October is rapidly approaching, and so is the 2009-2010 NBA season.
While the entire sports world will be focused on NBA basketball during the 2010 offseason, due to one of the highest profile free agent classes in recent memory, basketball fans should pay particular attention to this upcoming NBA season.
Whatever happens this season, could go a long way in determining where many of these available stars sign.
This is especially important in New York City, where the Knicks, who have been a laughing stock for what seems like forever, have made no secret of their intent to sign LeBron James after this season.
In fact, since Donnie Walsh took over from Isaiah Thomas prior to last season, every single move he has made, has been made with the intent on freeing up as much salary cap space as possible in 2010.
Money may not be enough, however, especially since there is a limit on what New York can offer upcoming free agents. While it's true the Knicks played a fun style of basketball last season, and were actually watchable for the first time in a long time, they still lost 50 games.
If the Knicks plan on signing any big name players, they will have to show even more improvement this season, proving to prospective free agents that the team is moving in the right direction.
So what questions will the Knicks have to answer in order to keep moving in the right direction?
Will Wilson Chandler take the next step?
Wilson Chandler was a pleasant surprise for the Knicks last season. In just his second season, Chandler close to doubled his scoring average from 7.3 PPG to 14.4 PPG. He began to draw comparisons to Scottie Pippen on both sides of the ball, and was one of the few Knicks who actually played defense.
Still, Chandler needs to continue to develop, and play more consistantly if the Knicks want to contend for the playoffs. He could eventually develop into New York's best player.
Can Eddy Curry bounce back?
Two seasons ago, Knicks center Eddy Curry average 19 points and seven rebounds per game, and was considered by some, including then coach Isaiah Thomas to be an All-Star-snub. The future seemed bright for Curry in New York, but since then, however, Curry has struggled with his game, his weight, his confidence, and his personal life.
Curry recently showed up to camp looking fit, trim, and in all around better shape than ever. Physically he seems ready to go, but will his head finally be in the game as well? If it is, and Curry can come anywhere near the 19 and seven he put up two seasons ago, he will combine with David Lee to form one formidable front court.
Will the Knicks continue to turn over the roster during the season?
One problem the Knicks had last season, was cohesion, mostly due to the constant overhauling of the roster.
Last season it was necessary, as Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni feverishly tried to purge themselves of anything that had the Isaiah Thomas stamp of approval on it, while still keeping with the plan to free up salary cap space for 2010.
Amazingly, Walsh and D'Antoni seemed to have accomplished just that, and the Knicks look like a team that should finish the season relatively resembling the one that started the season.
Having a team together for a full season, and being in the same system for two years in a row, could go a long way to making the Knicks more successful in 2009-2010 than it was in 2008-2009.
What can this team expect to get from Danilo Gallinari and Darko Milicic?
The Knicks have two European big men who were expected o do big things in the NBA, and so far, neither has reached his potential.
Darko Milicic was acquired this offseason, after being a disappointment in every place he's played since coming to the NBA as the second overall pick in 2003. His effort and desire has been questioned, and he's been labeled as soft, after drawing comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki prior to coming to America.
Danilo Gallinari's rookie season was a huge disappointment last year. He started the season injured, and the injuries piled up from there as Gallinari would appear in only 28 games for New York last season, while averaging less than 15 minutes per game.
He did show signs of being decent offensively, as Gallinari did average six points per game while shooting almost 45 percent from beyond the arc.
Both players skill sets would seem to fit coach Mike D'Antoni's style of play, but it will be interesting to see if Milicic can put past disappointments behind him and if Gallinari can stay on the court. If they both pan out, the Knicks will have a deep and versatile front court.
Will this team play any defense this season?
Any team coached by Mike D'Antoni will never be confused with the Pistons of the late 1980's, but last season the Knicks were absolutely putrid on defense.
Coach D'Antoni loves offense and scoring, and the Knicks are going to run and play in transition as much as possible. That sometimes leads to easy baskets for the other team, but for the most part the Knicks played turnstile defense, as evidenced by the 107.8 points per game they gave up last season (only the Sacremento Kings and Golden State Warriors were worse).
The Knicks did score more than 105 points per game last year, good for fourth in the NBA, so if New York can play average defense, say holding opponents to only 100 points per game, then the Knicks could find themselves in the playoff hunt.
Now the Knicks will not be a great team in 2009-10, by any stretch of the imagination, but if these five questions are answered favorably for New York, it could go a long way towards making them a playoff team, and maybe even a team that LeBron James wants to play for.
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