As the regular season creeps even closer, the New York Knicks prepare for a season in which expectations haven’t been this high in quite some time.
The Knicks improved their roster and feel they are championship contenders, but in order to do so there are plenty of questions that they still must answer. The answer to those questions could go a long way in determining whether or not this Knicks team is a serious contender.
As we continue our look at the 2012-13 campaign, here’s a look at the six biggest questions that still need answered.
6. Are the Knicks too old?
This will be a common theme during the season, but also a legitimate concern. We saw the rash of injuries to the Knicks veterans during the preseason and you have to just cross your fingers that these guys stay healthy. It’s also a concern how this team will match up against some of the more athletic teams in the Eastern Conference.
I know Mike Woodson believes that young players don’t win championships, but old players don’t stay with younger and more athletic ones. With only one player under the age of 25 (Shumpert, 22), age and injury risks are a concern.
5. Do the Knicks have enough shooting to contend?
This is a question that doesn’t get enough attention in my mind, but I feel it is one of the Knicks biggest flaws as a team. Certainly Steve Novak is a light’s out shooter, but do they have enough other shooters to knock down open shot?
Judging by career performances, that answer is no. The Knicks were 21st in the NBA a season ago in three-point shooting (33.6 percent and with all the moves they made, they didn’t do anything to become a better shooting team. They were among the bottom teams in the league despite having the league-leading shooter in Novak (.472). The rest of the team is a far worse shooting team: Carmelo Anthony (.322), Ronnie Brewer (.244), Raymond Felton (.330), Jason Kidd (.349), Iman Shumpert (.306) and J.R. Smith (.360) have not shot well enough throughout their careers to give you confidence that this team can shoot the ball.
In addition, the Knicks did not shoot well during the preseason.
They made only 31.3 percent (57-for-182) of their attempts from behind the arc and that includes an 18-for-33 night in their opener against the Wizards. What’s more disturbing is the fact that they shot over 30 long-range attempts per game. For a team that doesn’t have many quality shooters, that’s a bad strategy to employ.
This team’s shooting should be a major concern heading into the season.
4. Is the Knicks’ defense a concern?
This team was built to be great defensively but it did not look that way during the preseason. Much of that has to do with the insane amount of injuries, but something was off in the preseason and it had to do with effort on the defensive end.
The guys that were on the floor didn’t defend well, especially the pick-and-roll as the opposition had a field day shooting against them.
In addition this team was not a good rebounding team and allowed way too many second and third shot opportunities.
It’s a cause for a little bit of concern, but my gut feeling is that once the Knicks start to get healthy, the defense will be fine.
We did learn that this isn’t the same team defensively without Shumpert, but they are going to have to get by without him for a couple of months. By midseason, they should be a very good defensive team. Hopefully.
3. Will Amar’e Stoudemire even be able to stay healthy?
It’s such a shame, but you have to call Stoudemire’s huge contract a horrible one now. After playing MVP-type of basketball for the first half of the 2010-11 season, Stoudemire’s body has broken down big time.
He’s now out at least for the first six weeks of the season and from this point forward, you can’t count on him being healthy for any stretch of time.
To win a championship the Knicks need a healthy and productive Stoudemire. They can’t trade him. Not with a broken down body and $60 million left on his deal. They just have to hope he can get healthy.
2. Can Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire co-exist?
If STAT can somehow get healthy, the biggest question is if the Knicks’ two superstars can co-exist together? So far through a year and a half, there’s nothing that would suggest that answer will be yes.
The Knicks are an under .500 team with both ‘Melo and Stoudemire in the starting lineup and because of Stoudemire’s injuries throughout camp, once again this duo hasn’t had time on the court in training camp to figure it out.
Much was made about STAT’s new post-game, but it’s way too early to say that will work. We didn’t see much of that in his brief one-game appearance in the preseason. It may have come to the point that the Knicks are better with ‘Melo at the 4 anyway, but to win a championship the Knicks need both guys playing at the top of their game and who knows if that will ever happen.
1. Can Carmelo Anthony lead a team to a championship?
That’s the burning question. So far ‘Melo has said all of the right things. He has the coach he wants and the team he wants; now it is on him to deliver.
Through nine seasons, leading hasn’t been his strong suit having led a team out of the first round of the playoffs only once in his nine chances.
Anthony is going to be under a ton of pressure to do so. All of the pressure to win a championship that LeBron James felt for years now shifts directly to ‘Melo’s shoulders. That plus he is trying to do it in New York. That’s going to be more pressure than I think he even realizes.
Will ‘Melo change is game and play winning basketball? That’s all that counts anymore is wins.
Time will tell, but it will be a fun ride to watch.
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