Key Additions: Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Tim Hardaway Jr., Beno Udrih
Key Departures: Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Chris Copeland, Jason Kidd
Looking at the pieces the New York Knicks added and lost, it would be hard to say they do not have more basketball talent going into the 2013-2014 season than they did last. Obviously fit and gameplan matter, but losing Marcus Camby’s 250 total minutes last season and Steve Novak’s one-dimensional game should not be any cause for alarm. Of the departures, only Novak appeared in any of Mike Woodson’s top-five used lineups last year, and that five-man unit of Raymond Felton-J.R. Smith-Novak-Carmelo Anthony-Tyson Chandler was a -8 in net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating).
Regardless of your thoughts on the Bargnani trade, it is clear he is a much better player than any of Camby, Novak, Copeland or Kidd. With the new restrictive CBA limiting sign-and-trades, the Knicks were forced to hope that coming to New York without the burden of being the franchise’s only No. 1 overall pick (as he was in Toronto), and playing alongside a bonafide superstar (no offense, Chris Bosh) will help elevate Bargnani’s game. Additionally, Metta World Peace should be able to help in the ways Novak couldn’t — the Lakers were seven points better throughout the course of the season with World Peace on the floor than when he was off it.
Despite those additions, the Knicks have 66 percent of their minutes played last season returning, so the positive benefits of roster stability and continuity should be felt next season. As the adage goes, teams that stay together win together.
Amar’e Stoudemire 53 games; Iman Shumpert 37 games; Tyson Chandler 16 games; Carmelo Anthony 15 games; Raymond Felton 14 games
I’m not going to sit here and say Stoudemire will play 82 games next year — his balky knees just don’t have that in them — but I do think odds are the Knicks will get more games next season from most of the players listed above. That begins with Shumpert, who finally started to look like the Shumpert of old in the playoffs.
Anything you get from Amar’e is gravy, who people forget was very effective in his scaled-down role last season (23 min, 14 ppg, 5 rpg, 58% FG). The injury bug hit the Knicks pretty hard last season — some of that was self-inflicted, having the oldest roster in NBA history — but odds are they won’t lose a combined 82 games from the starting lineup as they did last year.
Much has been made of the improved Eastern Conference, and rightfully so, but we also shouldn’t forget how successful the Knicks were last year. The Knicks finished 4.5 games better than the Indiana Pacers, five better than Brooklyn and nine games better than the Chicago Bulls. The Nets are much improved this season and I expect them to challenge for a top seed in the East. It’s difficult to definitively state whether the Indiana Pacers improved this offseason, and although the Bulls do get back Derrick Rose, does he really make them nine games better? Rose’s win shares (number of wins contributed by a player) was 4.9 his last full season.
At the other end of the spectrum, several teams in the East got significantly worse this offseason. The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers both look to have regressed this offseason and are in the Knicks’ division, meaning four games against each of them. While the offseason is generally focused on which teams improved, make no mistake — many teams got worse.
The Eastern Conference landscape will be much similar to last year — there’s Miami, and then there’s everyone else. But there’s no reason to believe that the Knicks won’t be right there in the mix with the non-Miami crowd. Considering where the franchise was three short years ago, that feels like the perfect place to be.