New York Knicks: Burning Q's 2014

Burning Q's: Who must break out?

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
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With training camp less than a week away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Who needs to break out this season for the Knicks?

Let’s start by going over the possible breakout candidates for the Knicks.

Tim Hardaway Jr. –- The second-year shooter is coming off an impressive rookie season in which he averaged 10.2 points and shot 36.3% from behind the arc in 23 minutes a game.

Hardaway Jr. could take another step forward and have a breakout season. He admittedly still has to improve on his defense and will have to be more consistent. But he’s a good breakout candidate.

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Who needs to break out this season for the Knicks?

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Jason Smith –- The new Knicks center is looking to showcase his game in the triangle and would appear to be a good fit in Derek Fisher’s system. The 7-footer can bury the mid-range jumper. We will have to see how well he can pass and defend. And, more importantly, can he stay on the floor?

Smith has not played in more than 51 games in a season since the 2010-’11 season. He also has not averaged in double figures scoring yet either but averaged a career-high 9.9 points in 2011-’12 and 9.7 points last season in 31 games. With Carmelo Anthony and other shooters on the floor like J.R. Smith and Hardaway, Jason Smith could find himself with plenty of open jumpers. We’ll have to see how much time he will get with Samuel Dalembert needed for rebounding and defending inside.

Shane Larkin –- Larkin is the wild card in the Tyson Chandler trade. The Knicks got Jose Calderon and Dalembert as two likely starters. But Larkin was selected 18th overall in 2013. The 5-11 point guard averaged just 2.8 points in 10 minutes a game, playing just 48 games as a rookie for the Mavericks.

We will have to see if Fisher, the rookie coach, will trust a young player like Larkin to give him some meaningful minutes. If Larkin breaks out and proves he is a first-round talent, Phil Jackson will look even more like a genius for that Chandler trade.

Cleanthony Early –- It’s unlikely the small forward will experience a breakout season as a rookie but the 6-8 forward is eager to show that he deserved to be picked higher than 34th overall. A breakout season would be a surprise.

Iman Shumpert –- Of all the breakout candidates, Shumpert is my choice for the Knick who needs to break out. Last season, Shumpert did not take the next step forward in his career, averaging just 6.7 points and shooting a career-low 37.8% from the field.

Perhaps this season, Shumpert will be healthier, stronger and feel more confident. His defense and athletic, attacking game will be key for Fisher. He has the potential to be the team’s best on-ball defender, an athletic wing player who can create offense from his defense.

Most of Jackson’s successful championship teams had an athletic defender who could be disruptive for opponents. Shumpert isn’t Scottie Pippen, obviously. But, the 6-5 guard can be a big asset if he plays to his strengths. A healthy Shumpert with a new coach and new system could equate to a breakout season.

If that happens, the Knicks could find themselves exceeding the expectations of many.

Question of the day: Which Knick do you think has to have a breakout season?

Burning Q's: Best positional battle?

September, 23, 2014
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With training camp less than one week away, we're examining some of the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today's question: What's the most important position battle in camp?

Derek Fisher, Phil Jackson and the Knicks’ assistant coaches will have several lineup decisions to make during training camp.

Below, we take a brief look at some of the positional battles in training camp:

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What is the most important position battle in camp?

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Shooting guard: Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith should be candidates for the starting shooting guard position. Shumpert is the best defender among the three but struggled to produce consistently on offense last season.

You can make an argument that Hardaway Jr. could be the most consistent offensive player of the three this season. But he had a tough time on defense in his rookie season. It will be interesting to see how Fisher divides minutes.

Traditional positions are de-emphasized in the triangle, so these players can share the floor together, if Fisher chooses.

Center: Samuel Dalembert appears to be the leader going into camp. But he’ll have competition from Jason Smith, who can play both power forward and center, and Cole Aldrich.

Dalembert hasn’t played more than 23 minutes a game since 2010-11, so the play of Smith and Aldrich should be pivotal for the rim defense.

Power forward: Fisher and his staff can go a number of different ways at power forward. Carmelo Anthony thrived at the position the past two seasons, but has said in the past that he’d prefer to play small forward. If Fisher puts Anthony at small forward, he can start Amar’e Stoudemire at power forward.

Stoudemire and Anthony struggled to play together for much of Anthony’s Knicks tenure but thrived in the last 20 games of last season.

We should note here again: Traditional positions are de-emphasized in the triangle, so that may change the dynamic between Anthony and Stoudemire.

Backup point guard: Barring injury, Jose Calderon will start at point guard for the Knicks. But who will back him up? Will Fisher go with Pablo Prigioni, who has proven to be a strong 3-point shooter and ball distributor but has a tough time staying in front of quicker point guards?

Or will he go with the younger Shane Larkin, who, if you put stock in summer league play, can be a pesky defender? This is just another interesting positional battle to watch in training camp.

Question: Which positional battle do you think is most important in training camp? Also, who would you start at shooting guard, power forward and center? And what about backup point guard?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Burning Q's: Most vital bench player?

September, 19, 2014
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With training camp one week away, we're examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today's question: Who's the most important bench player?

This question is a little difficult to answer considering we don't know who Derek Fisher will start yet.

Will he start J.R. Smith or have Smith return to being the super sixth man again? Will Iman Shumpert start or be a critical sub for Fisher? How about Tim Hardaway Jr.?

If Smith were to come off the bench, he obviously would be the most important bench player. If Fisher wanted to bring Shumpert off the bench while starting Smith, then Shump would be the vital bench player who would have to provide critical defense and outside shooting.

My guess is that Fisher will start Shumpert and Smith at shooting guard and small forward to go with Jose Calderon, Carmelo Anthony and Samuel Dalembert. So operating under that assumption, my vote for most important bench player is Amar'e Stoudemire.

The reason? If Stoudemire can stay healthy, he gives the Knicks another dimension -- a big man who can score, rebound and block shots -- with All-Star experience. Yes, he may not be the same player he once was due to age and health. But entering his final season under contract, Stoudemire will be even more motivated than he already is, and that is saying quite a bit.

Last season, Stoudemire averaged 11.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 55.7 percent shooting in 22.6 minutes a game. He played in 65 games; it's unclear how many games he can play this season for Fisher.

The Knicks will have to monitor Stoudemire's health and keep him fresh if they can make the playoffs. But Stoudemire showed glimpses of what he can do when feeling good last season. In 14 games during March, Stoudemire averaged 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 56.9 percent shooting and 28.4 minutes.

While we don't expect Stoudemire to have those kind of numbers for this entire season, the Knicks can use a big man who can provide scoring punch to help Anthony. There will certainly be challenges ahead for Stoudemire. Besides trying to keep his knees healthy, he has to adapt his game to the triangle. Can he and will the Knicks allow him to play in back-to-backs?

But when feeling good, Stoudemire clearly gives the Knicks something they don't have much of, and that is a big man who can score in double figures -- sometimes with ease.

Fisher will have several key bench players, like Hardaway Jr., who will be looking to take another step forward and provide a spark with his outside shooting. Andrea Bargnani, who is also in a contract year, will give the Knicks some scoring if he can stay healthy.

Jason Smith might be a solid fit in the triangle with his ability to knock down the midrange jumper. Cleanthony Early could provide the Knicks with length and athleticism if he can earn Fisher's trust as a rookie.

Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw provide Fisher with two veteran forwards. Pablo Prigioni will give Fisher a savvy point guard who can shoot. And Shane Larkin could be a wild card if the Knicks can tap his first-round potential.

But a healthy Stoudemire can add a different dimension off the bench -- a former All-Star scoring big man who is highly motivated in a contract season.

Question: Who do you think is the Knicks' most important player coming off the bench?

Burning Q's: Who has most to prove?

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
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With training camp less than two weeks away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Which player has the most to prove during training camp?

The Knicks are coming off of a horrific 37-win season. So you can make a strong case that each member of the organization enters training camp with something to prove.

Carmelo Anthony has to show that the can adapt to Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher's triangle offense.

Fisher has to show that he can transition from championship player to competent coach.

Jackson has to show that he can weather the maelstrom of the NBA season as team president.

But certain members of the organization -- due to circumstance, past performance or their contract -- have more to prove than others.

[+] EnlargeIman Shumpert
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsWill the triangle be good for Iman Shumpert?
One employee with a lot to prove entering camp is Iman Shumpert.

Around this time last year, many expected Shumpert to emerge as a consistent scorer and lock-down defender.

The 2011 first-round pick was coming off of a strong postseason, with big performances in the Knicks' series clinching win over Boston and series clinching loss to Indiana.

The next logical progression for Shumpert was to average double digits as a starter and continue to thrive as a perimeter defender.

But Shumpert entered training camp at less than 100 percent health (his surgically-repaired knee was an issue) and never seemed to get fully on track.

It's hard to know what exactly went wrong.

Shumpert suffered several nagging injuries throughout the season. He was also the subject of constant trade rumors.

And both seemed to impact his performance.

Shumpert posted career lows in points and assists per 36 minutes. His field goal and free-throw percentages were also career-lows, as was his PER, a per-minute measure of a player's performance.

Shumpert had some impressive offensive outbursts (the Texas trip in early January comes to mind). But he struggled to produce consistently. There were 19 games in which Shumpert played at least 25 minutes but scored fewer than six points.

One thing to note, though: Shumpert continued to defend at an elite level last season, at least according to one metric. Shumpert's defensive real plus-minus, which measures his impact through the prism of points allowed per 100 defensive possessions, was quite strong -- he ranked first among shooting guards who played at least 25 minutes per game (and fourth among all shooting guards).

Maybe this was one reason why Jackson made a point to praise Shumpert's defensive energy several times over the spring and summer.

But Jackson's praise may have served a duel purpose.

The Knicks continued to explore opportunities to trade Shumpert over the summer, according to league sources, so Jackson may have been trying to improve the league-wide perception of his player.

Still, we think Shumpert has an opportunity to make a strong impact this season in the triangle. Tall guards such as Ron Harper have thrived in the offense. Can Shumpert fill the same role?

Answers to that question will start to emerge during training camp and the preseason.

For what it's worth, Shumpert said a few weeks ago that he was looking forward to playing in the triangle because of the player and ball movement it engenders. He pointed out that it would be a better approach than last year, when he found himself "standing in the corner" in Mike Woodson's isolation-heavy offense.

Shumpert also said that he felt increased strength and comfort in his left leg -- the same leg that was surgically-repaired at the end of his rookie season.

But he didn't want to offer any predictions about how he would fare in the triangle. When asked if he thought he would thrive in the offense, Shumpert said only, "We'll find out."

We sure will. And the process will start in a couple weeks, in what could be a pivotal training camp for Iman Shumpert.

Question: Which Knick do you think has the most to prove in training camp? Iman Shumpert? J.R. Smith? Someone else?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Burning Q's: Can Melo match MJ, Kobe?

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
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Carmelo AnthonyDebby Wong/USA TODAY Sports Carmelo Anthony is at the peak of his powers. Can the triangle bring even more out of him?
With training camp less than one month away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Who is the Knicks' most important offensive player?

Just so you know from the top, we know this is a silly question when it comes to the Knicks. Obviously, Carmelo Anthony is the Knicks' most important offensive player.

But we here at ESPNNewYork.com have come up with a few "Burning Questions" heading into training camp. And we've done so in concert with our friends at the Nets blog. So the question agreed upon today concerned each team's most important offensive player.

Again, it's obvious that New York's most important offensive weapon is Anthony.

So, instead of delving into why that is, we'd rather talk about the potential impact of the triangle offense on Anthony's game.

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How will the triangle impact Carmelo Anthony's game?

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First things first: By all accounts, it could take a while for Anthony and the Knicks to learn the triangle. There are multiple actions in the offense that are based on how a defense reacts to certain offensive sets. Given all of the variables at play, it's probably safe to say that what you see in the first few months from Anthony will be different from what you see from him late in the season.

But how much different will Anthony's game be in his first triangle season? Can he improve statistically?

Many long-time Anthony observers say he has had some of his best seasons as a pro over the past two years. In 2012-13, Carmelo led the league in scoring. Last season he finished second, behind Kevin Durant. He also established a career high in rebounds per game last year (8.1) and 3-point shooting percentage (40.2 percent). His player efficiency rating was a career-high 24.8 in 2012-13. We mention all of this to say that Anthony seems to be at his peak entering this season. Can the triangle offense help him reach higher ground?

Obviously, we'll have to wait and see to find out the answer to that question.

But to provide some historical context, we took at look at how Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant performed in their first seasons in the triangle.

Of course, Anthony, Bryant and Jordan all faced vastly different circumstances in their first year in the offense.

For one, Jordan was 26 years old and in his sixth season in the league when he first played in Phil Jackson's signature offense back in 1989-90.

Bryant was 21 and in his fourth NBA season.

Anthony, on the other hand, is 30 and will be entering his 12th.

Also, while Jordan and Anthony were undoubtedly the focal points of their team's offense in their first seasons in the triangle, Bryant was sharing the floor with Shaquille O'Neal.

With all of that in mind, it's still worthwhile to look at what Bryant and Jordan did in their first seasons in the triangle when trying to guess at how it may impact Anthony.

The big takeaways from Jordan's first season were that his scoring increased by 1.9 points per 36 minutes and his shooting percentage from beyond the arc increased by 10 percent. He also took two more shots per 36 minutes in his first season in the triangle than he did the year before.

Could we see something similar with Anthony? It wouldn't be a surprise if Melo's scoring spiked in the triangle. But 3-point shooting percentage is another story. Melo shot a career-high 40 percent from beyond the arc last season. So it's hard to see him making a big improvement in that area this year given it was a career-best mark.

What about Kobe's first year in the triangle?

His scoring per 36 minutes also increased by two points and he shot two more field goals per 36 minutes. Kobe also increased his 3-point shooting percentage by five percent; his assists per 36 minutes increased by one.

Could Melo accrue more assists in his first triangle season, as Kobe did?

(Jordan's assists decreased in his first triangle season but that was due in part to his role as Bulls point guard in the previous season.)

The guess here is that Melo's assist opportunities (as explained here) will remain the same and that his teammates will knock down a larger percentage of those shots created by Anthony. So his assists per 36 minutes should spike.

But that's only a guess. We won't know definitively about the triangle's impact on Anthony until they roll the balls out in late October. But one thing is certain: The success of this Knicks team hinges -- at least in part -- on how the triangle effects Carmelo's game.

Question: How do you think the triangle will impact Melo's game? Will it be similar to the way the offense impacted Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Burning Q's: How's Phil doing so far?

September, 3, 2014
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: How would you grade Phil Jackson so far?

When Phil Jackson took over as Knicks president in mid-March, he had the tall task of rebuilding the Knicks in his desired image of team ball, keeping Carmelo Anthony, fixing the Knicks’ salary cap and finding a new coach.

In just a few months, Jackson has already put his finger prints on the organization. To be honest, I have been somewhat surprised at how much Jackson has done in a short time already.

[+] EnlargeDerek Fisher and Phil Jackson
AP Photo/Seth WenigJackson hired trusted former player Derek Fisher as coach last June.
Let’s start with his biggest win to date as first-time team president –- keeping Melo. Sure, Jackson had the cards stacked in his favor with the ability to pay Anthony more than any other team. But Anthony could have easily left to join Derrick Rose in Chicago or Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles or Dwight Howard in Houston.

Anthony says his decision came down to the Knicks and Bulls. Chicago pulled out all the stops as Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls organization did their best to convince Anthony that the Bulls were his best chance to win a title in the near future.

But Jackson provided Anthony with enough of a plan to convince him to stay. Without a doubt, money ($124 million) played a role in keeping Anthony. But Jackson did convince Anthony to take $5 million less than the max to help a bit with the cap. His steady demeanor, calming influence and all those championship rings certainly were a factor in Anthony’s decision.

Anthony bought into Jackson’s vision and plan for the Knicks’ future. A rebuilding project that will be directed by Derek Fisher. Jackson’s second-biggest move of his tenure thus far was the hiring of Fisher.

Fisher may be unproven having never coached before. And he was Jackson’s second choice behind Steve Kerr. But after losing Kerr, Jackson got the next best option and really the only solid alternative left from his coaching tree to sell to the fan base.

Jackson absolutely needed Fisher. He wanted a coach who was molded in his image. A coach who was familiar with the intricacies of the triangle, a proven winner and someone with the type of personality to handle New York. Fisher fits the bill. And look, it’s possible that Fisher ends up being a better coach than Kerr, who also has never coached before.

Jackson will mentor Fisher and be able to establish the team-first culture he wants through the former Lakers point guard.

If these had been the only two moves Jackson had made going into the new season, the Zen Master would have had a successful summer. But he also made other moves that showed he isn’t standing pat and waiting until next summer to start changing the Knicks’ identity.

Jackson unloaded the unhappy Tyson Chandler and disappointing Raymond Felton to Dallas in exchange for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and two second-round picks.

I felt the Knicks lost value in Chandler’s defense/rebounding and his expiring contract. But in order to get rid of Felton, Jackson had to do it. Also, Chandler seemed like he was ready for a fresh start elsewhere and Jackson cited chemistry as a reason for doing the deal.

Calderon will be a slight upgrade over Felton. Reason I say that is his defense certainly will be exposed on some nights. He should be a better shooter and distributor than Felton and likely a better fit in the triangle. By all accounts, Calderon is a well-liked player in the locker room so that bodes well for chemistry. But again, defensively, Calderon could struggle.

Dalembert will help replace some of the things Chandler gave the Knicks. He can rebound and block shots. His basketball IQ may not be as good as Chandler’s though. Chandler was the defensive quarterback of the team.

Larkin is the wild card in the trade. I do like Jackson getting the former first-round pick back in this deal. Even if Larkin doesn’t pan out, it is worth seeing if the speedy guard can reach his first-round potential under Fisher’s guidance. If he does, that would be a very pleasant surprise.

Jackson also was able to get the Knicks back into the draft after initially having no picks due to previous trades. He used one of his second rounders on Cleanthony Early, who could end up being a contributor. At the very least, Early provides the Knicks with some more young legs and a potential asset as Jackson wants his team to get out in transition.

The Knicks president wasn’t done wheeling and dealing. He signed center Jason Smith in free agency, providing the Knicks some much-needed height and depth inside. Smith could be a terrific fit in the triangle with his ability to hit from the outside and he can be a shot-blocker as well if he can remain healthy.

And Jackson dealt Wayne Ellington, who also came in the Dallas deal, and Jeremy Tyler to Sacramento for Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy to add more depth at forward and some toughness in Acy.

All in all, Jackson was probably busier than most would have predicted in his first few months on the job. He could have stood pat and just re-signed Anthony and hired Fisher. But he made other moves to try to improve the team for this season and retain cap flexibility.

Obviously, he has many more moves to make with next summer, which is a critical offseason for him. That is when he will truly earn his big bucks. But through the first six months on the job, Jackson deserves a B+ so far.

Question: What grade would you give Jackson so far?

Burning Q's: Can NYK win title with Melo?

September, 1, 2014
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Can the Knicks win a title with Carmelo Anthony?

The Knicks won in free agency this summer by managing to re-sign Anthony despite suitors like the Bulls, Lakers, Rockets and Mavericks all coming after him.

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter and Carmelo Anthony
Michael Stewart/WireImage/Getty ImagesDerek Jeter has five rings. Can Carmelo Anthony win one?
So now that the Knicks have locked him up to a $124 million deal spanning five years, can their franchise player repay them with a championship?

The answer will define Anthony’s legacy. Will he be one of the league’s great scorers who couldn’t lead his team to a title? Or will Phil Jackson take his latest project and turn another elite scorer into a winner?

If Jackson is going to get similar results from Anthony as he did from Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, the Zen Master will have to provide him with a better supporting cast. While the Knicks have enough talent to make the playoffs this coming season, they don't have a championship-level roster.

Jackson’s task is to take the cap space the Knicks will have next summer and turn that into another star player or multiple reinforcements. Actually, Anthony will need more than one star to team up with, considering he likely will have to face LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for years to come.

If Jackson can add the talent needed, and his pupil Derek Fisher becomes the coach Jackson believes he can be, Anthony won’t have many excuses not to succeed. This is a pivotal time in his career.

By re-signing with the Knicks, Anthony showed his belief in Jackson’s plan, and that trust that the Knicks president will be able to surround him with the cast he needs. In return, Anthony will have to adapt to the triangle offense and show he can be the team player Jackson wants him to be -- that he can make his teammates better, that he can lead and inspire his teammates, and that he will buy into whatever Jackson and Fisher want in order to win a championship.

But unfortunately for Anthony, it won’t be as simple as adapting to what Jackson wants and buying in. He needs the right talent around him in order to overcome James and the rest of the Cavaliers.

That is why I don’t think Anthony will be able to lead the Knicks to a title. Unless Jackson somehow secures two more studs to join Anthony in the near future, it will be very difficult to beat James and the Cavs. Young players like Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson will learn how to win from James in the next two or three seasons.

The task of beating Cleveland will only get more difficult in the coming years, barring something unforeseen. So Anthony will need his own pair of stars around him to combat James, Love and Irving. All the while, the rest of the East will get tougher as teams try to catch up to the Cavaliers.

A lot of things will have to go right for the Knicks in the coming years, things that are out of Anthony's control. I think he can grow and will eventually evolve into a player who can win a title with the right cast around him. I’m just not sure that will happen in New York with James and his new posse in Cleveland.

Question: Do you think Anthony can lead the Knicks to a title?

Burning Q's: Will defense be an issue?

August, 29, 2014
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Will the Knicks' defense be an issue again?

I think the Knicks’ defense will have its challenges again this season. I also believe that Derek Fisher will get the Knicks to play better D by installing a better scheme.

[+] EnlargeDerek Fisher
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesWill Derek Fisher be able to fix the Knicks' D?
Last season, the Knicks were often confused on defense and all the switching did not go smoothly. They also looked completely unmotivated at times on that end of the floor.

While Fisher may have some growing pains in his first season as a head coach, he should be able to get the Knicks to be more motivated on defense.

However, the personnel’s strong suit isn’t on the defensive end. And Phil Jackson’s biggest trade thus far involved sending the team’s defensive anchor, Tyson Chandler, to Dallas. The Knicks got a defending big back in Samuel Dalembert but the key piece in that deal, Jose Calderon, isn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess.

Let’s start at point guard with Calderon. He clearly will help the team with his outside and locker room presence. He averages just under one steal a game for his career and the 6-3 point guard, like his predecessor Raymond Felton, will have difficulty keeping speedy and athletic point guards in front of him. The same thing goes for Pablo Prigioni. Shane Larkin, the other point guard that came in the Chandler trade, will have to prove himself in order to get minutes. Even then, he’s 5-11 so his size hurts defensively.

The Knicks need Iman Shumpert to be their best overall defender. Jackson had success with an athletic swingman creating offense off of steals much in the way Scottie Pippen did for the Bulls. Shumpert is no Pippen, but he will have to be a sparkplug defensively for this team.

J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony are not great defenders and will have to step up when their opponents have the ball. Anthony can help on the boards with Chandler gone. Tim Hardaway Jr. showed great promise last season but defensively he has much to improve on.

Jackson added forwards like Cleanthony Early, Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy. But none are exceptional defenders. Acy should add some toughness.

The Knicks do have some capable shot blockers in Amar'e Stoudemire, Dalembert and Jason Smith. Even Andrea Bargnani can block shots, averaging 1.2 blocks in 42 games last season. But can all those bigs stay healthy? None are intimidating on the back end, especially with Stoudemire's knees keeping him from playing the way he did when he was younger.

The Knicks will have to find a way to replace Chandler’s defensive presence and IQ inside. Chandler blocked 1.1 shots a game last season but often affected other shots with his length and he was a good help defender. Somebody will have to hold the last line of defense, communicate and make sure everybody is on the same page. Kenyon Martin could help in that department a bit but he's a free agent and he also was limited by injuries last season.

Defense was an issue last year. Even with a new coach and some new blood on the team, it looks like it will be an issue for this team again.

Question: Do you think the Knicks' defense will be an issue this season?

Burning Q's: Do Knicks have enough size?

August, 27, 2014
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Do the Knicks have enough size to compete?

When Phil Jackson traded Tyson Chandler earlier this summer, the Zen Master was lauded for not only being able to ship Chandler and Raymond Felton out of town but also for bringing in Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and two second-round picks, which helped land Cleanthony Early.

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While Chandler was looking for a fresh start elsewhere, the Knicks parted with their best rebounder and interior defender. When healthy, he provided the Knicks with an active big man who was the last line of defense.

Now, the Knicks start the Derek Fisher era with uncertainty inside the paint. Yes, Carmelo Anthony can be a force on the boards. But does he have enough help inside?

Let’s start with Dalembert, who could be the starter. When given steady minutes, he can rebound and certainly can block shots. The 6-foot-11 center has career averages of 7.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game over his 12-year career.

Dalembert is probably at his most effective within a 20- to 25-minute range. Over the past six years, he has averaged no more than 25.9 minutes per game during a season. Last season, Dalembert played 20.2 minutes a game and averaged 6.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for the Mavericks.

At 33, Dalembert should be able to provide the Knicks with rebounding and blocked shots but not heavy minutes.

The wild card for the Knicks could be 7-footer Jason Smith. He provides the Knicks with a center capable of burying the midrange jumper, rebounding and blocking shots. Smith, 28, averaged 9.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game in 31 games last season before missing time with a knee injury.

Smith has had trouble staying healthy, playing more than 50 games in a season only once in the past three years. But he could be a good fit in the triangle if he avoids injury.

Speaking of health, the Knicks would benefit if Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani can stay on the court. Stoudemire showed flashes last season of the old Amar'e, averaging 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22.6 minutes a game. It remains to be seen how he will fit in the triangle, but his ability to hit shots from the outside helps. Fisher shouldn’t use Stoudemire for a ton of minutes, obviously, due to his knees. But Stoudemire has said he feels better, and he is entering a contract year.

Bargnani, the 7-foot offensive-minded big man, might like playing in the triangle with his ability to shoot from the outside. He averaged 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 42 games, missing time with an elbow injury. Bargnani is also entering a contract year, so he should be motivated. Being reunited with Calderon also should help.

The Knicks acquired the 6-9 Travis Outlaw and 6-7 Quincy Acy, and backup center Cole Aldrich adds depth. Early is thin, but at 6-8 he adds some length.

In the East, Cleveland boasts Kevin Love, LeBron James, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao. Chicago now has Pau Gasol to go with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.

The Raptors still have a rising Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. The Wizards re-signed Marcin Gortat and added Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair to go with Nene. The Heat still have Chris Bosh, and the Hornets still have Al Jefferson.

The Knicks may not have the offensive firepower inside like some of these other East playoff contenders. They don’t have one athletic big man who can log 30-plus minutes and be a surefire double-double guy. They will likely have to rely on Melo to be that force on the boards.

Fisher will have to go with size by committee. Where I see the biggest concern inside is defensively for the Knicks. There are some shot-blockers, but can they defend in the post? Will they be able to win the battle on the defensive boards?

Much of the answer rests with their health. If their bigs can remain active, the Knicks should have just enough size to be in contention for a playoff spot in the East.

Question: Do the Knicks have enough size to compete and be a playoff team?

Burning Q's: How will Melo fit in triangle?

August, 25, 2014
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: How will Carmelo Anthony fit into the triangle offense?

Last week, we posed the question above to a longtime scout for an Atlantic Division team.

His first impression was a positive one.

"I think he's skilled enough and I think he's smart enough. I think he'll fit very well."

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But the same scout, who has been watching Anthony since his rookie year (2003-04), also has some reservations.

"He’s got to bring the whole package [to make the triangle work]. He’s gotta be a team player, he's got to cut harder and he's got to move the ball. He's going to have to do a lot of things that he isn’t known for doing."

This will be one of the more interesting subplots to the Knicks' 2014-15 season. How will Anthony fit into an offense predicated on ball and player movement?

Below, we'll take a look out how this scout views Carmelo and the triangle:

1. Post play: Anthony was the No. 2 scorer in the NBA last season. In 2012-13, he led the league in scoring. That's a lot of points. A significant portion of those points were scored with Anthony operating in the post. So it's worth wondering if Anthony will continue to get post touches in the triangle this season.

"There’s opportunities for him to get the ball in the post," the scout said. "There's opportunities for him to be in the pinch post and isolate. Or he can catch the ball high and play a two-man game."

Based on recent history, it would seem to be in the best interest of both the Knicks and Anthony to get him the ball in the post.

According to Synergy Sports Technology, Anthony shot 49 percent in the post last season. He averaged 1.017 points per play while operating in the post, which put him in the 89th percentile when compared to the rest of the league. He also scored at least one point (including free throws) on 51 percent of his post possessions. Not bad.

2. He's gotta run: When talking about Carmelo and the triangle, the scout we spoke with used Kobe Bryant's success in the offense as a reference point. The scout said Kobe's ability to excel in the triangle stemmed, in part, from a willingness to run hard enough to beat defenders to certain spots on the court.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Debby Wong/USA TODAY Sports Can Carmelo Anthony adjust his game for the triangle offense?
"Kobe would just sometimes outrun the bigs so he would run right into the post and then the other players just had to follow suit and just get into other spots. Is Carmelo going to run and hustle and get into the post and make an effort to get in there first? That’s up to him," the scout said. "If he makes the effort, I think he’ll get those opportunities and he’ll just go to work."

It's hard to quantify just how hard Carmelo runs on the floor. Some scouts and observers believe that he doesn't run with maximum effort all of the time on the offensive end. Again, this is tough to quantify.

One player tracking metric measures the distance a player travels on the court and the speed at which he does it.

For what it's worth, Anthony's average speed on the court last season was 3.7 miles per hour, per the Player Tracking on NBA.com. Mike Dunleavy had the highest average speed among forwards at 4.5 miles per hour.

Anthony averaged three miles traveled on the court per game last season. Again, Dunleavy had the longest distance covered among forwards last year with 3.7 miles per game.

These numbers can be a bit misleading, though, because they measure the average speed of all movements (sprinting, jogging, standing, walking, backwards and forwards) by a player while on the court. So it's tough to draw definitive conclusions from those statistics.

3. Moving the ball: One of the tenets of triangle offense is movement. Both players and the ball should be in motion in order for things to work well.

The scout we spoke with wonders if Anthony can adapt his game to fit that approach.

"For them to have success, he's going to have to be a willing passer. That offense is predicated on spacing and ball movement and he can’t hold the ball like he has on previous occasions. So he’s got to pass the ball."

The feeling here is that Anthony's reputation as a ball stopper is a bit overblown. Again, this is tough to quantify.

But it's worth nothing that Carmelo had 6.3 "assist opportunities" per game last season. This is an interesting statistic because it's a measure of passes to a teammate in which that teammate attempts a shot. You acquire an "assist opportunity" if the shot attempted was one that, if made, would have resulted in the passer getting an assist.

Anthony had a strong number of "assist opportunities" last year.

Anthony's mark of 6.3 assist opportunities per game was 13th among forwards who played at least 30 minutes per game. Kevin Love posted 8.5 assist opportunities per game.

On the flip side, only 38.5 percent of Carmelo's field goals were assisted last season, a relatively low number.

And he had the ball for an average of 3.6 minutes per game, the 2nd highest mark among forwards who averaged at least 30 minutes per game, behind LeBron James.

So the statistics can paint a murky picture.

But no matter how you analyze Anthony's ball movement from last season, it's fair to assume that he'll have to be a bit more willing to pass this season for the triangle to be successful.

Anthony's success in the triangle is pivotal for the Knicks this season and in the future. He signed a five-year, $124 million contract with the Knicks in July. Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson are under contract for the life of Anthony's deal. So Anthony and the triangle will be intertwined for the foreseeable future.

But Anthony himself he pointed out last week, the success of the offense can't hinge solely on Melo.

"It's not about really me, it's about everybody else. If everybody's not on the same page in the triangle, then the triangle is not going to work," Carmelo said last Thursday. "So it's about everybody coming together, playing their role and doing what they have to do to make it work."

That's true. But as with most other things around the Knicks, it all starts with Melo.

Question: How do you think Carmelo Anthony will fit in the triangle offense?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Burning Q's: Who starts at shooting guard?

August, 22, 2014
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Smith_JR & Shumpert_Iman & Hardaway_Tim_Jr 140822 - IndexGetty ImagesWho should start at SG: J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert or Tim Hardaway Jr.?
With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: How should Derek Fisher divide minutes among his shooting guards? And who should start at shooting guard?

Unless they make a trade, the Knicks will enter the season with three players who can make a strong case for the starting shooting guard spot: Tim Hardaway Jr., J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.

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It will be up to Derek Fisher to decide how to divide minutes among the three players.

Fisher can play one at shooting guard while the others sit on the bench or mix and match combinations of the three guards in the triangle offense, as GM Steve Mills suggested earlier this month.

"That's for the coach to decide. All we've got to do is play," J.R. Smith said Thursday. "Whatever they decide, we've got to just live with it. Hopefully everybody could put their egos aside and come together for one common goal."

That all sounds great and, in the best-case scenario for the Knicks, that would come to fruition.

Still, it will be interesting to see who Fisher chooses to start this season, how he finds time for the other two shooting guards and how the division of playing time impacts each player.

Below, we take a brief look at the pros and cons of each candidate for the starting shooting guard position.

Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway Jr. is one of the top young shooters in the NBA. As we noted in our look at the Knicks' potential lineups, Hardaway Jr. was the most accurate shooter among rookies who made at least 55 3s, knocking down 36.3 percent from long distance.

Hardaway Jr. was inconsistent on defense last year, though. The Knicks allowed 111.8 points per 100 possessions with Hardaway Jr. on the floor, five more than their season average.

Smith: Smith struggled early on last year following offseason knee surgery, but seemed to find his footing in the second half. As we noted in this story on J.R. last month, in the final 43 games of the season (after Smith's second shoelace-related benching), he averaged 16.7 points per game on 45 percent shooting and knocked down 42 percent of his 3-point attempts; in the 31 games prior, Smith hit just 34 percent of his 3s.

One issue with starting Smith is this: Will he be able to bring enough on defense to help compensate for Jose Calderon? Smith ranked 34th among NBA shooting guards in defensive plus-minus last season, which measures a player's on-court impact on defense.

Shumpert: Shumpert may be the Knicks' best defender. Based on history, he's certainly their best defender at shooting guard. Last season, Shumpert put together a defensive plus-minus rating of plus-2.00, which ranked him fourth among shooting guards and first among shooting guards who played at least 25 minutes per game. With Calderon in the back court, the Knicks may need someone like Shumpert to provide help on the perimeter.

Shumpert struggled to find consistency on the offensive end last season. His shooting percentages from the field and from beyond the arc last season were down from 2012-13.

There were 19 games in which Shumpert played at least 25 minutes but scored fewer than six points. So that is one factor to take into account when thinking about Shumpert's usage this season.

Question: If you were Derek Fisher, how would you divide minutes among the Knicks' shooting guards?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Burning Q's: Which newbie is most vital?

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
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Jose Calderon and Samuel DalembertUSA TODAY SportsWhich Knicks newcomer will be most vital to the team's success this season?
With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Which newcomer is most vital to the Knicks’ success this season?

Jose Calderon: Calderon is widely recognized as the top shooting point guard in the NBA. He hit 45 percent of his 3s last season. In that respect, Calderon will be a big upgrade from the departed Raymond Felton, who knocked down just 31 percent from beyond the arc in 2013-14.

If the spacing and ball movement in the Knicks’ new triangle offense are present, Calderon should have plenty of opportunities to knock down shots from the perimeter.

So offense shouldn’t be an issue for the nine-year veteran.

Historically, however, Calderon has struggled defensively.

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Last season, Calderon’s "defensive real plus-minus" was a minus-3.56, which was 72nd among point guards. Defensive real plus-minus measures a player's defensive contributions based on points allowed per 100 defensive possessions.

For comparison’s sake, Felton, who was widely criticized for his defensive issues last season, ranked 39th among point guards with a minus-1.24.

One thing worth watching here: Can Shane Larkin, who came over from Dallas with Calderon, help the Knicks defend point guards? He excited some people with his play in the Knicks’ summer league season.

Samuel Dalembert/Jason Smith: These two big men, along with Cole Aldrich, will be called upon to defend the rim and protect the paint for the Knicks this season. They are replacing Tyson Chandler, who was shipped to Dallas in the trade that sent Dalembert to the Knicks.

As we noted in our positional analysis on centers, neither Dalembert nor Smith made a huge impact on the defensive end last season based on on/off statistics.

The Mavs gave up 2.6 more points per 100 possessions with Dalembert on the floor; the Pelicans allowed 0.6 points more per 100 possessions with Smith on the court.

The Knicks will need Smith and Dalembert to protect the rim and rebound the ball effectively. Those were two things Chandler, when healthy, did well for the Knicks.

As noted in the positional analysis, Dalembert grabbed 42 percent of the contested rebounds available to him (30th among players who averaged at least five rebounds per game last season) and Smith pulled down 32.6 percent of the contested rebounds available to him (86th).

So it will be worth keeping an eye on these guys to see how they rebound and defend the paint throughout the season.

On offense, Smith, a PF/C, adds a dimension to the Knicks that Chandler did not possess: an outside shot.

Smith hit 47 percent of his attempts last season on shots more than 16 feet from the rim but inside the 3-point line. Seventy-four percent of his attempts last season came from between 10 and 22 feet.

Cleanthony Early/Travis Outlaw: These two players may be counted on to spell Carmelo Anthony throughout the season.

If numbers from last season are any indication, getting Anthony more rest throughout the game may help him in the fourth quarter.

Last season, Melo’s shooting percentage dipped significantly late in games. As noted in this story, Anthony shot 47.9 percent from the field in the first quarter, 49.3 percent in the second quarter and 45.2 percent in the third quarter. But in the fourth, Anthony shot just 38.0 percent from the field. In overtime, that number dipped to 30 percent.

He also played a career-high 38.7 minutes per game. If the Knicks and Anthony believe there was a correlation between all of the minutes played and his shooting percentage late in games, they’d be wise to reduce his minutes this season. That’s where Early and Outlaw, acquired in a trade with the Kings, come in.

Question: Which newcomer do you think is most important to the Knicks’ success this season?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Burning Q's: Whom should Fisher start?

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
8:00
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today's question: Who should be in the Knicks’ starting lineup this fall?

Derek Fisher could have some interesting lineup decisions on his hands.

Whom will he start at shooting guard? Will Fisher play Carmelo Anthony at power forward or move him back to small forward? Will it even matter in the Knicks' new offense?

What about Amar'e Stoudemire? And what's the best way to use Andrea Bargnani?

All of these questions will have to be answered in the weeks leading up to the regular season.

For now, we'd like to present two lineup options for Fisher, along with pros and cons for both.

Before getting into the lineup combinations, we should note that traditional positions aren’t as relevant in the Knicks’ new triangle offense as they are in other offenses. The idea for the Knicks is to find the best combination of talent to maximize the potential of the offense.

With that in mind, we present the options. Take a look, and let us know which starting five you prefer:

1. Start Tim Hardaway Jr. at forward; bring J.R. Smith off the bench: This lineup would feature a backcourt of Jose Calderon and Iman Shumpert with Hardaway Jr. at a forward spot.

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Anthony would play at the other forward spot with Samuel Dalembert or Jason Smith starting at center.

Pro: You have one of the top young shooters in the NBA on the floor in Hardaway Jr.

Hardaway Jr. hit 36.3 percent of his 3s last season, the top mark among rookies who made at least 55 3s. By pairing Hardaway Jr. with Shumpert, you give Hardaway Jr. some help on the defensive end. Hardaway Jr. struggled at times on defense as a rookie. So the success of this lineup could hinge in part on how much Hardaway Jr. has improved on defense. Last season, the Knicks gave up 111.8 points per 100 possessions with Hardaway Jr. on the floor (or 5.4 more than when he was on the bench).

Con: The Knicks had some successful runs with Smith as a starter last season. New York went 15-11 in games in which Smith started and Shumpert came off the bench. As a starter, Smith also shot 43.6 percent from beyond the arc in the final 21 games of last season. Would he be able to shoot as effectively coming off the bench?

2. Start Smith and Hardaway Jr.; bring Shumpert off the bench: This lineup would feature Calderon in the backcourt with Smith and Hardaway Jr. interchangeable between the 2 and 3 positions. Anthony would be at the other forward spot with either Dalembert or Smith at center.

Pro: You probably wouldn't have much trouble finding a scorer in this lineup with Anthony, Smith and Hardaway Jr. on the floor. The trio of Carmelo, J.R. and Hardaway Jr. was three-fifths of one of the Knicks' best lineups last season. With those three on the floor along with Tyson Chandler and Pablo Prigioni, New York outscored opponents by 12.1 points per 100 possessions (though it should be noted that this lineup was on the floor together for just 50 minutes last season).

It would seem the interior defender in this lineup is critical. All other lineups (besides the one mentioned above) with Anthony, Hardaway Jr. and Smith on the floor gave up more points than they scored.

Con: Defense may be an issue with this lineup regardless of who plays center. Shumpert is widely known as the team's top perimeter defender. With Shumpert off the floor, will Smith and Hardaway Jr. have trouble guarding their positions?

Last season, the Knicks were outscored at a rate of 5.6 points per 100 possessions when Smith and Hardaway Jr. shared the floor (approximately 1,065 minutes, per Basketball-Reference.) Will the Knicks' team defense coalesce well enough to compensate for Smith and Hardaway Jr.?

When thinking about this lineup, it's worth considering that, based on net rating, Smith and Shumpert were the Knicks' top two-man combo last season. When they shared the floor (for 830 minutes), the Knicks outscored opponents by 10 points per 100 possessions.

Question: The Knicks used 21 different starting lineups last season and won just 37 games. Which starting lineup would you like to see Fisher use this season?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.
With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today's question: Where will the Knicks finish in the East?

I think the they will make the playoffs. But it will not be easy. The Knicks have a first-time head coach in Derek Fisher. They will be learning a new system with Phil Jackson and Fisher installing the triangle. And we’ll have to see if they have enough bigs inside.

But let’s look at the rest of the East.

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No. 1: With Kevin Love expected to join LeBron James in Cleveland, the Cavs look likely to be the top seed in the East. With that being said, the Cavs may have some growing pains, as young players like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters still have to learn how to win. But LeBron and Love make that learning curve a bit easier.

No. 2: With the addition of Pau Gasol, the Bulls are my pick to finish No. 2 in the East. Derrick Rose still has to prove that he can stay healthy. If Rose returns to his old form, the Bulls will be challenging the Cavs for that top seed and the Central Division crown.

No. 3: Washington is my pick to win the Southeast Division. As somebody who grew up in the D.C. area, I have seen the Bullets/Wizards fail to meet high expectations in the past. The Southeast will be an improved league despite LeBron’s departure as Charlotte and Atlanta are expected to keep progressing. But I think Washington has the potential to finish with the third-best record.

No. 4: Toronto is the favorite to win the Atlantic Division. A young core is back, and the Raptors should learn from last year’s painful Game 7 loss to the Nets in the first round. Will Kyle Lowry be as motivated as he was last season now that he has his new contract? Dwane Casey should keep the Raptors in the top four in the East.

No. 5: The Charlotte Hornets have a good chance to finish fifth. Steve Clifford is an excellent coach and the Hornets acquired Lance Stephenson in free agency. Al Jefferson should only get better.

No. 6: This is where the Knicks, Nets, Heat and Hawks come in. Atlanta made the playoffs last year and should be right there again. But I think the Knicks will be the sixth seed in the East despite what could be a slow start as they get acclimated to the triangle offense.

They have some questions at center, and I’d like to see Samuel Dalembert stay healthy the entire season. Also, defensively, can Jose Calderon hold his own at point guard? J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert need to bounce back this season, and Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani have to stay healthy.

That said, expect Carmelo Anthony to get comfortable enough with the triangle to lead the Knicks to the playoffs and for Fisher to have the team more motivated than it was last season.

No. 7: Brooklyn can be higher than the seventh seed, but it might take a quarter, maybe half, of the season for Deron Williams and Brook Lopez to return to form. So I think the Nets will finish seventh.

No. 8: Even without Paul George, the Pacers will be in the mix for a playoff spot as well. But the Heat will make the playoffs with all their experience despite James’ departure.

Obviously, we're making all these predictions in the middle of August. Much can change in the next few months. But the Knicks appear to be headed to the sixth seed in the East.

Let me know what you guys think below.

Burning Q's: How can Fisher change Melo?

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
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Fisher/AnthonyAP PhotosDerek Fisher's relationship with Carmelo Anthony will be a key to the coming Knicks season.
Sometimes it was a phone call. On other occasions, it was a recruiting pitch over dinner.

In some form or another, Carmelo Anthony and Derek Fisher have been in touch throughout the summer.

In fact, as soon as Anthony re-signed with the Knicks, Fisher handed Anthony a playbook with the team’s new triangle offense.

“I speak to him all the time,” Anthony said of Fisher, according to an article posted on PrimeraHora.com and translated by ESPN Deportes' Marly Rivera. “He is as excited to start this season as I am, which you don’t see very often in coaches. Usually you see coaches that worry about you, that call you to check how you are and what you need. And he has already developed a good relationship with me in that sense. I believe that our relationship will be very positive.”

Fisher's relationship with Anthony -- and, more important, his effect on Anthony's performance on the court -- will be one of the more interesting aspects of this Knicks season.

Below, we take a look at some of the aspects of Anthony's game that Fisher can impact:

1. Late-game scoring: Last season, Carmelo’s shooting percentage dipped significantly late in games. He shot 47.9 percent from the field in the first quarter, 49.3 percent in the second quarter and 45.2 percent in the third quarter. But in the fourth quarter, Anthony shot just 38.0 percent from the field. In overtime, that number dipped to 30 percent. Anthony also struggled late in close games, going 1-for-12 on potential game-tying or game-winning baskets in the final 30 seconds. He was 1-for-7 in those scenarios in the previous season.

Was this due to fatigue? Was it a product of defenses keying in on Anthony late in games? Was it the Knicks’ overreliance on Anthony on offense?

Fisher may have the solution to those problems. Phil Jackson said recently that he is confident that Fisher can keep the ball from sticking in Anthony's hands on offense.

"You always have to have someone who is strong enough to tell your major player -- maybe a Carmelo, or Kobe Bryant or a Michael Jordan -- 'I'm not going here with the ball with you right now. We have other guys who have to be involved in the offense, we have a system we want to run.' And Derek always had that ability to say that," Jackson said in an interview last month on MSG Network.

Jackson said that Fisher had the ability to tell his teammates, "'You may want the ball now but I'm going to adjust this game to how it should be played and we have other guys who need to have touches and [the opponent's] defense is now cocked so they're trying to stop our major scorers all the time.'"

"Derek has that knowledge," Jackson said. "We're a team that has relied a lot on Carmelo to do a lot of the scoring for us. We need to have someone who understands that we don't have to go to Carmelo all the time, we can go back to him later."

If Fisher can keep the ball moving late in games while keeping Carmelo -- and everyone else -- happy, it may improve his star forward's impact late in games.

2. Ball movement: Anthony’s reputation as a "ball stopper" is a bit overblown. The Knicks' assist percentage was nearly identical when Carmelo was on the floor compared to when he was off of it last season. One scout who watched Anthony frequently over the past two seasons noted that his ball movement out of double-teams had improved markedly.

But Anthony still operates heavily in isolation. He led the league in isolation scoring last season, averaging 6.6 isolation PPG, according to Synergy Sports. Those isolation sets had an impact on the Knicks' ball movement. New York ended the season ranked 24th in touches per possession and 25th in points created by assists per game -- two signs of an ineffective offense. The Knicks finished the season ranked 24th in points per possession.

But the ball movement should improve in the offense this season thanks to Fisher and the triangle -- and Carmelo may benefit. The 30-year-old has a strong outside shot and is a good improvisational passer -- two skills that are useful in any offense, but particularly in the triangle.

Also, when run successfully, the triangle can weed out some of Anthony's worst habits (contested jump shots, overreliance on dribbling/holding the ball). So this is another area where Fisher can help Anthony.

Question: How do you think Derek Fisher can help Carmelo Anthony this season?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2