15 Bold Predictions for New York Knicks

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2013

15 Bold Predictions for New York Knicks

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    Led by NBA megastar Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks approach the 2013-14 season intent on contending in the Eastern Conference.

    They exited the 2013 playoffs sooner than they wanted, so Mike Woodson hopes the addition of Andrea Bargnani and the development of Iman Shumpert will make them a dynamic unit.

    How will the Knicks fare in the top-heavy East? Who will stand out, and who will disappoint? Can they beat the Brooklyn Nets and remain tops in the Big Apple?

    Find out as we unwrap 15 bold predictions for New York's upcoming campaign.

Tim Hardaway Jr. Will Earn 20 Minutes Per Game and Shine

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    Although he slid to No. 24 on draft night, Tim Hardaway Jr. has tremendous NBA potential.

    Through five preseason games, he's proven to be a dangerous wing, with the ability to drill triples and mid-range shots and make plays in transition. He notched double-digits in four of the five preseason tilts, looking comfortable in the Knicks offense and ready make a two-way impact.

    With J.R. Smith still not back to full strength, Hardaway will get substantial opportunities in the backcourt.

    It's up to him to make the most of this situation, and he will. Despite being on a roster packed with capable guards, Hardaway will earn and maintain a significant role throughout the season. 

Nets Will Win Regular Season Series vs. Knicks

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    If the Knicks faced the Brooklyn Nets early in the regular season, I would be inclined to project New York to win or at least split the season series.

    But the crosstown rivals don't square off until December, and then not again until late January.

    Once the new-look Nets build chemistry and get comfortable as a unit, they're going to be a force in the East. The Knicks simply don't have the wherewithal to handle all the matchups, both in the backcourt and in the post.

    If Carmelo Anthony delivers couple of colossal performances or the Nets go cold, New York could win a couple of the showdowns. Ultimately, Brooklyn has the edge to win three of the four regular-season meetings.

Knicks Will Improve to 10th in Offense

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    In 2012-13, the New York Knicks finished 11th in the NBA in points per game with 100.0 per game. Scoring champion Carmelo Anthony carried the club for many stretches, but he was supported by Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith and a slew of accurate shooters.

    'Melo's surroundings have changed a bit, yet the results should be similar, if not better, in 2013-14.

    From a spacing standpoint, it looks like Anthony and Andrea Bargnani are coexisting, and once Bargnani finds his shooting touch, they will be a potent pair.

    New York might have lost key shooters like Steve Novak and Jason Kidd this offseason, but the addition of Bargnani, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Beno Udrih should help compensate.

    More importantly, the Knicks will be slightly less dependent on the three-ball, executing a more balanced offense.

...And Regress to 10th in Defense

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    While the offense takes a small step forward, the defense will likely take a step back.

    Mike Woodson's 2012-13 veteran crew ranked seventh in the Association by allowing just 95.7 points per game, and this year's version won't be quite as successful.

    An anchor in the form of Tyson Chandler is still there, and talented stoppers Metta World Peace and Iman Shumpert will help keep the squad in the upper half of the league. But the Knicks won't have an elite defense, because it will be tricky to keep 'Melo and Andrea Bargnani on the same unit.

    Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal notes the tradeoff of keeping the two together:

    It's a safe bet that an Anthony-Bargnani tandem, similar to when Anthony played alongside Amar'e Stoudemire last year, would score frequently. But they'd likely be scored on quite a bit, too. Such lineups have logged only 16 minutes together so far this preseason. But in that time, the Knicks have notched a ridiculous 133 points per 100 plays, while surrendering a whopping 124 points per 100, according to Stats LLC.

    New York won't be as bad defensively as its preseason roster has performed, but don't expect it to hold opponents to 95.7 a night. The 96-98 range is more realistic.

Andrea Bargnani Will Average 14 PPG

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    Even though his three-point shot is a little rusty this preseason, Andrea Bargnani has managed to score in double figures in every exhibition, and he's consistently getting to the free-throw line.

    As his long-range shooting stroke returns and the Knicks chemistry improves, Bargnani will become increasingly productive.

    Is he overpaid? Definitely. A mediocre defender? For sure.

    But don't shrug off his scoring aptitude, as he possesses great offensive potential for New York. Bargnani can create his own shot inside or out, and he can stretch defenses when utilized properly.

    All-Star numbers might be too optimistic, so the Knicks will be happy with 14 points per game.

Injuries Will Take a Chunk out of New York's Win Total

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    Offensive balance and defensive chemistry are both vital to New York's championship hopes, but those projects are undermined greatly if the Knicks can't stay healthy.

    There are a number of injured or injury-prone players on the squad. Here's a quick recap of the notable maladies they're dealing with:

    • J.R. Smith (knee)
    • Amar'e Stoudemire (knee)
    • Kenyon Martin (ankle)
    • Iman Shumpert (elbow)
    • Raymond Felton (hamstring)

    It should also be noted that Andrea Bargnani is having back issues, Pablo Prigioni's elbow isn't at full strength and Metta World Peace turned his ankle last week.

    The Knicks aren't quite as old as they were in 2012-13, but they still have several banged-up veterans. Stoudemire and Felton both have a history of being sidelined, and they aren't getting any younger or fresher.

    Even if the Knicks don't suffer any major injuries (ACL, Achilles, broken ankle, etc), they'll still be worn down enough to jeopardize a top-four spot in the East.

Speaking of Injuries, Amar'e Stoudemire Will Play in Less Than 50 Games

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    If you've followed Amar'e Stoudemire's career at all, you know he's endured a bevy of injuries, particularly in the knee region.

    He's missed 25 games in a season five times in his career, and in each of the past two seasons, he's failed to appear in more than 50 games.

    His work ethic is unquestionable, and the training staffs these days do a remarkable job. However, it just seems like Stoudemire is little more than damaged goods, as leg and knee problems crop up nearly every season.

    For his sake, I hope he enjoys a bounce-back year and is a major factor in the Knicks' success. But it's doubtful that he plays much more than half the season.

Beno Udrih Will Be Invaluable

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    When New York acquired veteran guard Beno Udrih in the 2013 offseason, it was viewed by many as a move to simply add some depth and fill out the roster.

    It could end up being the move that holds the backcourt together and keeps the team competitive in the top half of the East.

    Udrih's skills and experience will come in handy off the bench, especially because Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni aren't youngster workhorses who can play the whole game. When they need rest or get banged up, Udrih will step in and keep things flowing.

    He makes smart decisions with the ball, plays hard and is a solid three-point threat. On several occasions, those traits will help support the core rotation and help the Knicks grind out victories.

Knicks Will Post Bottom-5 Rebounding Numbers

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    Part of New York's low rebounding output in 2012-13 can be attributed to efficient shooting and less chances for boards, but the Knicks are no juggernaut on the glass.

    Tyson Chandler carries more than his fair share on the boards, and Carmelo Anthony is a solid rebounder for a combo forward. Who's going to help them?

    Andrea Bargnani has never been a good rebounder, despite being seven feet tall. He's not an explosive jumper, nor does he play with the physicality and instincts necessary to thrive on the glass. The rest of the Knicks' role players don't figure to be rebounding standouts, either.

    Low rebounding totals aren't always indicative of a struggling team, but New York will have serious trouble against teams like the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets.

Tyson Chandler's Improved Jumper Will Boost Team's Effectiveness

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    Throughout the offseason, Tyson Chandler placed a priority on developing his mid-range jump shot in hopes of increasing his offensive production and helping the team's offense.

    During the preseason, he's putting that jumper to the test. So far, it's been a success: Chandler is 4-of-5 on shots 15-plus feet from the basket.

    If he can step out and be reliable from mid-range in 2013-14, it adds a new element to his game and the Knicks' attack. He will draw opposing bigs away from the bucket and open up new lanes for teammates.

    Chandler won't put up huge numbers just because he has a jumper, but he will see an uptick in scoring, and he'll keep adversaries honest defensively.

Carmelo Anthony Will Finish 2nd in Scoring Race

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    We can't really file this one under "bold predictions," because Carmelo Anthony is a lock to score in the top three or five every season.

    He'll contend for the scoring title once again because he's a gifted weapon who's inclined to carry his squad with 25-35 points nightly.

    Most of the other prolific scorers in the league are on super teams or mini-super teams, so Anthony will produce more than them. His usage percent will be 30-plus again in 2013-14, as he still by far the most important Knicks player.

    Meanwhile, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder will he hoisting a ton of shots as Russell Westbrook rehabs and the team deals without a star third option. Consequently, he'll reclaim the scoring title and dethrone 'Melo, the reigning champ.

Knicks Will Finish 46-36, No. 5 Seed in East

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    The Knicks will have a dangerous squad when healthy, and they'll have an edge against most of the Eastern Conference. When they're clicking, they can beat anyone.

    However, projecting 50-55 wins is erring toward the best-case scenario.

    The top-tier of the conference is simply too strong. The Bulls, Pacers and Nets are all considerably better than they were a year ago, and the defending champion Heat will be in the title mix again.

    As a result, New York will take a dip in the standings, finishing fifth in the East and second in the Atlantic Division.

    If Amar'e Stoudemire is healthy and strong for 75 games and Raymond Felton enjoys a career year, then maybe things would be different. But I'm not banking on that at all.

Knicks Will Go 27-14 at Home, 19-22 on Road

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    Even though New York's win total will take a significant dip in 2013-14, it will still post a superb winning percentage at home.

    Madison Square Garden remains one of the best home courts in the NBA, and the Knicks core of Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton knows how to defend it. In 2012-13, the hot-shooting Knickerbockers went 31-10 in the Garden, which helped fuel their second-place finish in the East.

    This year, they won't be quite as prolific, but they'll take care of home-court business against most opponents, winning nearly two-thirds of their MSG tilts.

No. 5 Knicks Lose to No. 4 Seed in First Round

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    Placing fifth in the regular-season standings would pit New York against the No. 4 seed in the first round, so its opponent would likely be the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers or Chicago Bulls.

    The Knicks would be without home-court advantage against superior defenders and rebounders. That doesn't bode well for a series victory.

    At the season's outset, the team's goal is much higher than a first-round loss. In fact, New York will be aiming for the conference finals or higher. But when there is so much talent toward the top of the league, 'Melo and Co. will be saddled with another early exit.

    Even if Anthony has a terrific series, it's tough to envision the club collectively coming out alive.

'Melo Will Do More Than "Dip His Toes" into Free Agency

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    Carmelo Anthony recently told the New York Observer that he wants to be a free agent in 2014, yet he stressed that he still loves New York.

    After a disappointing first-round exit in 2014, he would certainly be inclined to shop for greener (and more successful) pastures instead of picking up his 2014-15 Knicks option.

    Whether he actually finds greener pastures is another question. But he would definitely go shopping.

    'Melo won't be the sort of free agent that barely talks to outside franchises, and makes a quick decision to stay with his current team (for example, Chris Paul in 2013).

    He will deeply explore his range of options, whether it's another big market destination like the Los Angeles Lakers or a deep-pocketed winner. New York may ultimately reel him back into re-sign, but there are no guarantees.