2010 NBA Preseason: 10 Things We Learned About the New York Knicks So Far
With the NBA preseason in full swing, this is the best time for teams to work out their issues and come together as a team for the start of the season.
The Knicks started their first two games in Europe, but are finally back stateside to finish off the remaining slate of games before the October 27th opening night tip-off.
While most Knicks fans are cautiously optimistic for the upcoming season, there are still plenty of things they need to work on to be ready for the NBA season. However, they have all showed some promise as a unit.
The Good, The Bad, And Timofey Mozgov
The 7'1" center from Russia has been a bit of a mixed bag, but overall he has been a pleasant surprise. While he has flashed some potential, he still needs to adjust to the pace of the NBA.
Timofey needs to bulk up a bit and add some more strength, if he's expected to battle against the likes of Dwight Howard. He's not that great of a rebounder, and he will need to work on that if he wants to carve out solid minutes.
Mozgov is accustomed to a different style of basketball having played under international rules for the majority of his professional basketball career. Mozgov fouled out in 15 minutes against the Timberwolves, and is clearly foul prone. Still, they were not your typical lazy fouls. Mozgov was pushing himself out there and throwing his body around.
Even with his issues, Timofey is still a rookie and there are growing pains to be expected.
Up until now, he has been better than advertised thus far and seems to be a strong fit with the system in New York.
Mozgov has a solid shooting touch for a seven-footer. His free-throw shooting is also strong, which is always welcome for any big man.
Set to start against the Celtics on Wednesday, it will be a good test for coach Mike D'Antoni to see what Mozgov is really made of, especially if he sees some action against Shaq. This could also be a permanent move as Ronny Turiaf has been unimpressive thus far.
Right now, the starting center position appears to be wide open for the taking.
The Knicks Will Use a Deep Rotation
Mike D'Antoni has been experimenting with the roster thus far and has played as many as 11 players. He has publicly stated his desire to use a deep rotation and it looks like he may be backing up his words.
Playing 11 players can be advantageous for numerous reasons, but it comes with caveats.
Spreading out the minutes to multiple players helps to keep their legs fresh for the grueling 82-game season. The same goes for the postseason should they make it. Also, if any player goes down to injury, they will have a capable backup ready to take his place.
However, giving too many minutes to so many different players doesn't give them a lot of time to be productive. It will also cause some problems as all the different lineups will not have time to build chemistry.
Ideally, an eight- or nine-man rotation would work best. A tight-knit unit works best for most teams, and it seems to be a proven formula.
Rebounding Will Be an Issue
After trading away David Lee—one of the best rebounders in the league—the Knicks will have trouble filling the void.
Amar'e Stoudemire is a capable rebounder, but it is most definitely not his strong suit. He has yet to average double figures on the boards and the odds are against him for the upcoming season.
During their preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Knicks were outrebounded 62 to 35. The Timberwolves also managed to pull down 18 offensive rebounds compared to the Knicks' seven, giving their offense plenty of second-chance opportunities.
That is an immense gap and is unacceptable by NBA standards.
If the Knicks expect to run a lot and get out on the fast break, they have to be able to initiate it first, and it all starts with rebounding. The team certainly has the size to make a radical improvement this year and their effort on the glass will be pivotal to the team's success.
Landry Fields Is NBA Ready, and Andy Rautins Is Better Than Expected
Fields has parlayed his strong summer league into what looks to be solid minutes off the bench. He has good handles, and his jump shot is better than expected.
Landry is a two-way player and the Knicks need more of a defensive presence. If he can hone his defensive instincts, Fields can be a true difference maker.
After a poor showing during summer league, Rautins has turned his game around.
The Knicks caught a lot of flak for drafting him, but he appears ready to prove his doubters wrong.
Rautins has good range on his jumper, and has made some nice passes thus far. His playmaking abilities seem to be adjusting to the NBA level, and he could be in line for some solid minutes with his shooting stroke.
There Is No Low Post Game
The Knicks' lack of a true low-post threat has plagued the team for years, and it doesn't look like that will be changing anytime soon.
The team's best offensive threat, Amar'e Stoudemire, has more of a face-up game. With his ability to shoot the ball and put the ball on the floor, Amar'e rarely, if ever, turns his back to the basket and works his man down low.
The same goes for the Knicks other big men. Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Randolph and Timofey Mozgov will not be backing opponents down and punishing them on the low block anytime soon, if ever.
The Knicks offense is predicated on an up-tempo style, but they will be forced to use plenty of half-court sets. If their offense is stalling, a solid low-post game comes in handy to mix things up and potentially kick-start the offense.
Anthony Randolph Needs To Stay Inside The Arc
While Anthony Randolph has put a strong focus on improving his jump shot, it's clearly still a work in progress. He's got a decent mid-range jumper, but anything outside of that and Knicks fans will have to worry.
Randolph has bricked several shots from downtown already, and his offensive skill set right now is clearly better suited inside the arc.
Aside from Don Nelson being a bit senile during his late tenure with the Warriors, he didn't give Randolph a lot of minutes because of his shaky outside shot. It seems that it hasn't gotten better, and that Randolph will need to curb that trigger finger when he's on the perimeter.
Randolph is a great ball-handler for someone of his size, and he needs to focus on using that advantage to abuse opponents down low. If he doesn't improve his shot selection, it is sure to cut into his minutes as D'Antoni will not tolerate it.
Raymond Felton Still Needs Time To Settle In
Up until this point, Felton has been the main concern of Knicks fans everywhere and for good reason—he's a team co-captain and their floor general.
If Raymond isn't setting the tone, the Knicks will be in disarray on both sides of the ball.
As the starting point guard, Felton is expected to orchestrate the offense and be the primary ball-handler.
On the other side of the ball, Felton is the first line of defense. He'll be spending a lot of time at the top of the key guarding the opposing team's lead guard, and he can directly affect the outcome of any given play.
Even with his struggles, there's no need to panic.
Felton is playing with completely new teammates, and is coming from a drastically different system under Larry Brown.
Preseason is all about working out the kinks and getting ready for the regular season.
The Knicks Need to Be More Aggressive and Attack The Basket
If the Knicks constantly settle for perimeter shots, then their outlook this year is bleak.
This was apparent in their loss to the Timberwolves.
The Knicks started the game strong by attacking the hoop and penetrating the lane. They jumped out to an early lead, but things turned in favor of the Timberwolves once they began settling for outside shots that were not going in.
Danilo Gallinari, the team's best shooter, was having an off night and he shot himself out of the game. Instead of forgoing his shot in order to penetrate into the paint, he continued to settle for his jumper, much like the rest of the team, and sealing their fate in the process.
The Transition Game Will Be Key
It's no secret that Mike D'Antoni likes to get up and down the floor.
If the Knicks want to have any sort of success, they need to work on their transition game on both offense and defense.
The transition pick-and-roll will be one of their most effective plays, if run correctly. Amar'e excels in that type of set play, and the Knicks can use it to their advantage.
With the Knicks expected to shoot a lot of threes, it will also mean long rebounds. Those long rebounds will turn into the perfect transition opportunities for opponents, and it will lead to easy buckets if the Knicks cannot get back on defense.
As a whole, the Knicks are still a bit sloppy.
Offensively, the Knicks are not that polished. It's clear that turnovers are still an issue at this point.
Defensively, it is no different. The Knicks are late on rotations and communication is still a problem at times.
Hopefully all of this is worked out before opening night.