The New York Knicks will try to put last season’s disastrous 17-win campaign in the rear-view mirror next Tuesday when training camp opens in West Point.
Below, we take a look at five issues to keep an eye during camp and in the preseason:
Carmelo’s health: Carmelo Anthony is back on the court following surgery in late February to repair a damaged left patella tendon. He’s been participating in five-on-five scrimmages at the Knicks’ training facility for the past few weeks, and players involved in the scrimmages say he’s looked strong.
The health of Anthony’s knee -- and the rest of his body -- will be pivotal for the Knicks in the coming season. New York has always relied heavily on Anthony to carry the offense and it looks like the club will need him more than ever in 2015-16.
The Knicks’ second-leading scorer based on points per game last season is Arron Afflalo, who averaged 13.3 points in 2014-15. Langston Galloway (11.8 ppg) is third and Jose Calderon (9.1) is fourth.
Judging by those numbers, there isn’t an obvious No. 2 option scoring option behind Anthony. So the Knicks will likely need Carmelo to be healthy and productive for 82 games if they hope to compete for a playoff spot.
How much can Porzingis produce in Year 1? Phil Jackson’s reputation as Knicks president hinges, in part, on the development of rookie Kristaps Porzingis. Jackson surprised some around the league when he selected Porzingis with the No. 4 pick in June’s draft. He said over the summer that he'd like Porzingis to play around 20 minutes per game in 2015-16. But the Knicks' president has stressed that Porzingis' playing time will be determined by Derek Fisher.
For what it's worth, Porzingis has no expectations for playing time heading in his rookie season.
“I got to prove myself in training camp,” he said last week. “I’ll be happy whenever I’m on the court and play as hard as I can. Hopefully, I can get those 20 minutes.”
It’s reasonable to expect the 20-year-old Porzingis to have some off nights this season. He’ll enter the year weighing well under 250 pounds and may have a tough time defending, rebounding and scoring against opposing frontcourt players.
Given the paucity of scorers on the roster, though, the Knicks would love to get consistent points from Porzingis in Year 1.
Bigger spotlight on Fisher: A few minutes after Derek Fisher’s first practice last season, he said he wanted the Knicks to anchor themselves on the defensive end.
Obviously, that didn’t work out so well.
New York ranked 28th in defensive rating last season and allowed the highest opponent 3-point field goal percentage in the league.
If those numbers don't improve this season, some fingers may be pointed at Fisher, the second-year head coach.
Phil Jackson has made it clear that he thinks the Knicks’ new free-agent additions will help them on defense. So it will be up to Fisher to put the best players on the floor -- and the best schemes in place -- to get stops.
Galloway vs. Grant: One interesting battle in camp will be in the backcourt. Veteran point guard Jose Calderon is back and healthy after a disappointing initial season in New York.
Langston Galloway, who impressed the Knicks in Calderon’s absence last year, is also back on a partially-guaranteed contract. The Knicks also drafted Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant with the No. 19 pick in June. So there’s a bit of a logjam in the team’s guard rotation.
Many believe that Grant will eventually end up as the starting point guard. The 23-year-old showed an ability to create off of the dribble in summer league. That's something Calderon, 33, didn’t display last season.
Galloway is a natural shooting guard who was asked to play point guard last season. So it will be interesting to see how Fisher deploys minutes among these three in the preseason and which pairings he ends up using most often.
What about the forward rotation? The Knicks have several players vying for regular minutes at the forward position.
Free-agent signees Kyle O’Quinn, Derrick Williams and Porzingis, the rookie, will compete for time at the forward spot.
It will be interesting to see which player Fisher deems as the best fit alongside Anthony.
One thing worth noting: Anthony has excelled as a power forward in recent seasons.
Last season, the Knicks outscored opponents by 5.7 points per 48 minutes when Anthony played power forward, per 82games.com. Conversely, they were outscored by 7.2 points per 48 minutes with Anthony at small forward in 2014-15.
So Fisher may want to play a smaller lineup with Anthony at power forward and Robin Lopez at center. This alignment would impact the minutes for the players mentioned above.