Hot! Pre-Season Roster Analysis: New York Knicks

Step one for the Knicks was to return to the playoffs, and after a decade of absence, the acquisitions of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony helped the Knicks accomplish this goal in 2010. Last year, if not for injuries and the inept early season coaching of Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks could have held a higher seed and perhaps advanced in the playoffs.

Now the excuses are out the window. No more lock-out effecting the team’s health and rhythm, no more blaming drastic changes to the starting lineup, and no more questioning if the head coach’s schemes match the talent on the roster. With Carmelo, Amar’e and reigning defensive player of the year Tyson Chandler forming the team’s big three, and given coach Mike Woodson’s 18-6 record after taking over last year, this season’s Knicks look ready to roll.

A starting five of Raymond Felton, JR Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler combined with an aging yet effective bench can compete for a high seed in the Eastern Conference, but to fully understand the Knicks, let’s take a deeper look at their roster.

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Point Guard: Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni

The point guard position lacks a big-time contributor, but the trio of Felton, Kidd and Prigioni should complement each other nicely. Felton should excel in Woodson’s system that favors a combo guard, one capable of dishing out a pass or knocking down a three. Felton excelled in D’Antoni’s system where he and Amar’e ran the pick and roll to perfection, and while D’Antoni is gone, Amar’e remains as a big part of the offense and his comfort level with Felton should help ease him back to the Big Apple. Felton and Anthony should also work well together since both thrive in an isolation offense. Felton will have his moments to shine, but will gladly give the ball to Anthony when plays break down. Kidd’s veteran presence can only aid Felton as he will provide guidance while also spelling valuable minutes to keep Felton fresh. Kidd’s best years may be behind him, but his experience will prove critical in late game situations when the game is on the line. Without a true starting shooting guard and since both Felton and Kidd are versatile, they may often share the floor, which will allow the Knicks to be creative with their offensive packages. Prigioni is doubtful to make a huge impact, but his defensive prowess and pass first mentality will also serve the Knicks well.

Position Grade: B

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Shooting Guard: JR Smith, Ronnie Brewer, Iman Shumpert

With Shumpert still nursing a torn knee tendon, the Knicks depth will be challenged. JR Smith is best used as a sixth man but is a solid, if erratic, shooting guard. He has the size and athleticism to compete for rebounds plus he is lethal from three-point range when he is hot. Another strength of Smith’s game is his fearlessness. He is always willing to attempt a high pressure shot if he has an open look, however, he needs to improve his consistency, his distribution skills and to learn to not force shots that aren’t there. Ronnie Brewer may emerge as a huge sleeper on this team because of his ability to play lockdown defense. He can also play small forward in a pinch, adding to the Knicks depth. He is somewhat of an offensive liability, but given the offensive potential at the other positions, having a lockdown defender at shooting guard is sure to prove valuable. When healthy, Shumpert’s defense and continued offensive development will be critical to the team’s success down the stretch.

Position Grade: C+

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Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony, Steve Novak, James White, Chris Copeland

Despite the media’s efforts to vilify him, Carmelo Anthony is an MVP caliber small forward. He is one of the most dominating offensive players in the league and he has even shown a willingness to play defense under Mike Woodson’s system. With Stoudemire during the latter part of the year, Melo played some of the best ball of his career operating as a power forward, but there is little denying that the Knicks lineup is at their strongest with Anthony at the three and a healthy Stoudemire at the four, provided the two can prove capable of playing together. If Stoudemire disappoints this season, Anthony will help bail him out. He’s on a mission this year and his play from the London Olympics should leave Knicks fans excited for a monster year. Novak is a huge defensive liability but he is arguably the best three-point shooter in the league. For Novak to grow as a player, he must improve at creating his own shot, something he was incapable of in the playoffs versus the Heat. James White is a slam dunk specialist that can also play the two and should be useful on the boards. Chris Copeland has opened eyes this preseason, can shoot well and provide a spark, He has earned a spot on the team as a backup forward.

Position Grade: A-

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Power Forward: Amar’e Stoudemire, Kurt Thomas

Stoudemire’s always an injury risk, but he came into camp in excellent shape and although he has suffered a set back (out 2-3 weeks with a knee injury), he will only miss the first week of the regular season and is still one of the most athletic big men in the league. His mid-range game jump shot is his greatest attribute, but his ability to block, dunk and provide an improved post game thanks to the tutelage of Hakeem Olajawan in the off-season will help energize the Knicks and prove vital to their success. Kurt Thomas provides the Knicks with a big who will play an unselfish power forward and has a high-energy play style that can contribute on defense and rebounding. Marcus Camby may also see some minutes here if the Knicks want to use a defensive package that features Camby and Tyson Chandler on the floor together.

Position Grade: B+

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Center: Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby

Center is arguably the most consistent position the Knicks will have on the floor. Tyson Chandler’s defense needs no introduction coming off an impressive Defensive Player of the Year campaign. Chandler also grew as an offensive threat last year, posting the third highest field goal percentage in league history. It will be difficult for Chandler to maintain that field goal percentage as the league is sure to have taken notice of his offensive improvement, but all Chandler needs to do is play hard-nosed defense and he’ll be doing his job. Chandler’s greatest weakness is getting into foul trouble, but the addition of Marcus Camby will give the Knicks the best backup center they have had in a long time. Camby’s game mirrors that of Chandler, as he plays lock down defense and allows the Knicks to execute the same game plan they would be if Chandler was on the court. Stoudemire can also play some center when the Knicks want to field a smaller lineup that can focus primarily on offense.

Position Grade: A


Nicholas Kostopoulos


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