Burning Q's: Which newbie is most vital?

Which Knicks newcomer will be most vital to the team's success this season? USA TODAY Sports

With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Which newcomer is most vital to the Knicks’ success this season?

Jose Calderon: Calderon is widely recognized as the top shooting point guard in the NBA. He hit 45 percent of his 3s last season. In that respect, Calderon will be a big upgrade from the departed Raymond Felton, who knocked down just 31 percent from beyond the arc in 2013-14.

If the spacing and ball movement in the Knicks’ new triangle offense are present, Calderon should have plenty of opportunities to knock down shots from the perimeter.

So offense shouldn’t be an issue for the nine-year veteran.

Historically, however, Calderon has struggled defensively.

Last season, Calderon’s "defensive real plus-minus" was a minus-3.56, which was 72nd among point guards. Defensive real plus-minus measures a player's defensive contributions based on points allowed per 100 defensive possessions.

For comparison’s sake, Felton, who was widely criticized for his defensive issues last season, ranked 39th among point guards with a minus-1.24.

One thing worth watching here: Can Shane Larkin, who came over from Dallas with Calderon, help the Knicks defend point guards? He excited some people with his play in the Knicks’ summer league season.

Samuel Dalembert/Jason Smith: These two big men, along with Cole Aldrich, will be called upon to defend the rim and protect the paint for the Knicks this season. They are replacing Tyson Chandler, who was shipped to Dallas in the trade that sent Dalembert to the Knicks.

As we noted in our positional analysis on centers, neither Dalembert nor Smith made a huge impact on the defensive end last season based on on/off statistics.

The Mavs gave up 2.6 more points per 100 possessions with Dalembert on the floor; the Pelicans allowed 0.6 points more per 100 possessions with Smith on the court.

The Knicks will need Smith and Dalembert to protect the rim and rebound the ball effectively. Those were two things Chandler, when healthy, did well for the Knicks.

As noted in the positional analysis, Dalembert grabbed 42 percent of the contested rebounds available to him (30th among players who averaged at least five rebounds per game last season) and Smith pulled down 32.6 percent of the contested rebounds available to him (86th).

So it will be worth keeping an eye on these guys to see how they rebound and defend the paint throughout the season.

On offense, Smith, a PF/C, adds a dimension to the Knicks that Chandler did not possess: an outside shot.

Smith hit 47 percent of his attempts last season on shots more than 16 feet from the rim but inside the 3-point line. Seventy-four percent of his attempts last season came from between 10 and 22 feet.

Cleanthony Early/Travis Outlaw: These two players may be counted on to spell Carmelo Anthony throughout the season.

If numbers from last season are any indication, getting Anthony more rest throughout the game may help him in the fourth quarter.

Last season, Melo’s shooting percentage dipped significantly late in games. As noted in this story, Anthony shot 47.9 percent from the field in the first quarter, 49.3 percent in the second quarter and 45.2 percent in the third quarter. But in the fourth, Anthony shot just 38.0 percent from the field. In overtime, that number dipped to 30 percent.

He also played a career-high 38.7 minutes per game. If the Knicks and Anthony believe there was a correlation between all of the minutes played and his shooting percentage late in games, they’d be wise to reduce his minutes this season. That’s where Early and Outlaw, acquired in a trade with the Kings, come in.

Question: Which newcomer do you think is most important to the Knicks’ success this season?

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