Grading the Final NY Knicks 15-Man Roster
Before the New York Knicks 2013-14 season gets underway, we're handing out grades for the final 15-man roster.
The front office and head coach Mike Woodson put together a squad that can shoot with anyone, yet the roster boasts several tough veterans who can lead a grind-it-out style.
New York won't amaze anyone at the point guard position, and it remains to be seen whether forward Andrea Bargnani will fit chemistry-wise. But the club can count on scoring production from Carmelo Anthony, interior defense from Tyson Chandler and shooters off the bench.
With Madison Square Garden ready to rock, it's time to grade this Knickerbockers lineup.
Note: Grades will be based upon productivity and how well each player fits his designated role.
Point Guard: Raymond Felton
Rank among Starting NBA PG's: Average
Greatest Asset to Knicks: Pick-and-roll prowess
Quarterbacking the New York Knickerbockers attack is a capable distributor who seeks to keep opponents off balance with his deft passing and shooting threat. Raymond Felton enters his ninth NBA season trying to prove he can direct a team deep in the playoffs.
While he's a below-average athlete and lacks elite dime-dropping skills, he's got more than enough tools to get New York where it needs to go.
His per-minute assist numbers decreased in 2012-13, but his scoring, outside shooting and passing efficiency improved. When Felton is running the pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire, he's extremely dangerous. He's also an underrated outside shooting asset, making defenses pay when they collapse on Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith.
According to 82games.com, the Knicks fared better defensively when Felton was on the bench. Athletic point guards frequently give him trouble, but that's something Mike Woodson has to live with.
His preseason involved loads of rest and inconsistent playing time, so it was tough to get a sustained look at how sharp he is. Nevertheless, the Knicks are confident he can ignite their championship pursuit.
Shooting Guard: Iman Shumpert
Rank among NBA Starting SG's: Average (Projected Toward Above-Average)
Greatest Asset to Knicks: Defense and versatility
It's hard to find anyone who isn't buying stock in Iman Shumpert entering 2013-14.
The young multi-dimensional wing could be the determining factor that makes or breaks the Knicks' championship hopes. He's the top-tier defender Mike Woodson can count on to annoy opposing swingmen, and he also brings increasingly effective scoring punch and open-floor athleticism.
He only scored 6.8 points per game in 22.1 minutes during 2012-13, but he's ready to carry more weight offensively via perimeter shooting and slashing. Of the five preseason games in which he saw 20-plus minutes, Shumpert notched double-digits four times.
Will his production make J.R. Smith less valuable? Will his defense give New York the edge it needs to reach the conference finals?
Everyone sees the tremendous talent and potential the Knicks possess in Shumpert. Knicks fans just hope he reaches his breakout moment sooner than later.
Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony
Rank among NBA Starting SF's: Elite
Greatest Asset to Knicks: Comprehensive Scoring Skills
Whether he's playing on the wing as a small forward or in the post as a power forward, Carmelo Anthony is one of the most effective scorers of this era.
Because he entered the league with LeBron James in 2003 and is also a 6'8" skilled forward, many folks wanted (and still want) 'Melo to be something he's not. Anthony isn't a next-level passer, nor can he dominate in transition or defend at an elite level.
But he can accumulate buckets, rebound well and make solid choices when double-teamed. And when I say "accumulate buckets," I mean that he's a threat to score 45 on any given night, no matter who's guarding him.
The fact that 'Melo even got an MVP vote in 2013 (during LeBron's clear-cut dominance) shows how valuable he is.
Power Forward: Andrea Bargnani
Rank among NBA Starting PF's: Average
Greatest Asset to Knicks: Shooting over any defender
Andrea Bargnani didn't blow anyone away during the preseason, so there's still some justifiable skepticism as to whether he'll truly fit in New York.
Even though Bargs didn't shoot the lights out in October (he shot an ugly 2-of-15 from three range, actually), the Knicks are confident that his combination of size and scoring touch will eventually enhance the offense and open up opportunities for the playmakers.
If he and Carmelo Anthony grow as a tandem and learn how to work off one another, the club's offense could be scary good.
Along with the offensive firepower, Bargnani brings defensive mediocrity, rebounding ineptitude and injury risk. Those detracting traits bring him down to the middle tier of NBA power forwards, and they could end up hindering the squad's progression.
As talented as this seven-footer is, we can't give him a sparkling grade quite yet.
Center: Tyson Chandler
Rank among NBA Starting C's: Above-average
Greatest Asset to Knicks: Low-post rebounding and defense
In Tyson Chandler, the Knicks know they have a strong interior presence and a guy willing to do the dirty work.
At the same time, New York can't lean on him offensively beyond pick-and-roll lobs and wide-open plays. His teammates can't toss him the ball down on the block and expect him to create much.
However, his mid-range jumper has improved over the offseason, and the Knicks are hoping he can keep defenses honest by knocking down a decent percentage throughout the year. It would add a new dimension to the offense and elevate Chandler's production and overall value.
The Eastern Conference will feature a deep stable of centers, including Roy Hibbert, Joakim Noah, Brook Lopez, Al Jefferson and Al Horford. And don't forget newcomers Marcin Gortat and Greg Oden, along with potent wild cards like Andrew Bynum, Andre Drummond and Jonas Valanciunas.
The point is, Chandler will have his hands full, and Knicks fans are glad they have his defensive efforts on their side.
Can he redeem himself after getting outplayed by Roy Hibbert in the 2013 playoffs?
Sixth Man: J.R. Smith
Rank among NBA Sixth Men: Elite
Greatest Asset to Knicks: Creating offense and energy off the bench
After a splendid regular season that earned him Sixth Man of the Year honors, J.R. Smith couldn't have been much worse in the playoffs. He tanked to the tune of 27 percent on three-pointers.
Before he gets a chance to erase that memory in 2013-14, the knee-bothered shooter must serve a five-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug program.
Let's assume everything works out, that he returns smoothly to the team and meshes with the group in all phases of the game. He could end up being in the Sixth Man award conversation and give the Knicks a proven source of reliable firepower.
But what if the marriage doesn't pan out, and Smith's streaky shooting hurts almost as much as it helps? New York would severely diminish his role in favor of emerging youngsters Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Despite the 2013 individual hardware, Smith's rough postseason and rocky offseason keep his grade relatively modest.
In positions 1 through 3, the New York Knicks have ample depth and a favorable mix of youth and experience.
Feisty floor general Pablo Prigioni will share point guard and combo guard duties in relief of Raymond Felton, and he in turn is supported by cagey veteran Beno Udrih.
Durability is the main concern with these quarterbacks. Otherwise, they possess a nice complement of skills, even if none of them are jaw-dropping playmakers. Chris Smith is clearly the weakest link, but he won't hurt the Knicks as he spends time on the bench or in the D-League.
On the wing, New York's quartet of reserve shooting guards and small forwards is impressive. Aiding sixth man J.R. Smith are Tim Hardaway Jr. and Toure' Murry, both of whom displayed poise and assertiveness in the preseason. Then there's Metta World Peace, whose defense and physicality are constants.
The frontcourt is where the Knicks' bench will get docked points, because Amar'e Stoudemire is the only scorer. He and Kenyon Martin are superb rebounders, but they each have nagging injuries and a lot of miles on their tires.
At center, New York has Cole Aldrich backing up Tyson Chandler. Not an ideal scenario at all.
Overall Bench Grade: B