeper team and keep up with the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers, their offseason checklist is not yet complete. New York still has one roster spot open and needs to decide who to bring on board to complete their roster. 

    After that, Mike Woodson has the tough assignment of developing a starting lineup and establishing a rotation. New York has one of the deepest teams in the league (we'll get to that later), so Woodson will have several options when it comes to determining who to play and when to play them. 

    The Knicks' most important remaining task of the offseason is to remain healthy. Besides J.R. Smith, just about every player on the roster will enter training camp with a clean bill of health, including Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire. 

    While preseason games do not have much meaning, they will be important for New York to continue to develop the chemistry that helped lead them to the second round of the playoffs last season. These games will give Mike Woodson the opportunity to fiddle with his rotation and will give the second unit an opportunity to jell. 

    That being said, let's get started by going over the Knicks current roster. 

Preview of the Current Roster

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    Despite limited cap space, executive vice president and general manager Glen Grunwald managed to make some nice moves to fill out the roster. He re-signed Pablo Prigioni, Kenyon Martin and J.R Smith in addition to drafting Tim Hardaway Jr. Grunwald acquired Andrea Bargnani in a trade with Toronto and signed Beno Udrih, Metta World Peace, C.J. Leslie and Jeremy Tyler.

    I have listed all the players at their normal positions below. However, this depth chart is no indication of what the starting lineup or rotation will look like; we will get to that later. For now, here are the 14 Knicks players:

     

    PG: Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Beno Udrih

    SG: Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr.

    SF: Carmelo Anthony, Metta World Peace, C.J. Leslie

    PF: Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Kenyon Martin

    C: Tyson Chandler, Jeremy Tyler

Fill out the Roster

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    After a productive offseason, the Knicks still have one open roster spot remaining. According to an ESPNNewYork.com report, the Knicks are looking to fill that spot with another big man (via Jared Zwerling):

    Three sources have told ESPNNewYork.com this week that the Knicks are eying a big man for their final roster spot heading into training camp. 

    Among the possibilities is big man Hamed Haddadi, per Ian Begley, via Twitter

    The #Knicks have 14 players under contract so they have room to sign FA center Hamed Haddadi if they choose. He worked out w/them today.

    — Ian Begley (@IanBegley) August 16, 2013

     

    Haddadi, a 7'2" Iranian big man, has proven he can be a solid rebounder and energy guy off the bench. In 17 games with the Phoenix Suns last season, Haddadi averaged 5.1 rebounds in 13.8 minutes of action per game. Despite playing sporadically throughout his career, the big man has posted 11.6 PPG and 12.7 RPG per 36 minutes of action, via basketball-refernce.com. 

    Those numbers could help the Knicks, as they do not have any great rebounders outside of Tyson Chandler (although Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin put up good numbers as well). Haddadi can play in short spurts off the bench when Chandler needs a rest and provide similar rebounding (Chandler averages 11.5 rebounds per 36 minutes). 

    Haddadi would be a nice fit for New York, but the team is also exploring other options, including Cole Aldrich and Earl Barron, as Zwerling reported via Twitter. 

    While it is not clear which player they will sign, one thing is certain: The Knicks are looking for a big man to fill their final open roster spot. 

Develop a Starting Lineup

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    One of Mike Woodson's—and the Knicks'—remaining objectives is to develop a starting lineup. However, Woodson is in no rush to do so and will likely wait until the season gets closer to make a decision. However, Woodson has committed to three of the five spots, via Jared Zwerling: 

    After Mike Woodson addressed a small group of reporters on Wednesday at the Knicks' practice facility, one thing was clear about next season: Carmelo AnthonyTyson Chandler and Raymond Felton would start. 

    Woodson's proclamation leaves the other two spots wide open. There are several possibilities for him to choose from. Let's take a look:

     

    PG: Pablo Prigioni

    SG: Raymond Felton

    SF: Iman Shumpert

    PF: Carmelo Anthony

    C: Tyson Chandler

    *Mike Woodson used this starting five in the postseason last year and knows that this lineup already has great chemistry.


    PG: Raymond Felton

    SG: Iman Shumpert

    SF: Carmelo Anthony

    PF: Metta World Peace

    C: Tyson Chandler

    *Defense, Defense, Defense. This starting five is very intriguing and would be an outstanding defensive lineup with quality three-point shooting. 


     

    PG: Raymond Felton

    SG: Iman Shumpert

    SF: Carmelo Anthony

    PF: Andrea Bargnani

    C: Tyson Chandler

     

    *This is a solid all-around lineup. Defense with Shumpert, offense from 'Melo and Bargnani and rebounding with Chandler. 


     

    PG: Raymond Felton

    SG: Metta World Peace

    SF: Carmelo Anthony

    PF: Andrea Bargnani

    C: Tyson Chandler

     

    * This lineup keeps MWP on the perimeter and still allows 'Melo to operate in the post. 


    There are still more possibilities, but these seem the most likely combinations. I'd bet that Woodson uses the same starting five that he went with at the end of last season (with Prigioni and Felton), but he is willing to wait it out. Stay tuned. 

Establish a Rotation

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    After Mike Woodson decides on a starting lineup, he has to develop the rest of his rotation. This is not an easy process and will not happen overnight, but the Knicks' roster is filled with savvy veterans who are dedicated to the team. 

    I happen to be a fan of the two-point guard starting lineup including Prigioni and Felton, so for argument's sake, let's fill out the rotation with that lineup in mind. That leaves Udrih, Smith, Hardaway Jr., World Peace, Leslie, Bargnani, Stoudemire, Martin and Tyler fighting for minutes off the bench. 

    With this lineup, it is certain that Udrih will be the backup point guard and will sub in for either Felton or Prigioni. J.R. will reclaim his role as sixth man and will be the first player off the bench. After that, anything goes. I believe that Woodson should not have a set rotation and instead go with the flow.

    If the team is trailing early, then sub in some offense with Bargnani and Stoudemire. If the team gains a lead early, then it makes sense to use defensive specialists, such as World Peace and Martin, to keep the lead over an extended period of time rather than bring in the more offense-oriented players. 

    Hardaway Jr. is an intriguing option because there is no way to know how his game will translate to the NBA level until he starts playing. The University of Michigan product injured his wrist in Vegas during the summer league and did not get a chance to showcase his game as a member of the Knicks.

    That being said, he was a solid two-way player at Michigan and should be able to perform well if he can get on the court. I have a gut feeling that Woodson will ease Hardaway Jr. into the league, as he is a more veteran-oriented coach.

    Tyler and Leslie are bottom-of-the-rotation players right now and will likely be treated as such. However, if New York does not sign another big man, Tyler could become the backup center. He posted solid numbers in Vegas this summer, averaging 12.8 PPG and 6.4 RPG and could be a high energy guy off the bench. 

    Leslie is likely to see less action, as the Knicks have plenty of swingmen on the roster. Look to see Leslie get his chance in garbage time. Whoever the Knicks sign to be the 15th man on the roster will also likely see most of his action during garbage time. 

    With all this being said, here is what Mike Woodson's rotation may look like:

    Starting lineup

    PG: Prigioni

    SG: Felton

    SF: Shumpert

    PF: Anthony

    C: Chandler


     

    Second unit

    PG: Udrih

    SG: Smith

    SF: World Peace

    PF: Bargnani

    C: Stoudemire


     

    Offense-oriented lineup

    PG: Felton

    SG: Smith

    SF: Anthony

    PF: Bargnani

    C: Stoudemire


     

    Defense-oriented lineup

    PG: Prigioni

    SG: Shumpert

    SF: World Peace

    PF: Martin

    C: Chandler


     

    Garbage-time lineup

    PG: Udrih

    SG: Hardaway Jr.

    SF: Leslie

    PF: Tyler 

    C: 15th man (expected to be a big man, such as Haddadi, Barron or Aldrich)

Get Healthy

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    The most important task for New York this summer is to stay healthy. Besides J.R. Smith, just about everybody is injury free. Amar'e is currently healthy, but will likely be put on a minutes restriction to ensure he stays that way. 

    Felton has spent his offseason dropping some more pounds and is in terrific shape, according to Ian Begley, via ESPNNewYork:

    With the help of Washington D.C.-based trainer Keith Veney, Felton says he has lost approximately 15 pounds since the end of the 2012-13 season. He played at around 212 pounds last year and is encouraged with his new physique and the added speed it can lead to. 

    A healthy, in-shape Felton can serve as the engine to this Knicks offense. If his weight is down to about 200 pounds, he will be quicker and will be able to get to the basket without taking any punishing hits at the rim. 

    Meanwhile, Hardaway Jr. has said his wrist is healing well, via Jared Zwerling: 

    Everything is going really well. I can't wait to get back on the court with my teammates.

    Hardaway Jr. sounds motivated to make a positive impact upon his return and a healthy Hardaway Jr. can only be good for New York.

    Andrea Bargnani has been battling pneumonia while preparing to play for the FIBA Eurobasket tournament and, according to Mike Woodson, there is no timetable for his return yet (via ESPNNewYork.com):

    He has pneumonia, so we've got to be cautious of that and make sure that we nurse him back before we put him back out on the basketball floor. We're still trying to make sure he's healthy before he gets back out on the floor, and right now he's not ready to play."

    Woodson also discussed Tyson Chandler's health, which was affected by neck injury and the flu late last season. Woody said he is back to normal (via ESPNNewYork.com):

    He's put a lot of work in this summer, as all the players. We've got to make sure that they do that. I thought that was a major key coming into last season. Guys came back to camp in great shape and really got us off to a great start, so I'm expecting the same thing this season.

    With all that being said, New York is relatively healthy going into the 2013-14 season. If they can stay healthy, this will be a dangerous team that will compete for the Atlantic Division title and a top-four spot in the East. 

Have a Solid Preseason

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    The Knicks should take the preseason seriously this year and use it to continue to develop their chemistry. The Knicks can use the opportunity to bond and get closer together, as six of their seven games are on the road. Here's a look at New York's schedule, via ESPNNewYork.com:

    Oct. 9: at Boston Celtics in Providence, R.I., 7:30 p.m. 

    Oct. 11: at Toronto Raptors, 7 p.m. 

    Oct. 12: at Boston Celtics in Manchester, N.H., 7:30 p.m. 

    Oct. 17: at Washington Wizards in Baltimore, 7 p.m. 

    Oct. 21: at Toronto Raptors, 7 p.m. 

    Oct. 23: at Milwaukee Bucks in Green Bay, Wis., 8 p.m. 

    Oct. 25: vs. Charlotte Bobcats, 7:30 p.m. 

    Mike Woodson can use the preseason to develop a starting lineup and determine the rest of his rotation. The preseason is especially important for the second unit, who will have the opportunity to develop their own chemistry.

    Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. and youngsters Jeremy Tyler and C.J. Leslie will get an opportunity to show they have what it takes to compete at the NBA level. A solid performance in October can lead to more playing time and a bigger role come November.

     

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