Predicting Each New York Knick's Odds of Improving or Regressing in 2012-2013
The NBA consists of hundreds of elite athletes competing for a select number of roster spots, rotations and end-of-season awards, while pursuing the team goal of winning a championship. Such close competition leads to variation in a player's performance from season to season.
Poor conditioning, age or a nagging injury can cause an athlete's production to decline, while another may blossom from the benefit of experience or in a new system which suits his style of play.
The Knicks' roster looks very different than it did last season. Starters Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields departed via free agency, and the team added Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby, Ronnie Brewer and Kurt Thomas.
Several players will be vying for playing time while attempting to carve out a niche in Mike Woodson's system. The coach's rotation will depend to a large extent on how well Amar'e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert and Brewer recover from their respective injuries, and whether aging veterans like Camby and Kidd can remain healthy for an entire season.
Here are predictions for each New York Knick's odds of improving or regressing in the 2012-2013 season.
Almost Certain to Improve
Felton had a disastrous 2011-2012 campaign with the Portland Trail Blazers. He showed up for the lockout-shortened season overweight and quickly landed in Coach Nate McMillian's dog house. The point guard shot a paltry 41 percent from the field and 31 percent from behind the arc.
Felton is anxious to prove that last year was an aberration. “I’ve been listening to all those people talk about what happened in Portland last year,” he told the New York Times. “I’m just ready to shut up a lot of people.”
The former Blazer played the best basketball of his career during 54 games with the Knicks in the 2010-2011 season, averaging 17.1 points and nine assists in Mike D'Antoni's point-guard-friendly offense.
He will not duplicate those numbers in Coach Woodson's scheme, but expect him to be quicker and more efficient than last season. Look for his field goal percentage to climb back to 43-44 percent and his three-point accuracy to be closer to his career average of 33 percent.
Will Definitely Continue to Regress
Kidd's numbers have dropped precipitously over the past two years. He shot a dreadful 36 percent from the field in each of the past two seasons and his assists—6.9—and points—7.8—per 36 minutes were by far the lowest of his career last season.
Considering the former Dallas Maverick turns 40 in March, those numbers should continue to decline.
Fortunately, the Knicks have Felton to share the load with the future Hall of Famer. Kidd shot right around his career average of 35 percent from behind the arc last season and it would be a big boost to the Knicks' offense if he could continue to knock down shots at that pace.
Likely to Show Significant Improvement
J.R. Smith will always be an erratic shooter, but last year was not a representative sample of his offensive impact. Smith played in China last year during the NBA lockout, and it took him several weeks to find his groove after joining the Knicks in February.
He shot below his career average from the field—41 percent compared to 43 percent—the foul line—71 percent compared to 74 percent—and on three-point attempts—35 percent compared to 37 percent.
Smith's efficiency improved under Coach Woodson, who took the mercurial shooting guard under his wing, and J.R. should continue to prosper this season with the opportunity for an expanded role due to injuries to Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer.
Expect a Slight Regression
Ronnie Brewer's career is heading in the wrong direction. His true shooting percentage has steadily declined over the past few years and his playing time has followed. He started 43 games for the Bulls last season because Richard Hamilton was injured.
With Iman Shumpert recovering from surgery on a torn ACL, Brewer appeared to be in line for a starting job with the Knicks, but the swing man underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee in early September and is expected to be sidelined for six weeks.
Brewer hopes to be back for the start of the regular season, though the surgery could be a major setback for a player whose strengths are quickness and athleticism. By the time he rounds into form, Shumpert may be ready to go and minutes will be hard to come by in a backcourt which also includes J.R. Smith.
Certain to Regress
Shumpert established a reputation as a premier on-the-ball perimeter defender before his rookie season came to a crashing halt when he tore the ACL in his left knee during the Knicks' first playoff game.
The original prognosis was that Shumpert would be out at least eight months. Earlier this month, he told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley that he was progressing well and the best- case scenario was that he would return between December and February.
It typically takes at least a year for an athlete to return to pre-injury form after ACL surgery. Even if Shump returns to the court on schedule, he may not regain the quickness and explosiveness he displayed as a rookie until the 2013-2014 season.
Very Likely to Improve
Nagging thumb and hamstring injuries had Carmelo Anthony in and out of the lineup during the 2011-2012 season and hindered his play when he was on the court. He also struggled with his role in Mike D'Antoni's system.
The result was Melo's lowest scoring output—22.6 points per game—since the 2004-2005 season and his worst shooting percentage—43 percent—since his rookie year.
Anthony returned to his All-Star form under Mike Woodson. The small forward was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for April, during which time he averaged 29.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 46 percent from three-point range.
Anthony's fantastic finish should carry over to this season. He lost 12 pounds after last season, according to the New York Times, and is played some of the best ball of his career for the United States National Team in London this summer.
Will Probably Regress Slightly
Steve Novak is an outstanding three-point shooter and will be an integral part of a Knicks offense that has a dearth of consistent outside shooters.
Just don't expect him to knock down a league-leading 47 percent of his shots from behind the arc again. His three-point shooting percentage will be closer to his career average of 44 percent.
Novak caught teams by surprise last season. That will not happen again. Opposing coaches will attempt to smother him the way the Miami Heat did in the playoffs, which will lead to fewer shot attempts for the Knicks' sharpshooter.
Likely to See Moderate Improvement
Speculating as to Amar'e Stoudemire's output this season is a classic glass-half-full, half-empty argument.
On the one hand, Amar'e's lack of explosiveness and drop in production can be explained by a back injury he suffered in the 2011 playoffs, from which he did not have adequate opportunity to recover due to the lockout.
On the other hand, Stoudemire has suffered back injuries in each of the past two seasons, which can be devastating for an athlete who has made a career playing above the rim.
Stoudemire was finally getting his legs back under him in March when he was sidelined with a bulging disk, indicating that talk of his decline may be premature. He should be ready to go after a full off-season of conditioning and will have a new weapon in his arsenal after working on post moves with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer.
Expect the Same
Assuming the reigning Defensive Player of the Year remains healthy, there should not be much variation in his effort or production. Chandler, who turns 30 in October, is in the prime of his career and will continue to anchor the Knicks defense.
He may see a slight drop in playing time and his overall numbers because the Knicks added a quality backup center in Marcus Camby. It is hard to imagine that Chandler will shoot 68 percent from the field again.
The one thing that could set him back is injuries. Chronic toe problems nearly derailed his career during his time with the New Orleans Hornets.
Should Experience a Slight Drop-off
Twelve years ago, nobody would have believed that the injury-prone Camby would still be playing, never mind thriving, in the NBA at the age of 38.
Remarkably, the big man led the league in rebounds per 48 minutes last season—18.8—and blocked 2.3 shots per 36 minutes for the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets. Over the last two seasons, he posted the highest rebounding rates of his career—14.2 and 14.1 per 36 minutes respectively.
With Chandler in front of him on the depth chart, the Knicks will be able to keep Camby fresh throughout the season, though it is reasonable to expect a slight drop-off in production as he continues to age.
Will Almost Certainly Decline Slightly
Thomas is entering his 18th season in the league and turns 40 in October. His game was never built on quickness and athleticism so his decline has not been as rapid as others, though he is clearly on the downside of his career.
Thomas's rebounds per 36 minutes dropped from 10.4 in 2009-2009, to 10.0 in 2009-2010, to 9.2 in 2010-2011, to 8.4 last season. That trend should continue, though he can still help the Knicks by knocking down mid-range jumpers and providing a physical presence in the paint in limited minutes.
Unless the Knicks sign another big man before the start of the season, Thomas, along with Camby, will be backing up Stoudemire at power forward.