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Knicks Preview: Reeling or Dealing?

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Knicks Preview: Reeling or Dealing?
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The Knicks will soon begin training camp in Charleston, SC, with what is expected to be an improved roster.  

However, closer analysis shows that Knicks fans may be in for another disappointing season. 

The team is still a turnover machine with no defensive stoppers.  Stephon Marbury eats the PG minutes but can't run the offense effectively. 

Unfortunately, not many available players would fit well on the Knicks' unbalanced roster. 

Andrei Kirilenko of the Utah Jazz is asking for a trade, but he wants to play power forward and get shots down low. Sorry, but Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry will be clogging the lane in New York. 

Ron Artest wants to be a franchise player, but that can't happen with the Knicks as long as Isiah Thomas insists on making Curry his centerpiece. 

Jared Jordan plays like John Stockton—the 43-year-old John Stockton, maybe, but that's still not bad. His perceived defensive inadequacies could be fixed with shot blockers behind him, but the Knicks don't have them...and probably couldn't pry Jordan from the PG-challenged Clippers anyway. 

And journeyman PG Carlos Arroyo? He could be a match, but maybe there's a reason he hasn't been able to keep a starting spot in an NBA lineup. 

As it stands, then, the Knicks will enter training camp with a perplexing combination of talent, attitude problems, and poor decision-makers...

 

Starting Five

PG: Stephon Marbury 

Marbury either knows his skills are diminishing and doesn't care, or still thinks he's a superstar. 

Both are a problem for the Knicks. 

"I'm working hard and sticking with my program that I've used the last seven or eight years," Marbury said when asked about his offseason preparation.

Has Stephon noticed that his stats have declined the last seven or eight years? A look at baketball-reference.com reveals that more than just his fantasy stats have diminished.  He had the lowest PER of his career at 15, well below his career average of 19.  Chauncey Billups, by comparison, maintained a PER of over 21 even though he is five months older than Marbury. 

Marbury admits that he's played a lot of basketball and his body is wearing down, so why won't he change his training regimen?  Instead of working harder, he's selling shoes, going to court, and embarrassing himself in front of the media.

SG: Jamal Crawford

Crawford will once again be a streaky player with absolutely no concept of shot selection.  He's the Knick most likely to score 40 points in any game...and then follow it with two points the next night. 

The media claimed his defense improved under Larry Brown, but he still can't be considered a good defender.  He runs two plays: 1) dump inside to Curry, and 2) dribble around and launch a wild shot.

SF: Quentin Richardson

Richardson once again enters the season expected to be the Knicks' long-range shooter.

He also once again will probably get hurt and shoot for a very low percentage. 

If Richardson's back holds up, the SF position could be significantly improved

PF: Zach Randolph 

The newcomer is a "big man with a rare combination of power and agility," according to the Knicks' team page. 

A 6'9" power forward is hardly a big man. 

If by power they mean "ability to rebound the ball," the Knicks already have multiple "powerful players," including David Lee, who averaged a double-double in his second season, and Randolph Morris, who averaged a double-double in the Summer League.

The Knicks must hope that Randolph's defensive ineptitude stems from laziness rather than being too small or too slow.  But with a leader like Marbury, the younger Knicks have no positive example to learn from. 

Furthermore, if Randolph is such a stud, why did his old team finish with the first overall draft pick despite having the Rookie of the Year and a SF in Ime Udoka (released by Thomas last year) who has been compared to Bruce Bowen?

Fortunately, Randolph possesses an extraordinary offensive repetoire to go with his excessive usage rate, turnover rate, and miniscule assist rate.

IconC: Eddy Curry

Curry seemed to improve last year, but that was mostly an illusion. 

His rebounding and scoring numbers rose because he played more minutes—despite his lack of conditioning, defense, or passing ability.  His rebounding rate actually declined.

The offense revolved around him, so naturally he got more shots. 

Even with the experience of being the primary scorer, though, Curry didn't learn how to pass out of double- or triple-teams.  It's a mystery what training camp and practice are for.  His turnover rate was a career high, and he possesses a legendary ratio of turnovers to assists, blocks, and steals combined.

Curry's defensive style closely resembles that of any of the chairs that Yi Jianlian dominated before the NBA Draft.  If he works on awareness and conditioning this year, maybe Isiah's plan to make him the focus of the offense will work.

 

The Bench

Jared Jeffries' only skill is "long arms."  He has not and will not improve.  Look for him to get hurt or play poorly. 

David Lee, meanwhile, should return from injury to resume his role as a fan favorite. Last season, Lee averaged 10.7 points and 10.4 rebounds on 60 percent field goal shooting.  His performance at the free throw line improved dramatically in '06-'07, and he's been working on his midrange shot this summer. 

If Lee gets enough playing time, he could be a star.  Before you dismiss his stats as the result of playing on a lousy team, remember that the Knicks were at .500 when Lee went down. He also dominated in the Sophomore-Rookie game.  Lee's player win% of .931 overwhelms Curry's player win% .338, just one indicator that Lee should get more of Curry's minutes.

The rest of the Knicks roster features young players with scant chance of getting regular playing time, despite an undefeated performance in the Summer League. 

Rookies Wilson Chandler and Demetris Nichols may be assigned to the NBDL, but a ride on the bench or release seem more likely.  Randolph Morris should play backup center.  Fred Jones and Dan Dickau can play the point, but at least one will probably be released. Since Isiah Thomas waived Matt Barnes and Ime Udoka in the last two seasons, respectively, his penchant for waiving promising players may continue.

Renaldo Balkman is an energy guy, and can be inserted into the lineup to embarrass the guys he replaces.  Mardy Collins can foul hard, and has displayed a balanced game with allegedly solid defense.  He doesn't play enough minutes to give an accurate reading.

Firecracker Nate Robinson dominated the Summer League en route to an MVP award—but that performance was rumored to be a showcase of his talent, and he may have earned his ticket to a new team.

A reasonable prediction for the '07-'08 Knicks is 41-41.  In an improved Eastern Conference now boasting Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, that should be good for eighth place in the East.  

If the team starts slow, Isiah Thomas should be fired and replaced with a coach who can maximize the team's talent—and a GM who can do more than draft players.

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