Thursday, November 1, 2012
Season predictions: New York Knicks
By Ian Begley
Coach will be on the hot seat if ... Now hold on. A lot would need to go wrong for Mike Woodson to lose his job this season. He just signed a deal with two guaranteed years, so he has the backing of the front office (which is run by his old college buddy, Glen Grunwald). Of course, if Woodson lost the locker room and the team played well below expectations, you'd have to think the coach would feel the heat.
Things will line up perfectly if ... The Knicks stay healthy, Woodson decides to bring Amar'e Stoudemire off the bench, Ray Felton returns to his 2010-11 form and the Miami Heat implode. That last factor seems highly unlikely after what we saw last season. But that would be the perfect scenario for the Knicks, who have little to no shot at ending their 40-year title drought as long as Miami is humming along.
See you at the All Star Game: Of course, Carmelo Anthony should make his sixth All-Star Game. But will any other Knicks join him? Before the NBA changed the format of the All-Star ballot and removed the center position, it looked like Tyson Chandler would make the cut in the East, especially with Dwight Howard in the West and Andrew Bynum banged up. But with no center, fans and coaches might opt with more offensive-minded frontcourt players.
Leading scorer: If it's not Anthony, the Knicks are in trouble. With Stoudemire out for at least six weeks, New York needs Anthony to score and score often, but to do so in an efficient manner. In the past, efficiency has been an issue for Anthony.
Leading rebounder: Woodson would be a happy man if there were a healthy competition for this crown. Woodson called his team's rebounding in the preseason "awful" -- and for good reason. The Knicks had the second-worst rebounding differential (7.17) in the league. The battle for the team lead in rebounds could be a tight one between, coming down to Chandler vs. Marcus Camby. If he's healthy and gets quality minutes, it's a battle Camby should win. He led the league in rebounding rate -- or the percentage of misses a player rebounds -- last season. Chandler was 29th.
Breakthrough player: Anthony referred to Ronnie Brewer as one of the most important, under-the-radar signings of the Knicks' offseason. Once he fully heals from offseason knee surgery, Brewer will bring a brand of defense to the floor that New Yorkers appreciate. Brewer can lock down the perimeter and make all of hustle plays on the defensive -- two aspects of the game that are well-received in the Garden.
Biggest disappointment: Stoudemire worked tirelessly over the summer to bounce back from a difficult 2011-12 campaign this year. But his season's already off to a rough start. Stoudemire underwent surgery Wednesday on his bothersome left knee, leading to questions about his future. Any injury to his left knee raises a red flag because the power forward underwent microfracture surgery on that knee in 2005.
Toughest competition in the Atlantic: The Atlantic is the toughest division in the NBA. The toughest team in the division? It has to be the Boston Centics. They lost Ray Allen in the offseason, but brought in Jason Terry and Courtney Lee to help bolster the backcourt. They also have a healthy Jeff Green and should get Avery Bradley back on the floor shortly. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett aren't any younger, but the Celts are deep and there's not many reasons to believe they won't win another division title.
Record: 46-36. The Knicks are in a large group of East teams vying for spots in the standings behind Miami. On paper, it doesn't look like the Knicks have the backcourt depth to keep pace with the Celtics and don't have the general depth to compete with Indiana. So it's hard to see them winning 50 games. On a positive note, I think they'll finish higher than Brooklyn, which will have an easy time scoring but a tough time getting stops.
Playoffs? The Knicks will make the playoffs for the third straight season. But can they win a playoff series for the first time since 2000? It depends on who they match up with, of course. But we think the Knicks will avoid a first-round matchup with Miami, which is the first step toward advancing to Round 2. Once they're in the playoffs, they should get enough scoring from Anthony and enough contribution from the surrounding veterans to advance to the second round.