It's been a very long time since the New York Knicks actually made a real dent in the NBA beyond loopy interviews, sexual harassment lawsuits and front office incompetence. Okay, so maybe those are dents of a different kind, but I'm talking about dents that count positively on the scoreboard. Their last playoff win was in 2001, and their last playoff appearance was in 2004, in a season they went 39-43 and were swept. The last time they advanced in the playoffs was over a decade ago.
Now, after an offseason that had big dreams but a less-than-optimal playoff, you get the sense that the fanbase is somewhat excited. Yes, really. Sure, the Knicks missed out on getting LeBron James, the guy their fanbase has been sold on getting for two years, but they still managed to come away with an intriguing, young roster that has depth and good cap flexibility. Amare Stoudemire may be a bit overrated (I think less overrated than most) and overpaid, but he brings star power the likes of which the city hasn't seen since Patrick Ewing. Alongside him are a series of interesting pieces that excite Knicks fans, if only a little. Nobody's predicting championship or anything, but playoffs seems like a legitimate goal.
SB Nation's Knicks blog Posting and Toasting talked about this newfound depth as only it can.
All of the signings have blessed Mike D'Antoni with the manpower to experiment with lineups, adjust to all kinds of match-ups, and weather any injuries. Moreover, D'Antoni has depth of the defensive variety, with a whole quiver of different weapons at his disposal. He's got two ball-seeking missiles in the backcourt (Raymond Felton and Toney Douglas) , some steady broadswords to deter wings (Kelenna Azubuike, Wilson Chandler, and even Landry Fields), and the option to either bludgeon big men (Ronny Turiaf) or pierce them with venomous laser beams from space (Anthony Randolph).
Now this is the kind of warfare I want to see! But in all seriousness, the Knicks do have more bodies that specifically fit D'Antoni's system, something Bandwagon Knick notes in its preview.
The strength of this year's Knicks is its depth and the increased number of players who better fit D'Antoni's system; in particular, a surplus of versatile wings and inside players who have experience playing the pick and roll on offense, who have played for running teams, and who can better protect the rim and guard more positions on defense. For the last two years, David Lee was the hub of the system, setting screens, diving to the basket, popping out for a jumper, or managing the offense from the top of the key and finding shooters. Lee had too many ball-dominant teammates, however, and those teammates were terrible defenders, with every defensive switch producing a freeway to the rim or a wide open jumper for the opposing team.
This season Amar'e, Randolph, Turiaf and Mozgov -- in conjunction with Felton, Chandler, Douglas and Gallinari -- all give the Knicks more options on both ends of the floor that they didn't have in the past. The improvements may be modest, but this will be a much more interesting team in terms of both its offensive and defensive execution, especially if Randolph and Gallinari are able to realize their potential as playmakers and defenders.
However, there is a problem, as Knickerblogger notes in its preview. D'Antoni has historically used short rotations, which means some of this newfound depth may not be put to good use. He's had a tendency to freeze out perfectly good rotation players due to a personal vendetta or other odd reasons, something that happened both in Phoenix and in New York.
As I mentioned last year, the D'Antoni Rules aren't kind to players who aren't in the rotation. The combination of D'Antoni's short rotation and his inability to communicate with his players inevitably leads to a player being irate over a lack of playing time.
At the end of the day, though, the Knicks are better. Stoudemire, despite what some say, is an upgrade on Lee because of his scoring ability in one-on-one situations and because he's probably the best pick and roll power forward finisher in basketball. Losing Lee hurts, but Anthony Randolph has a lot of potential, and Raymond Felton is at least in a system closer to the one he ran in college. What do the bloggers say?
- Posting and Toasting: 42-40
- Bandwagon Knick: 40-42
- Knickerblogger: No prediction