The New York Knicks are Carmelo Anthony's team. However, while formulated around the superstar small forward, the team has multiple facets that have helped make it one of the East's most competitive squads.
In the backcourt, the roster features an abundance of talent: some veterans and some rising stars.
With excellence from Anthony expected, it will fall upon the shoulders of the team's other contributors to alter its 2013-14 fate.
With depth and talent at the shooting guard position, this collection of performers will be the deciding factor as to whether or not the team can remain in championship contention throughout the upcoming campaign.
Despite the depth at the position, it would be shocking if he doesn't end the season the same way.
New York's favorite up-and-comer hasn't stolen the fanbase's collective heart on style alone. If it isn't already a foregone conclusion, it will become clear in 2013-14 that this kid can play.
Sure, Knicks fans may overrate the budding shooting guard a bit, but the praise—no matter the extent to which it is overblown—is warranted. Shumpert is an athletic, young talent whose potential can hardly be quantified.
Shumpert is a primary example. Overflowing with athletic ability, the high-flying shooting guard has become a regular on highlight reels.
However, he's also a talented three-point shooter with a mid-range game that isn't too shabby.
In just two years, his ability to lock down the opposition's most talented wing has become evident. As he gains experience and physical strength, he'll be even more lethal on that end.
Offensively, he'll continue to post a modest nine points per contest, as he did in his rookie campaign as well as the 2013 playoffs, when his playing time reached its pre-injury total. He'll contribute when needed on offense, though filling stat sheets has never been a hobby of his.
His minutes, unfortunately, won't see too great an increase, with J.R. Smith dwelling just behind on the depth chart. Nonetheless, Shumpert has earned the starting role, and court time will not be an issue. That is unless the injury bug strikes again.
The dunks and three-pointers will come in time, but Knicks fans should keep an eye out for Shumpert's intangible contributions, especially those on the defensive end.
In 2012-13, Smith garnered more playing time than his injury-riddled counterpart. He appeared in seven of the Knicks' 10 most-used lineups, with all but two featuring him at the shooting guard position.
However, Anthony's time at the power forward position will be limited in the upcoming campaign, as the addition of Andrea Bargnani allows floor spacing in the traditional set. Bargnani—a 7'0'' three-point specialist—will command time at the 4 while allowing Anthony the freedom to work the paint at his comfortable small forward position.
Thus, Smith will find the lion's share of his playing time at the 2, though he'll still garner time at the 3 in a small-ball lineup.
Once he makes his return, fans can expect the same consistent inconsistency from last season's top reserve. He'll command the second unit with ease, scoring at a high rate with low efficiency.
However, he's coming off a mediocre postseason performance, in which his less-than-stellar play resulted in a quiet free-agency period for the once-coveted Smith.
Add that to his inefficiency and fresh injury, and one shouldn't expect another award-winning performance.
Instead, expect a relatively high shooting total—though another 18 points per game may be a bold prediction—as he contributes to be a scoring spark off the bench.
The team will suffer at the expense of his passing and defense, but few other reserves have a shooting ability equal to Smith's.
As long as he keeps his off-court drama from affecting his in-game play, another stat-filled yet inefficient season should be in store.
Last year's three most common lineups all featured a dual point guard threat, and if this is replicated in 2013-14, Pablo Prigioni should receive a handful of minutes alongside Raymond Felton.
Prigioni joined the team last season, and the 35-year-old rookie performed adequately. Expectations weren't high to begin with, so anything that the 6'3'' point guard contributed was simply a bonus.
The Knicks found something they liked in his 3.5 points and 3.0 assists, and a new contract was offered to him this summer.
He's primarily a garbage-time player, as his appearances in tight games usually coincide with injuries to other guards. Still, with Jason Kidd gone, a new undersized shooting guard will likely be featured alongside Felton from time to time.
Don't expect anything special, but with his aptitude for passing, Prigioni's services will always be welcome in the Big Apple.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Though 23-year-old Shumpert may one day headline the franchise, he'll be joined by a number of other talented youths. Upcoming rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. may find himself in that group.
He left a quality first impression, with a 13-point, five-rebound showing in his summer-league debut.
If he manages to make a name for himself, his skills—which have been compared to Joe Johnson's—should result in a quality career.
That, however, will likely be in the years to come. For now, Hardaway will take a backseat to already established guards like Shumpert and Smith. He'll find his way onto the court occasionally, but he'll likely ride the pine most of the time, barring an incredible and unexpected breakout.
|Tim Hardaway Jr.||8.3||3.3||1.1||1.7||0.7|
Order reflects projected SG depth chart.
With Anthony likely returning to the small forward position, the lack of playing time will continue to be an issue.
Shumpert will receive the lead role, and his growth will be monitored from start to end. Smith will look to bounce back from a poor playoff showing and re-assert his dominance as one of the league's most potent backups.
Hardaway and Prigioni will have to scavenge for garbage time, which serves as a testament to the true depth of New York's guard collection.
Although the focus will fall primarily on Melo, the guards—who constitute the team's collective X-factor—will be the difference between a long postseason run or an early exit.