On the heels of the New York Knicks' most successful season in more than a decade, it will be important for the 2013-14 campaign to maintain a winning tone in Madison Square Garden. Training camp should serve to answer the few questions that remain as we approach opening night.
The majority of the roster is decided at this point, but it remains to be seen what Mike Woodson's rotation may look like and exactly how the bottom of the roster may shake out. Some recent news may also have an effect on camp as well.
Ahead, we break down what to monitor during the Knicks' stay in Greenburgh, N.Y. in preparation for the regular season.
What Does the Abrupt GM Change Mean for the Current Roster?
James Dolan managed to boggle the minds of the basketball world once more last Thursday, when the team announced general manager Glen Grunwald—after more than two years of above-average tenure—would be "reassigned" to a minuscule advisor role. In his place, former Knicks executive Steve Mills has returned to the organization as president and general manager.
For the purpose of this conversation, we'll suffice to call Dolan's decision a curious one and leave it at that (though I discussed the call at more length here).
The change came at a very inauspicious time, and Mills—with media day set for Monday—will be forced to endorse Grunwald's demise, which indirectly entails a dislike or distrust in this season's roster as assembled by his predecessor.
Dolan's urgency in canning the former GM displays that there was a severe disconnect between the two parties' visions. Now the owner, along with his new yes-man at the helm, are stuck with Grunwald's rendition of the Knicks.
The team expects to compete for the Atlantic Division crown once again, and teams in such positions rarely upheave the roster midseason. But with the boss demanding a change of power so soon before the journey begins, it's valid to wonder if the team's look could change at any given point this season.
The team's public comments and outlooks during camp will be their first under the Mills regime and worth keeping an ear out for.
Who Can Claim the Final Roster Spot?
The team's training camp roster is maxed out at 20 players. With 14 men signed for opening night, this leaves room for one training camp add-on to earn an NBA chance with New York.
The Knicks sorely need depth behind Tyson Chandler at the center position. With just 35-year-old Kenyon Martin and injured youngster Jeremy Tyler expected to back Chandler up, the team would benefit from adding a bona fide body down low, as to spell the starter and help avoid a repeat of Chandler's bodily breakdown from last year.
With this in mind, the team has added a big-man quartet of Ike Diogu, Cole Aldrich, Justin Brownlee and Josh Powell to camp. Tyler is rehabbing from foot surgery and will miss all of training camp, so with just $100,000 of his contract guaranteed (via ShamSports), the team may elect to drop him in favor of a healthier big.
Forward C.J. Leslie was signed after the draft, but only $200,000 of his $490,180 salary for this season is guaranteed (via ShamSports). If the Knicks view Leslie as a poor fit after camp, they could presumably eat the $200,000, cut him and dedicate the roster spot elsewhere.
In the backcourt, the Knicks will be taking a look at guards Toure' Murry and Chris Smith.
Smith is considered a long shot to make the team after failing to impress in consecutive summer leagues. A knee injury kept the younger of the Knicks' Smith brothers from camp participation last year, but he's fully healthy and ready for a chance at the NBA this season.
If we're being frank, Smith's skills aren't up to par with other NBA 15th men. He shot 29 percent from the field in the 2012 summer league and 22 percent last July in Vegas.
Murry, on the other hand, could seemingly help the Knicks right away. He's a point guard with a raw but well-rounded offensive repertoire. His 6'5" frame and ideal athleticism translates to active and above-average defense. He averaged 7.6 points, 3.4 boards and 2.6 assists in 21 minutes during the summer league.
With the Knicks' defense sorely lacking from the point position last season—opposing 1s posted a PER near 18 last year against them, according to 82games—adding an athlete like Murry would help tremendously on that end.
What Will the Rotation Look Like on Opening Night?
Ever since the team acquired Andrea Bargnani at the offseason's onset, it was clear that the rotation for 2013-14 would be much different than in the year before. With Bargnani in place, Carmelo Anthony would have significantly less opportunities to run at the power forward, which decreased the chances for Woodson's popular dual-point guard lineups.
But just one day before camp, a report from the New York Daily News revealed that oft-injured Amar'e Stoudemire, who underwent two knee procedures last season, went under the knife once again last July—his third knee surgery in 12 months.
It was unlikely that Stoudemire was going to play a prime role with the Knicks this season anyway, but this latest piece of news just about settled it. Amar'e probably cannot be relied on for more than 15-20 minutes on any given night, and his responsibilities will likely be diminished to nearly nothing by season's end.
This opens the majority of power-forward minutes to Bargnani, with Anthony bumping up to the position for a few minutes per night.
If the team surprises many, however, and chooses to stick with a small-ball starting five, Anthony could man the 4, with Metta World Peace or Iman Shumpert starting at small forward. This could open up the possibility for a Raymond Felton-Pablo Prigioni pairing—like we saw in last year's postseason—or a defensively dominant perimeter duo of Shumpert and World Peace.
The Knicks drafted Tim Hardaway Jr. with the 24th overall pick last June, which would generally translate to an immediate role with the team. But after loading the backcourt with three point men and two other shooting guards, Hardaway's chances at cracking New York's rotation will be very dependent on his training camp impact.
The Knicks' situation is unique in that they're overcrowded in both the frontcourt and backcourt, but no five-man combination can be very adequate on both ends of the court. Each unit will have its flaws. Training camp will act as Woodson's period to evaluate which ones can prove most effective.
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