New York Knicks: Prediction: 9th in the Eastern Conference
2014 Record: 37-45
Coach: Derek Fisher
G Jose Calderon (trade), C Samuel Dalembert (trade), F Cleanthony Early (draft), C Jason Smith (free agent), F Quincy Acy (trade), F Travis Outlaw (trade), C Cole Aldrich (free agent), G Shane Larkin (trade)
C Tyson Chandler (trade), G Raymond Felton (trade), F Earl Clark (waived), G Shannon Brown (waived)
Projected Starters: C Samuel Dalembert, F Andrea Bargnani, F Carmelo Anthony, G J.R. Smith, G Jose Calderon (5.5/10):
It may not be a popular opinion but I feel like the Knicks won their trade with Dallas for the simple fact that Calderon was a bigger upgrade over Felton (who was a complete gasoline fire last season) than Chandler will be over Dalembert in Dallas. Neither of the points can guard anybody, but at least the Spaniard can knock down open shots and the Triangle offense should suit his skills well. Just having Calderon out there will buy the others room. The question is whether the team will pick up the offense in time. Smith is another one who I think could fit the offense well if he commits to picking it up. If Smith just wants to chuck blindly from three, then it won't work as well for him. Anthony is the biggest question mark. He can score with anybody and is a deadly shooter when he has any daylight, but he can't be a ball stopper out there. It hurts him and kills the offense. Dalembert doesn't need the ball much but he's one of those guys you want to get involved early, just to get his blood pumping. A couple early touches and he'll set screens and guard the rim, go after rebounds hard, everything you want. Bargnani can serve the Robert Horry role in the offense as the stretch four, but he's such a minus defensively that he won't last long with a Phil Jackson outfit. They'll eat the contract just to be rid of him. Toni Kukoc was Jackson's whipping boy and he could actually play. I'm expecting Anthony to slide over to the four with Cleanthony Early or Tim Hardaway Jr. to crack the lineup.
Projected Reserves (6.5/10):
Lest you had forgotten, Amar'e Stoudemire is still around after New York failed in their attempts to offload him in the offseason. He's a shell of what he once was athletically and his knees prevent him from playing more than 15-20 minutes a night. It's simply amazing after so many seasons he still has no idea how to defend a pick-and-roll, especially considering it's his bread-and-butter on offense. Free agent acquisition Jason Smith is a bit of a goon, but he's far more rugged than any Knicks big man in years and they could use a physical presence like him to dish out some hard fouls and discourage people from going to the rim. He's someone I can see starting if Dalembert slumps. Cole Aldrich, formerly of Oklahoma City, is a bit more polished than Smith around the rim, but less of a banger.
What the Knicks lack in quality bigs they make up for in spades around the perimeter. I loved the pick of Early and wished the had Spurs picked him at 30. He's a versatile scorer and plays with a high motor. Hardaway had a pretty successful rookie season but hit the wall late. Typically guys make their biggest leap between their first and second seasons, so I'm curious how far he's come. Switching offenses won't help that development. Iman Shumpert is the best defender of the bunch and the Knicks could sure use some of that, but he's really plateaued and is a candidate to be moved. They sent the flotsam of the trade with the Mavericks over to Sacramento and netted themselves Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw in return. They both probably won't make the final cut, but Acy's the better bet to stick. He's a stocky dude who can bang inside. New York acquired a late second-round pick and used it on Giannis Antetokounmpo's older brother Thanasis, who'll probably spend the year in the D-League. Pablo Prigioni, 37, is a sage veteran and at this stage a backup role probably suits him best. Youngster Shane Larkin was a part of the Dallas trade and he'll have a pair of mentors to learn from.
Coach/Front Office (4/10):
Just when New York bid adieu to one Derek who won five rings and stuck around past his welcome to the annoyance of bloggers everywhere, here comes another to the rescue in Derek Fisher, who just wrapped up his playing career the previous spring. Fisher obviously wasn't Jackson's first choice for the job, but Steve Kerr spurned him for Golden State. Fisher at least promised to use Jackson's preferred offense, which Kerr was decidedly lukewarm about. All parties involved will have to be patient and the early returns have been disastrous from a turnovers standpoint, but the Knicks do have considerable talent, at least on the offensive end. The problem is hardly anyone on the roster can defend. Jackson and General Manager Steve Mills will try to make deals where they can, but their priorities should be pretty clear: To try and develop their young players, see who fits into the long term plan and clear as much cap room as possible, hopefully acquiring draft picks in the process. Trying to ride the vets for a sixth or seventh seed doesn't do anybody much good.
Team Rating: 55 (2.5x starters rating + 1.5x reserves rating + coach rating) x 2 = 55
Did You Know: Preseason's barely started and we already have a challenger for "Knicks Play of the Year." I'm sure you're familiar with last year's champion:
Well, here's our first of what's likely to be many suitors for Bargnani's crown. Normally I'd use that line from the "The Wire," you know, "If you come for the king you best not miss," but for this kind of award missing is kind of a prerequisite.
Poor S.T.A.T. jumps like a Spur now.