As the 2012-2013 NBA season draws nearer, the New York Knicks are in a key position to contend for a title. They have a new look team headlined by stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, not to mention reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. On top of that, the team has added depth on the bench and has a strong second unit, albeit one on the older side.
That said, just how will this mixture of old and young play for a team that has underachieved over the past decade, and yet still contend for a title? Well, Knicks fans, there is just one reason: head coach Mike Woodson.
Woodson brings great coaching experience to the Knicks, having served six years manning the sidelines for the Atlanta Hawks before becoming an assistant in New York last season. In Atlanta, he won just 13 games in his inaugural season, but then used a tough defensive approach to turn the Hawks from perennial losers to top contenders by the time his tenure was through. In his sixth and final season with the team, he won an astounding 53 games.
Woodson continued his winning ways in New York after he took over following the resignation of Mike D'Antoni. He abandoned the pick-and-roll as the main offensive approach and let Anthony and Stoudemire assume most of the scoring duties. He also incorporated tough defensive schemes that helped the Knicks win their first five games under his watch. Overall, the team went 18-6 under Woodson.
Given how the Knicks were supposedly mired in drama at the time of D'Antoni's resignation, responding to Woodson so well is only going to help them this season. More importantly, there is plenty of depth at each position. No longer will the fans have to count on just Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire to make the big shots, though those two will probably be the ones to take over in the clutch most of the time.
That all being said, there is no reason to believe that Woodson can't turn the Knicks into title contenders. Both of the team's stars responded well to his system, and he knows how to utilize his bench in every way possible. The fact that bench shooter J.R. Smith opted for a one-year deal to stay in New York when he probably could have received more money elsewhere is testament to how much of a positive impact playing for Woodson had on him. Smith even cited Woodson as a reason for him re-signing.
Thus, while I could go on and on about how much depth the Knicks now have compared to last year's team, none of it matters compared to how much potential they have because Woodson is coach. He has a knack for turning teams around, and given how much of a pick-me-up the Knicks have needed for over a decade, he should have no problem delivering.
New York may not win a title this year or even next season, but one thing is for sure: Mike Woodson will turn them into perennial contenders that will come close and closer with each subsequent season.