Iman Shumpert's development will be vital for the Knicks to succeed in 2013-14.
The New York Knicks' roster is solidified for the most part, so let's take a look at who could be the 15th man and which under-the-radar players can emerge as the preseason nears.
With Ivan Johnson agreeing to play in China, Murry looks like the most logical fit for the Knicks' 15th roster spot. Although New York could use more size on their front line, salary cap restrictions prevent general manager Glen Grunwald from signing anyone of prominence.
Murry, a 6'5" point guard with long arms who can defend three positions if necessary, would allow head coach Mike Woodson to run two point guard sets as much as he desires.
Sure, the Knicks could already do that, thanks to the Beno Udrih acquisition, but the depth Murry would provide at the end of the bench becomes a necessary luxury as the season progresses, and fatigue and possibly injury issues arise.
Now that he is fully recovered from his torn ACL, Shumpert is capable of putting in a solid offseason's worth of work to develop the shortcomings in his offensive game.
He has a nice shooting stroke, but the lack of reps last offseason, thanks to the focus dedicated to rehabbing his knee, created the illusion—particularly early on—that he was one of those flawed shooters, destined to be bricklayers.
Shump should remove all doubt this season as he'll have the pleasure of starting the year in rhythm, rather than adjusting to the pace of the NBA game and figuring things out on the fly.
It'll also help that the Knicks want to see him elevate his scoring ability and be a consistent threat on the perimeter and in the lane.
He's a phenomenal finisher and above-average slasher, but he has yet to take the ball off the dribble and create for himself and others at will. With the Knicks' coaches poised to pull out all of his offensive potential, expect Shumpert to be more aggressive, confident and explosive on the offensive end.
As a 6'10" 22-year-old, Tyler provides the Knicks with a talented young piece worth fawning over.
His career has been a bit lackluster, despite playing only 63 NBA games, but a lot of that can be attributed to a few youthful mistakes.
Had Tyler gone the traditional route, graduated high school and played college basketball for a prestigious program, he would've likely been a lottery pick ready to produce against the men around him.
Instead, he went overseas and never fully honed his abilities. As a raw big man, he has a solid handle and a soft touch around the rim and from the field.
He also runs the floor well, and rebounds and defends pretty decently—something that will improve with playing time and Mike Woodson's coaching.
At the moment, Tyler's not slated to make much of an impact for the Knicks, but as the preseason rolls on, he'll display the flashes of talent that made him believe skipping his senior year of high school was wise, and he'll find himself in the Knicks lineup more often than anticipated.
New York will need him to spell Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin, and if the injury bug strikes Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani like it has in years past, he'll get a great opportunity to showcase his abilities.
Tyler will surprise folks somewhat, catching lobs in transition and off the pick-and-roll, and he'll use his faceup expertise along the baseline to help spread the court, instead of clogging the middle.
Not many expect much from Bargnani. Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated even went as far to say that Bargnani "...addresses not a single one of New York’s needs."
I disagree and believe Bargnani will thrive in whatever role he takes on with the Knicks. Whether he comes off the bench or starts, he'll be reinvigorated and excited to be playing in New York.
Unlike in Toronto, where he was looked at as the franchise's No. 1 or 2 option, he'll have minimal pressure placed upon his shoulders, and instead will be allowed to shoot from three without the worry of a barrage of boos striking simultaneously with his release.
In the playoffs last year, against Indiana, the Knicks desperately needed someone to spread the court and relieve the pressure placed on Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. Bargnani fills that role.
When he's on the floor, beside Melo and Smith, he'll have two guys that will attract double teams. This will force defenders to sag off Bargnani, where he could use his mid-range jumper, or above-average ball handling ability to drive the lane.
Bargnani's offensive skill set also meshes well with Amar'e Stoudemire.
STAT needs the lane open so he could catch the ball at the foul line and make his move from there, and a lot of his issues have stemmed from Tyson Chandler clogging the paint when the two were in the lineup together. Bargnani clears those issues with his perimeter game—although that could be the worst defensive front court of all time.
Which sleeper do you think will impact the Knicks' the most?
He'll be a lot like Jason Kidd was for the Knicks last season, in the sense that he'll make the right basketball play when necessary.
Udrih will swing the ball and make that extra pass to find an open shooter, he'll carve his man off the pick-and-roll and he'll nail the open jump shot when the defense sags and fails to recover.
Unlike Kidd, however, he shouldn't ever go more than a game or two without scoring at least one basket.
Beno could find himself getting plenty of playing time, regardless of injuries, and during the preseason he will show New York how fortunate the Knicks were to land his services at the veteran's minimum.
Whether or not he can be as dominant as he once was remains to be see, but Amar'e should find himself on the court more than the 29 games he played last season.
Who he plays with on the court could determine how big of an impact he has on the offense.
Dating back to last summer, Stoudemire worked on a low post game, and with another year of his focus dedicated to scoring down low, he should be more refined and balanced when catching the ball on the block.
A few times last year, he used a spin move he most likely learned from his time training with Hakeem Olajuwon, but it wasn't as pretty and fluid as it ought to have been. Quite frankly, that was the result of his lack of playing time and familiarity with defenses.
Figuring he's healthier and able to play from the first game on, he should be able to use those moves he learned from The Dream more effectively.
To get the most out of Stoudemire, however, might come down to him and Tyson Chandler never stepping on the court together.
Amar'e, at this stage in his career, is best fit as a center and he needs as much spacing as possible to execute offensively.
The addition of Andrea Bargnani will certainly help STAT, but because of the two of them being poor defenders, it may be more likely that we see Stoudemire in the same frontcourt as Metta World Peace and Carmelo Anthony.
If that's the case, there'll be more chemistry brewing between Amar'e and Melo, and they both should have plenty of easy chances playing off of each other's abilities.
Stoudemire will redeem himself this season, just as long as his body doesn't betray him.