After a highly successful regular season last year, Mike Woodson's crew fell short in the playoffs and bowed out much sooner than they hoped.
With the core of stars returning, along with a couple key newcomers, New York aims to outdo its 2012-13 results and give the Miami Heat a legitimate challenge in the Eastern Conference. However, it won't be easy because contenders such as the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets are equipped and eager to dispatch the Knicks.
Knicks 2012-13 Results
- 54-28 record (.659)
- 1st in Atlantic Division
- 2nd in Eastern Conference
- Lost in Eastern Conference Semifinals to Indiana Pacers (4-2)
Key Stats: The Good and Bad
The Knicks lit it up from beyond the three-point arc in 2012-13, sinking an NBA-best 10.9 triples per contest.
Although they hope to strike a better inside-out balance this season, they definitely would love to shoot in the neighborhood of double-digit threes in 2013-14. Woodson hopes Andrea Bargnani and Tim Hardaway Jr. can replace the perimeter production of departed shooters Jason Kidd and Steve Novak.
On the uglier side, a stat that New York needs to improve upon is assists.
With a league-worst 19.3 assists per game, the Knickerbockers struggled to sustain ball movement and work the ball inside. Part of this is due to isolation-oriented players such as Anthony and J.R. Smith. But part of it is due to a scarcity of low-post finishers and the one-dimensional nature of Tyson Chandler.
Biggest Storylines Entering Training Camp
As the squad welcomes new pieces and prepares for the excitement of a fresh start, a recurring theme dominates this franchise: Can a team led by Carmelo Anthony win a championship?
Woodson will do everything in his power to mold his re-tooled unit during training camp and preseason games, but Anthony's volume-scoring style of play may hit a wall against versatile teams like Miami and Indiana.
The secondary narratives surrounding this squad involve 'Melo's sidekick gunners.
Bargnani gives the Knicks a talented stretch 4, however Woodson must be careful Bargnani doesn't diminish the club's efficiency or damage Anthony's effectiveness.
Meanwhile, two concerns loom over J.R. Smith. He must finish recovering from his left knee surgery and return smoothly from a five-game substance abuse suspension. Later, he will aim to redeem himself come playoff time and avenge his abysmal 2013 postseason.
Key Additions & Losses
Key Additions: Andrea Bargnani, PF (Two years, $23.4 million remaining); Metta World Peace, SF (Two years, $3.3 million remaining); Tim Hardaway Jr., SG (Four years, $6.5 million remaining)
Key Losses: Chris Copeland, SF (Three years, $10 million with IND); Steve Novak, SF (Three years, $10.9 million remaining with TOR); Jason Kidd, G (Retired)
Biggest Addition: Andrea Bargnani
General manager Glen Grunwald brought some Euro-shooter flavor to the Knicks when he traded Novak, Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson to the Raptors in exchange for Bargnani.
Injuries and inefficient shooting (31 percent on threes in 2012-13) soured his final season in Toronto, but the reality is that Bargnani is a 7'0" asset who can shoot. He has a soft touch and can score inside and out, even though he doesn't own a powerful post game.
If he can operate harmoniously with 'Melo, New York will have a potent offense that can spread defenses out and fill up the hoop from everywhere.
Biggest Loss: Chris Copeland
Novak is a one-dimensional player, and Kidd was a shadow of his former self, so Copeland is the most painful loss for New York.
He provided quality production during his irregular playing time in 2012-13, as he used his 6'8" frame to shoot over defenders and slash to the bucket. Copeland is a 29-year-old sophomore on the cusp of achieving his NBA potential, so the Knicks will miss his boost off the bench.
*Depth Chart includes players with non-guaranteed contracts or training camp invites
Training Camp Battle to Watch: Bargnani vs. Stoudemire
While this Amar'e Stoudemire isn't the healthy, ultra-explosive version we knew from the Phoenix Suns, he will compete to steal as many minutes as he can from Bargnani at the 4.
This positional battle won't be the most intense one ever, but it's extremely interesting because there's playing time at stake.
The struggle features two sharply contrasting power forwards. Bargnani is more of a perimeter shooter who occasionally works inside, while Stoudemire thrives when he's rebounding, rim-running on the pick-and-roll or beating opponents by facing up.
Bargnani might be younger, and he can stretch opposing defenses better, but Stoudemire will compete for playing time because he can play a physical brand of hoops that the Knicks will need. STAT is one of the only players on the roster who can work for position and create some deep-post offense.
The Italian newcomer should ultimately win the battle, but Stoudemire can boost his stock throughout training camp and earn a major role. It remains to be seen whether the Knicks will actually limit STAT to 20 minutes per game, as the NY Post reported.
Battling For A Roster Spot: Tyler vs. Murry vs. Diogu vs. Powell vs. Smith
There are only so many roster spots available, so a small handful of Knicks hopefuls will duke it out to make the regular-season squad.
With Earl Barron's free-agency status still uncertain, New York enters camp with non-guaranteed invitees Toure' Murry and Chris Smith fighting to prove they can handle the ball and serve as playmakers. In the frontcourt, they will watch power forwards Ike Diogu and Josh Powell scrap for a roster spot while Jeremy Tyler is sidelined for the next month-plus after foot surgery.
Murry's size and skill give him a great chance to make the squad, while Smith's abilities give him slim odds of making the cut.
Can any of the frontcourt applicants snag the final spot? Ike Diogu has the most NBA experience, but Tyler might be the best fit for the Knicks once he heals.
Biggest X-Factor: Iman Shumpert
Third-year shooting guard Iman Shumpert is one of the most versatile performers in the Knicks' lineup, as he can defend, create his own jumper, slash to the rim or pass.
His defense is unquestionably stout, and he'll persevere as one of the premier stoppers in the NBA in 2013-14.
The aspect of his game that makes him such a wild card is his offense. Can he consistently attack, make good decisions and shoot a high percentage?
Best-case Scenario: Shumpert builds on his glimpses of mid-range success, continues to drive hard to the tin and knock down spot-up opportunities. He scores 15 points per game while spearheading the backcourt defense, and his presence helps New York compete with Indy and Chicago.
Worst-case Scenario: Shumpert's offensive lapses lower the Knicks' offensive ceiling, as he's not assertive 100 percent of the time and fails to achieve high-percentage shot opportunities. He scores around 10 points per game and forces New York to rely on Smith too much.
Knicks Best-Case Scenario in 2013-14
Bargnani fits in smoothly, World Peace makes significant contributions and Shumpert has a breakout year. Stoudemire finds a way to stay healthy and play defense, and Anthony takes care of the rest as a prolific scorer.
The team wins 54 games again, wins the division again and reaches the conference finals to face the Heat.
Knicks Worst-Case Scenario in 2013-14
If Bargnani creates chemistry problems for Smith and Anthony, and Iman Shumpert makes little progress, this team could easily slide toward .500 and flirt with missing the postseason. A lack of inside-out balance could lead to a roller-coaster season offensively.
A perfect storm of underachieving would lead to a 42-40 record and a seventh or eighth playoff seed.
New York won't likely duplicate the hot start it enjoyed in 2012-13, so it's going to be difficult for the Knicks to match the 54-28 record they posted en route to the No. 2 seed.
Tyson Chandler will supply terrific post defense and rebounding, and Stoudemire can be dangerous when healthy, but the club will struggle to get big-man offense throughout the year.
Anthony will score 27-plus again, and Smith will score 15-plus, but it won't be enough to overcome the competition in the Eastern Conference. Indiana, Chicago and Brooklyn will all leapfrog the Knicks.
Prediction: 46-36, No. 5 seed in East, lose in first round.
We've got a long way to go until playoff time, but these upcoming weeks of training camp and preseason games can go a long way to set the tone for the season.
With loads of variables up and down the roster, it should be an entertaining autumn as Woodson puts together the squad he feels is best suited to contend.
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