New York Knicks can remain a contender, but have work to do

There are a few NBA teams out there who don’t need to make many changes in order to stay in contention.  Take the Lakers for example: A lineup that includes 4 all-stars, all they’re missing is a point guard to lead the way.  Answer: Steve Nash signs with the Lakers.  Problem solved.  Los Angeles is now a favorite in the Western Conference.

Other teams aren’t near finished with offseason transactions.  The Houston Rockets, with 8 of the 15 roster members being power forwards, clearly have a long way to go.  The Brooklyn Nets have already made plenty of moves, including signings of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.  The Rockets and Nets probably have another year or two before they get back into the mix of things, even with all the transactions they’ll have made by the start of the next season.

There is one team that is totally in-between.  The New York Knicks are already a playoff team, but they’ll probably have to have some new personnel if they want to be a legitimate top team in the East.

New York needs to key in on 2 major factors: Depth and Defense.  They need to have a good starter at each position and a solid backup for each starter.  This includes having healthy options, which is definitely an uncertainty for this team.  Amar’e Stoudemire is a worn down version of his Suns self, and Iman Shumpert will be recovering from his ACL injury.  Jeremy Lin played great for a month, then got hurt, which put extra point guard pressures on Baron Davis- who also got hurt.  Having good depth will lessen the significance of an injury here and there, in case the key guys do get hurt.

Apr 28, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) during the first half of game one in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Part of this depth will have to involve getting better defensive players.  Although the Knicks didn’t rank poorly in defensive stats, much of it was from having the Defensive POY, Tyson Chandler, hanging out at the basket and swatting shots after his teammates let their guys fly past them.  New York has to become a better all-around defensive team.  They’ve got a few guys with questionable defensive attributes, playing important minutes:

Carmelo Anthony didn’t bring his defensive game each time out, so don’t bank on him being a defensive advantage.  Steve Novak isn’t asked for much on defense, but still, having him in the game forces others to cover more ground.  Josh Harrellson is a good strong rebounder and knows how to foul, he’s just not quite the enforcer that Tyson Chandler is.

Now consider some guys the Knicks just brought in.  Jason Kidd is almost 40 years old.  It’s not like he’s going to shut down other point guards in the division, like Rondo.  James White is a freak athlete with great length, but is he really good enough to play much for the Knicks?

With Landry Fields and JR Smith entering free agency, New York likely loses Fields’ all-around game and Smith’s explosive scoring ability.  This leaves Shumpert as the only viable shooting guard option, unless their 2nd Round draft pick from Greece turns into a Larry Bird/Penny Hardaway hybrid.  If New York ends up not re-signing Jeremy Lin for some reason, they could spend big money on Eric Gordon, and move Shumpert to the 1.  That would take care of offense, defense, and depth.

New York is clearly an incomplete team for the time being.  They’ve got 10 guys, not counting their draft pick, Kostas Papanikolaou.  They could use an additional player at any position right now, and it would be in their best interest if the next addition is healthy and can play defense.  If you’re a Knicks fan, don’t be quick to fret.  This is a huge year for free agency and the next couple of moves your team makes should make your current roster look immensely better.  New York still has a solid core group, a successful (so far) coach, and plenty to pick from in the free agent market.  Depending on what moves are made, they could be looking real good by the time the season starts.