2013-14 outlook: New York Knicks
What's in store for the New York Knicks? Our panel of five looks back at the offseason moves (and non-moves) and forward to what lies ahead in the 2013-14 NBA season.
1. What grade would you give the Knicks' offseason?
Jim Cavan, KnickerBlogger: B. Yes, trading for Andrea Bargnani was risky. Yes, Masai Ujiri clowned them again. No, the Knicks' small, mostly lateral moves might not be enough to keep pace in an improved East. But signing Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih, bringing back Pablo Prigioni -- these are not insignificant moves. Former GM Glen Grunwald did a good job with barely a sliver of wiggle room.
Jared Dubin, Hardwood Paroxysm: B-. The Bargnani trade was questionable at best, but Grunwald had done an excellent job filling in the end of the bench on a limited budget with signings like Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak, Chris Copeland, Prigioni, Udrih and World Peace. Reassigning him to the role of adviser and re-hiring Steve Mills (who brought in Isiah Thomas last time he was around) is a puzzling decision.
Mike Kurylo, KnickerBlogger: C-. Good teams grab players like World Peace and Udrih, two guys who can complement a playoff team. Bad teams grab the rebounding-adverse Bargnani and the inconsistent Tim Hardaway Jr. And Congress is the only other body dysfunctional enough to do something like replace Grunwald days before training camp opens.
Israel Gutierrez, ESPN.com: C. As in Chaos. The Knicks didn't have much flexibility to maneuver, so they did what they could. That translated to adding the inconsistent Bargnani and the volatile World Peace, creating a cluster of forwards who wouldn't appear to complement their most important forward, Carmelo Anthony. It'll be quite the challenge for Mike Woodson and his staff to get the best out of this group.
Robert Silverman, KnickerBlogger: C+, reflective of a mixed bag. While signing World Peace, Udrih and Prigioni to cheap deals was quite a coup, they also "reassigned" Grunwald five days before the start of camp for reasons that remain unknown. Equally mystifying is the slew of picks they surrendered to acquire Bargnani, offensive skills notwithstanding.
2. What's the biggest question facing the Knicks in 2013-14?
Cavan: Can they be a top-10 defense? For someone who so passionately preaches the practice, Woodson has yet to oversee a top-10 defensive team -- a prerequisite for genuine contention in today's NBA. We'll see if Woodson is finally ready to abandon (or at least augment) his Switch On Everything and Double-Team Everyone philosophy, but I'm not holding my breath.
Dubin: Will Woodson stray from last season's small-ball identity? New York blitzed its opponents last season by 10.5 points per 100 possessions when playing Anthony at power forward alongside two point guards; all other New York lineups outscored opponents by only 3.4 points per 100 possessions.
Kurylo: How good is the rest of the top of the East? Last season was an off year for many contenders, but this season it seems that each of the big Eastern Conference teams has gotten better. It's like showing up to your rec league, and the guys who normally are there are replaced by people four inches taller.
Gutierrez: There will be multiple large questions, but in the big picture, it's probably this: Can this team become an overpowering offensive unit? Because the defense probably won't be strong enough with this group -- at least not if Woodson chooses to play guys like Bargnani and Udrih regular minutes.
Silverman: Can Woodson cobble together a scheme that'll improve the team defense? Aside from Metta, the Knicks added subpar defenders to a unit that as a whole was terrible at defending quick point guards on the perimeter, is slow to rotate on pick-and-rolls, lacks shot-blockers and yields a ton of wide-open looks from 3-point range.
3. Who's the Knicks' most intriguing player?
Cavan: Iman Shumpert. "Homegrown talent" has seldom been a part of the Knicks' managerial lexicon, so a bit of Shump trade trepidation is understandable. If owner Jim Dolan really is bent on pulling that trigger, the team faces a crippling Catch-22: Either Shump makes a leap, thereby increasing his trade value, or he struggles, stays, and the Knicks suffer accordingly. Or, Dolan learns to settle down.
Dubin: Shumpert. As a rookie in 2011-12, he looked like a lock-down isolation defender, but not much more. Last season, he flashed a much-improved 3-point stroke (40.2 percent) and regained his defensive prowess in time for the playoffs. If Shumpert can add an off-the-dribble attack to complement his jumper, his ceiling becomes a whole lot higher.
Kurylo: It's too easy to say World Peace, who will have a positive impact on the defensive end, or Amar'e Stoudemire, who may or may not play much at all. I'll say Tyson Chandler. This team ranked fifth on defense in 2011-12, but fell to 18th last season with the center nursing injuries. For the Knicks to get their defensive groove back, Chandler needs to be productive.
Gutierrez: Last season, New York's point guard play was critical to their success, so Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Udrih are, together, the most intriguing players. They somehow need to provide structure and try to help balance a Melo-dominated offense.
Silverman: Shumpert. As one of the few 'Bockers that isn't in or past his prime, Shumpert is the player the fan base has pinned a heap of hopes and dreams. In preseason action, Shump has further teased said giddy enthusiasm with increased confidence in his still-improving jumper and much better decision making off the dribble.
4. What's one bold prediction about the Knicks?
Cavan: Bargnani will post a career-high true shooting percentage. Freed of the savior's burden and working in a system predicated on spacing, Bargs' patented pump fake and passable ballhandling should earn him free throws aplenty. Add in some improved 3-point shooting (he was a dreadful 30 percent the past two seasons), and you get a recipe for efficient success.
Dubin: After setting a league record for 3-point attempts in a season in 2012-13, the Knicks drop out of the league's top five. Jason Kidd, Novak and Copeland combined to take 34.4 percent of New York's 3-point attempts last season, and they're all elsewhere now.
Kurylo: Cole Aldrich will finally find a team to stick with and double his career minutes (703) in New York. The Knicks need Tyson Chandler to be healthy for the playoffs. Aldrich has strong per-minute numbers, his skill overlap with Chandler, and the uncertainty of Stoudemire and Martin give Aldrich an opening to contribute as a backup center.
Gutierrez: Stoudemire will play at least 48 games. Why 48? Because it would be the most games he's played in a full season with Anthony. It's not asking much, but then again, Stoudemire is already sitting in the preseason with a knee injury. But before last season, Stoudemire hadn't had two straight seasons in which he missed a large chunk of games. So odds are it won't be three straight.
Silverman: Stoudemire will spend far more time in designer suits than NBA-licensed duds. That's maybe less of a bold prediction than a morbidly depressing one, but I'd be shocked (and quite pleased) if he was active for more than the 29 games he appeared in last season.
5. Prediction time: How far will the Knicks go this season?
Cavan: Few teams are harder to pin down than the Knicks. They certainly have the depth and the personnel to make some noise and -- if the seeding breaks right -- carve a path to the conference finals. At the same time, such riches risk poor rotational strategies and compromised chemistry. Sadly, I think I've seen this movie before: fifty wins and a second-round loss.
Dubin: Considering Woodson's resistance to playing in what is almost surely New York's optimal lineup configuration unless forced into it by way of injuries, I'm afraid it's looking like another first- or second-round out for the Knicks.
Kurylo: I foresee at least a second-round appearance, despite the bolstering of the top of the East; either the Heat, Bulls, Pacers or Nets will be beneath New York when the dust clears. But my Magic 8-ball says doubtful about an Eastern Conference finals appearance.
Gutierrez: First round of the playoffs. With the Heat, Bulls, Pacers and Nets projected to be the top four playoff seeds, it's doubtful the Knicks can get past one of those four teams without home-court advantage.
Silverman: I'd wager a good chunk of arable land that they're headed for another second-round exit, probably at the hands of one of the Indiana-Chicago-Brooklyn troika as a lesser seed. Tough, big, defensive-minded teams have given and will likely continue to give the Knicks fits.