NEW YORK KNICKS PREVIEW 2011
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
After years of waiting for bad contracts to expire, followed by a year of waiting for additional superstars to become available, the Knicks have finally shifted into “win now” mode. Without the assets to complete a trade for Chris Paul, interim general manager Glen Grunwald cashed in the cap space he had been hoarding for a run at 2012 free agents and picked up the jewel of the 2011 class, center Tyson Chandler. Putting Chandler between Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony gives New York arguably the best frontcourt in the league – and easily the best to call Madison Square Garden home since Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason wore orange and blue. But strengthening the frontcourt significantly weakened the backcourt, as acquiring Chandler meant letting Chauncey Billups go via amnesty waivers. Billups' place will be filled initially by third-year guard Toney Douglas, but the Knicks also added veteran Baron Davis – amnestied by the Cleveland Cavaliers – and he’ll probably slide into the starting spot when he’s fully recovered from a back injury. The Knicks’ bench could be very young, with rookies Iman Shumpert, Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson in the rotation.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Mike D’Antoni typically leans very heavily on his starters and plays a short rotation, so it seems safe to assume that the Knicks’ key players will log heavy minutes. But don’t forget – Stoudemire and Chandler have significant injury histories, and this season’s lockout-compressed schedule will be heavy on back-to-backs. Chandler played under 28 mpg in Dallas last season – something in the neighborhood of 30 seems right. Stoudemire and Anthony will probably come in closer to 35, but don’t be surprised if STAT gets extra rest during those back-to-back sets. Jordan – a 2009 second-round pick that played overseas last season – could be Chandler’s primary backup, while Jared Jeffries will see time at both forward positions. The starting backcourt on Christmas Day will almost certainly be Toney Douglas and Landry Fields, but look for Davis – who is recovering from a bulging disc in his lower back and expected to be sidelined for 2-4 weeks – to take over the starting point guard spot before long. The plan is likely for Davis and Fields to play around 30 minutes a night with Douglas as the third guard and scorer off the bench. Fields will occasionally shift to Anthony’s small forward position as well, making room for promising rookie Iman Shumpert in the backcourt. Harrellson may see daylight as a shooting big man, but the Knicks will continue to look for veteran-minimum help; someone like James Posey or Bostjan Nachbar could push Harrellson to the inactive list.
Tyson Chandler: Amar’e Stoudemire’s arrival made the Knicks a team worth talking about for the first time in years. Chandler’s shows that they’re actually going to try playing defense. He should have a significant impact in that regard, both as an upgrade at the center position and a catalyst for team-wide defensive improvement. (Don’t believe he can make the Knicks a better-than-average defensive team? Look what he did for Dallas; Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki aren’t exactly stoppers.) Worth noting – even in a season when he was arguably Dallas’ second-best player, Chandler didn’t post much in the way of fantasy numbers. His best category is rebounding (11.5 rpg last season) but he only blocked 1.1 shots a game.
Jerome Jordan: Jordan got some early rookie of the year buzz based on strong play in Europe and the possibility that he’d be the only natural center on the Knicks roster. Chandler’s arrival pushes him to the bench. He’ll still get some playing time, as Chandler will probably be limited to 30-35 minutes per game, but don’t expect much fantasy production.
Josh Harrellson: The man they call “Jorts” already has a lock on the “human victory cigar” position; his will be the name Knicks fans chant when the team has a big fourth quarter lead. He could actually carve out a role in the rotation as a much-needed outside-shooting big man, but only if Glen Grunwald is unable to land a veteran for that role.
Amar’e Stoudemire: The MVP chants at Madison Square Garden were well-deserved… during the first half of the season. Stoudemire carried the Knicks for the first three months of the 2010-11 season but slowed considerably after the all-star break. The drop in production was partly due to injury, but the arrival of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups also played a role, disrupting the Knicks offensive chemistry for much of the second half. Assuming he and Melo learn to co-exist, he should return to the ranks of the elite power forwards this season. He doesn’t rebound as much as you might like (8.2 rpg last season), but he blocks more shots than you might expect from a player with his defensive reputation (1.9 bpg in 2010-11). There are reports that he’s working on adding the three-pointer to his repertoire this season.
Carmelo Anthony: We can debate whether or not Anthony is a true superstar, or whether the Knicks gave up too much in the trade that brought Melo to New York, but you can’t question the numbers ‘Melo posted in a Knick uniform. The biggest difference between Anthony in Denver and in New York was three-point shooting; Mike D’Antoni freed (encouraged?) ‘Melo to shoot from long range, and he responded by canning 53 of 125 in just 27 games as a Knick – as opposed to 42 for 126 in nearly twice as many games as a Nugget. D’Antoni has suggested he’ll use Anthony as a point forward in a lot of sets this year, which could mean more assists than usual as well.
Jared Jeffries: The Knicks prize Jeffries for his defense, in particular his ability to defend both forward positions as well as some centers and many guards, but as any Knick fan will tell you, offense is not Jeffries’ strong suit. He’ll likely get regular playing time backing Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler, but don’t expect much in the way of numbers.
Renaldo Balkman: Balkman returned to the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade, but didn’t get much playing time, and probably won’t this year either – though he did raise a few eyebrows by posting a game-high 20 points in the Knicks' first preseason matchup.
Chris Hunter: An ex-Golden State Warrior and D-League all-star, Hunter may have a chance to stick with the Knicks if Glen Grunwald is unable to add a veteran to the frontcourt mix. He’s regarded as a decent defender and solid pick-and-pop shooter from the four spot, which should make him a good fit for D’Antoni’s system.
Toney Douglas: Douglas was brilliant for stretches of last season but struggled badly when called upon to fill in for an injured Chauncey Billups during the Knicks' first-round playoff loss to the Celtics. A shoulder injury – since corrected – may have contributed to his playoff struggles, but the Knicks would probably prefer to use Douglas as a third guard and sixth man than as their starting floor leader. While he’ll likely open the season in the starting lineup, look for him to move to a bench role when Baron Davis is healthy.
Baron Davis: Davis can be an electric player when healthy and motivated, but we haven’t seen too much “healthy” or “motivated” in recent years. Joining a team that could contend for the Eastern Conference title should help with the latter, but his health is a big question mark. There were reports that Davis would be sidelined for as long as 6-8 weeks due to a disc problem in his lower back… and much speculation that the severity of the injury was being exaggerated to help him get through waivers. Now that he has cleared, there are estimates that he’ll be back by early January. With his ability to sink three-pointers off of kick-outs, he should be an excellent fit for D’Antoni’s system… so long as he doesn’t start jacking threes before Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony get a touch.
Landry Fields: An unheralded second-round draft pick in 2010, Fields won a starting job in training camp and was twice named Eastern Conference rookie of the month. But he struggled badly in the second half and in the playoffs, due to a combination of the rookie wall, the change in Knick personnel at the trade deadline, and the sheer hell that is chasing Ray Allen through screens. He reportedly spent time this summer bulking up a bit, in the hopes that improved conditioning will help him finish the season strong, and working on his three-pointer, particularly from the corner. Fields is an excellent rebounder from the guard spot, which is helpful as neither Stoudemire or Anthony are particularly strong in that department.
Mike Bibby: Based on his performance with Miami in last year’s playoffs, it would seem fair to say that Bibby’s days as a starter are long gone. He’ll get some minutes as a backup point guard and shooter off the bench, but barring an injury, he probably won’t play enough to merit fantasy consideration in most formats.
Iman Shumpert: Nominally a point guard at Georgia Tech, Shumpert is likely to see time at both guard spots and even small forward for the Knicks. He has very good size (6-5, 220) for the backcourt and is an excellent athlete, with the potential to develop into a stopper on the perimeter. All indications are that Mike D’Antoni will find Shumpert a regular spot in the rotation; he could emerge as a sneaky source of steals this year.
Bill Walker: Walker has some scoring ability but a bad habit of relying too much on his outside shot rather than attacking the basket. He probably won’t get regular minutes unless the Knicks suffer multiple injuries.
Devin Green: A 6-7 swingman that has dominated the D-League on occasion, Green’s best shot to stick with the Knicks will be if Glen Grunwald is unable to land a veteran like James Posey for a minimum-salary deal.
Toney Douglas: Douglas’ poor playoff performance and the arrival of Baron Davis may scare some people away, but there’s still a ton of fantasy value here. Let’s assume Douglas is used as a sixth man/bench scorer… he played that role during the second half of last season and led the league in made threes. And even if Davis does push Douglas to the bench – do you really think Baron and his bad back are playing 40 minutes a night?
Tyson Chandler: Davis’ bad back is worrisome, especially considering how little rest/rehab time the lockout-shortened season will allow. But I’m more concerned that the New York hype will push Tyson Chandler much farther up draft boards than he deserves. Let’s not forget, injuries limited him to 45 and 51 games in 2008 and 2009, and even last season he was limited to under 28 minutes per game. That aside, his impact on the game – challenging shots, ball denial, etc. – isn’t well-represented in standard fantasy scoring.