Twitter Mailbag: D, X factor and SGs

This is the first installment of our Twitter Mailbag. I'd like to take questions from you guys on a regular basis on Twitter and answer them in this space. Below, we discuss the team's defense, the X factor this season and the battle for starting shooting guard.

Hey Mr. Vertsberger. Last season, I'd say it was 60 percent personnel, 40 percent schemes. I say that because in the final 24 games of the 2011-12 regular season, the Knicks were a top-10 defense. So in that stretch, Woodson's defensive schemes seemed to be working.

Last season, the Knicks struggled to defend the pick-and-roll and to stop opposing point guards, which was the genesis of most of their defensive issues.

Could Woodson have adapted better to cut off the penetration and sure up the pick-and-roll defense? Sure.

The Knicks switched often on screens and double-teamed in the post, which seemed to lead to too many open looks for the opponent.

But Woodson can't control the foot speed of Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Jason Kidd. If the Knicks had a quicker, more capable perimeter defender, that could help limit the penetration and help control the pick-and-rolls. Maybe having Iman Shumpert for a full season will help?

Hey, Jefe. I could go with Shumpert's offensive development or Andrea Bargnani's ability to fit in to the Knicks' offense. But I think the other side of the ball is more important to the Knicks' success.

New York needs to figure out how to get stops on a consistent basis this season. The Knicks were 18th in the league in defensive efficiency last season. Woodson cites injuries as part of the problem, but as discussed above, there were schematic issues as well.

Woodson's goal for the Knicks is to finish in the top 10 in defense. That seems lofty. But I think their ability to defend -- particularly on the perimeter -- is the biggest X factor coming into the year.

Hey, Austin. They'd like to start negotiating with him in February but Anthony has said he'd like to test free agency this summer. So unless Anthony changes his mind, he won't sign a deal in February. If he did, he'd only be able to sign an extension that added two years to his current contract. If he signs in the summer, he'll be able to ink a five-year deal.

Hard to say at this point. First off, you have to wonder if Amar'e's knees will allow him to even finish his contract. I think the Knicks would like to trade him before his deal is up in 2014-15, though that will be difficult to do. If they can deal him before his contract ends, I doubt he'd re-sign with New York. But, in all honesty, I wouldn't be surprised if he retires when his contract is up.

As a competitor, I'm sure he would be upset. But I don't think Shumpert would let that affect his play or his approach to the game. He has said repeatedly he doesn't care if he starts or comes off the bench, as long as the Knicks win. I will take him at his word there.

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