As I think about the New York Knicks, I find myself wondering if they squandered their best opportunity to win a championship last year? The Knicks were well positioned to challenge the Heat if they could catch them in the Conference Finals. They matched up well with the Miami Heat. They were 3-1 against the Heat last season with all wins coming via blowout. They seemed to be the Heat's kryptonite.
The Knicks unfortunately couldn't get to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Instead they flamed out against the gritty Indiana Pacers in six games.
With Miami adding some new pieces, Indiana getting Danny Granger back and adding some key free agents, Chicago getting Derrick Rose back and Brooklyn going all in, last season might have been their chance.
Perhaps the most interesting story line to watch in NYC will be what effect adding Metta World Peace will have when paired with some other "interesting" personalities already in the room. I'd take the job of following J.R. Smith and MWP for the next 9 months to just to see what sort of mayhem may find them.
Head Coach: Mike Woodson might already be on the hot seat with the Knicks because owner James Dolan is in love with Isiah Thomas and is looking for any reason to bring him back to the Knicks. (WHY?!?)
This is Woodson's ninth season as a head coach - he's 278-320 in regular season games (72-34 with the Knicks) and 18-28 in the playoffs. He took a putrid Atlanta franchise, turned them around into perennial playoff team.
Yet, he's likely going to have to spend the season looking over his shoulder at man who was 56-108 in two seasons as Knicks coach with zero playoff appearances.
Joining Woodson on the bench this season is Herb Williams, Darrell Walker and Jim Todd.
Last Season's Record: 54-28
Player Losses: Jason Kidd retired and promptly became the Brooklyn Nets new coach. Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson and Marcus Camby to the Toronto Raptors. Chris Copeland left via free agency, signing with the rival Indiana Pacers.
Player Additions: In a huge irony, Tim Hardaway Jr. was drafted in the first round. I wonder how dad feels about that? Andrea Bargnani came back from Toronto in the trade. The Knicks signed former Thunder first round draft bust, Cole Aldrich, added Ike Diogu, brought in Beno Udrih to be one of the main backup guards, signed undrafted rookie C.J. Leslie and signed the recently amnestied Metta World Peace.
Best Player: Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks and the NBA in scoring last year with 28.7 ppg, accounting for roughly 30% of the Knicks offense. With how the Knicks are built this year, look for him to eclipse that scoring number this coming season.
Anthony is an underrated rebounder for his position (small forward playing the power forward position) when he wants to be. Where he has to improve this coming season is ball movement. His assist rate per 48 minutes is 3.1. Once he gets the ball he can't let the possession end with him shooting the ball.
Worst Player: This comes down to Cole Aldrich and C.J. Leslie. Not sure if either makes the roster out of the preseason.
Player due to breakthrough: Iman Shumpert is going to have to work hard to keep World Peace from taking his starting spot at small forward. Fully expecting Shumpert to answer the call and actually become the second best scoring threat on the Knicks this season. Getting his field goal percentage (39.6) higher than his three point shooting percentage (40.2) will be the key there.
The Starters: Raymond Felton is back at point guard, Pablo Prigioni probably starts at the two, Shumpert at small forward, Anthony at power forward and former defensive player of the year, Tyson Chandler, will be starting at center.
The Bench: This could be a strength or weakness for the Knicks this year. It all comes down to age and injuries and focus with Stoudemire, Metta World Peace, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Andrea Bargnani and Udrih expecting to take most of the minutes off the bench.
Random Seattle Connection: None that I could find.
Best Case Scenario for the Season: Everyone stays healthy, Anthony trusts his teammates, Shumpert develops as a reliable scorer and J.R. Smith and World Peace don't go absolutely crazy (is there a line on this in Vegas yet?) and drag K-Mart with them. The Knicks grab a two or three seed, beat Brooklyn in the second round and challenge the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Worst Case Scenario for the Season: Smith and Stoudemire both have lingering knee issues and never reach 100%, Anthony's offensive production goes from almost 30% to over 40% because no one else can score. They are swept in their season series against the Nets, squeak into the playoffs as a seventh seed where they are swept in four games once again by the Nets. Mike Woodson is fired and Isiah Thomas once again is hired as coach/GM/President.
Most Likely Scenario for the Season: Without Jason Kidd as a coach on the court, we see the Knicks regress a bit, they finish second in the Atlantic behind Brooklyn, but because the East is absolutely stacked at the top they take a fifth seed.
Prediction: We see some signs of life from Stoudemire for the first time in years, leading to headlines like, "Why Isn't Woodson Starting Stoudemire?" in the New York papers. World Peace turns into a Shane Battier type defender off the bench, Shumpert improves and Bargnani has a bit of a resurgence in Madison Square Garden.
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