2012-2013 W-L: 54-28
New Faces: Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih, Jeremy Tyler, Chris Smith, Andrea Bargnani
New Places: James White (Reggio Emilia), Rasheed Wallace (Retired), Quentin Richardson (Toronto Raptors), Steve Novak (Toronto Raptors), Jason Kidd (Retired), Chris Copeland (Indiana Pacers), Marcus Camby (Houston Rockets), Ronnie Brewer (Houston Rockets), Earl Barron (Free Agent), Kurt Thomas (Retired)
Draft: Tim Hardaway, Jr. (24), CJ Leslie (Undrafted)
It’s been an interesting summer for the Knicks, and not necessarily the good kind of interesting. Seeing as they already have most of their cap space tied up in Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, they didn’t have much wiggle room to work with, so signing a big time free agent like Dwight Howard or Chris Paul was off the table right from the get-go. While you’d think that would be okay for most teams that wrapped up the previous season with the second best record in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers gave them a nasty reality check in the second round of the Playoffs: what they have isn’t good enough.
The one thing the Knicks did do this summer, though, was get younger, which could help them out a little.
Heading into last season, the average age on the Knicks’ roster was 32.9. After a couple of retirements, a few cuts and one trade, that number has dropped to a much better looking 28 flat. No longer do the Knicks have Rasheed “Ball Don’t Lie!” Wallace or Jason “I can’t hit a shot anymore!” Kidd coming off their bench. Instead, they got Tim Hardaway, Jr. – a good athlete with a nice looking jumper – with the 24th pick in the draft, and signed CJ Leslie – a freak athlete – who went undrafted. Then, they re-signed the reigning sixth man of the year, J.R. Smith, on a pretty good contract because all he wanted to do was stay in the concrete jungle that is New York. And finally, they picked up Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih for a couple of loose bucks, and traded away Marcus Camby and Steve Novak for Andrea Bargnani.
That was the Knicks off-season in a nutshell, and while none of those moves will propel them to immediate title contenders, the additions of Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace could help in some ways.
While Bargnani has had his moments in the NBA, he’s recently fallen out of the spotlight thanks to a run of nagging injuries. It also doesn’t help that he is a notoriously poor defender and his rebounding numbers are worse than Brook Lopez’s, which is really saying something. But, despite his short-comings, Bargnani can do one thing pretty well, and that is shoot the ball. For his career, the Italian giant is a 36.1 percent shooter from long distance and on average, he knocks down a respectable 1.3 threes per game. (Those numbers would be higher if he wasn’t coming off of two miserable seasons). Essentially, he’ll be expected to fill a Steve Novak-type role in Woodson’s shot-happy system – except he can somewhat put the ball on the floor – and even though $10,750,000 is far too much money for just another spot-up shooter, Grunwald had to bite the bullet on this one.
And for Metta, well, you know what you’re going to get from him. Even though his best days are far behind him, he is still one of the top perimeter defenders in the league and his ability to knock down the three ball will leave Mike Woodson drooling at the mouth. Probably. More importantly, he’s versatile enough to play two or three positions on this Knicks squad, which will allow Melo to spend even more minutes playing the power forward, where he made a killing at last season. At the very least, Metta will be a good mentor to Iman Shumpert, who could very well turn into Ron Artest 2.0 several years down the line (you know, just without all the craziness…hopefully).
The Knicks were one of the most efficient teams on the offensive end last season, and their 891 threes broke a three-year old NBA record. While their latest additions should help them get better in both those departments, they fail to address two of the Knicks’ biggest problems: rebounding and shot-blocking. To solve those, they are hoping that Tyson Chandler’s down-season in 2012-2013 was just that and nothing more. If he can regain his defensive player of the year-self, the Knicks will be a little better defensively, and with Metta and a fully-healthy Shumpert, we may not see guards just waltz into the lane all game long. However, there will still be a significant drop-off with their second unit, as some of them (namely Stoudemire, Bargnani, J.R. Smith) are very poor defenders. To make matters worse, the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat all got much better this off-season on both ends of the court. While the Knicks may be able to go shot-for-shot with the aforementioned teams, they’ll eventually lose out thanks to their, what may be, shoddy defense.
On paper, this team is fully capable of pulling out another 50-something win season, which, unfortunately for them, may get them nothing higher than the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. What is working in their favor, though, is that the four teams that are projected to be better than them all face their own problems – lack of chemistry, boredom and an injury prone superstar. If they’re lucky, they may be able to sneak their way into the fourth seed, but I don’t see their season going any better than that.