After years of failed attempts at improving and becoming a contender, the New York Knickerbockers (29-53) may be back in the playoffs this season. Last season, they were third in the Atlantic and 11th in the Eastern Conference. This year with some new star power and youthful players, New York has the chance to have a winning season.
Former Golden State Warrior Ronny Turiaf (.582 FG%, .000 3PT%, .474 FT%, 4.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 4.9 PPG) is the Knicks’ new center. With the Warriors, he averaged about 20 MPG; he should see more work with his new team. A decent defender with a good inside shot, Turiaf ‘s outside game is severely limited. Backing him up will be a relatively unknown, seven-foot, one-inch player from Russia named Timofey Mozgov. Don’t expect a lot from Mozgov in his initial NBA season. Still, his size could make him a sound defender and rebounder.
Power forward Amare Stoudmire (.557 FG%, .167 3PT%, .771 FT%, 8.9 RPG, 1.0 APG, 23.1 PPG), who played eight seasons with Phoenix, is a huge addition to the club. Stoudmire, who has seen his numbers decline slightly over the years, is a good defender who has learned to lessen his fouls. He’s a proven premium player who can put points on the board.
Third year player Danilo Gallinari (.423 FG%, .381 3PT%, .818 FT%, 4.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 15.1 PPG) now has support with Stoudmire onboard. At small forward last season, the young Gallinari, who missed most of his first season due to back problems, proved that he could play. There’s depth at small forward with Wilson Chandler (.479 FG%, .267 3PT%, .806 FT%, 5.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 15.1 PPG) being the main backup. Last season, he saw major minutes with New York. One thing he cannot do is shoot from downtown.
In is first five NBA seasons, which he spent with Charlotte, Raymond Felton (.459 FG%, .385 3PT%, .763 FT%, 3.6 RPG, 5.6 APG, 12.1 PPG) proved to be a consistent force on the court. The Knicks need his shooting and assists. He’s also got good hands on defense. Tony Douglas (.458 FG%, .389 3PT%, .809 FT%, 1.9 RPG, 2.0 APG, 8.6 PPG), now in his second year, is the backup. Douglas can knock down some shots.
From the Warriors, shooting guard Kelenna Azubuike (.545 FG%, .370 3PT%, .679 FT%, 4.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 13.9 PPG) can play outside and inside. Not a very good foul shooter, his drives to the basket can be wasted if he doesn’t convert his shots.
Last season, the Knicks Offensive Efficiency stood at 105.1 (15th). The team’s Pace Factor was solid at 96.1 (9th) and with the addition of Felton and Stoudmire that should improve, as should their efficiency. Look for another improvement in ball movement. Last season, New York came in last in Field Goals Assisted (51.4). The NBA average was 56.4. Also last season, the club threw bombs up at will. If head coach Mike D’Antoni (328-275) is willing to change the team’s style, both aspects will be better. D’Antoni may do just that now that the club has a solid assist man.
The Knick defense was just about nonexistent last year. They had the worst opponent field goal percentage at 48.6% and two-point percentage at 52.5%. Overall their Defensive Efficiency was 109.1 (27th). This too could improve if head coach D’Antoni will take some time to coach the club on defense.
Coach D’Antoni is in his ninth NBA season. He spent one year with the Nuggets and then five with the Suns prior to coming to New York three years ago. At this point in his contract with the Knicks, it’s expected that his Knicks will blossom. If they don’t, he is probably out next season.
With a strong group of young and talented players and the addition of Stoudmire, this team has a chance to finish third in the division and eighth in the conference, which means playoff spot. The “D” is improved but still not good enough to make them a contender for the NBA crown and the shooting is overall weak. But there’s enough here to allow this team to win more games than they did last season and to also create some hope for 2011-2012.
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