CelticsLife Atlantic Division Preview: The New York Knicks

New York Knicks 13/14 record: 37-45
Over the course of the next week, members of the CelticsLife staff will take a look at what to expect from the Atlantic Division this coming season. Today, let's dive into the New York Knicks

Expected Starting Lineup & Summary

Samuel Dalembert
Andrea Bargnani
Carmelo Anthony
Iman Shumpert
Jose Calderon

The Knicks are a complicated team. On the surface, I want to say that they're quietly a very good team. That once they completely give up on Andrea Bargnani (who, for as bad he is at center, is infinitely worse defensively at the power forward position), they could easily have a hot stretch of basketball, and enter the playoffs as a serious team to watch. Because if you look past their obvious flaws (both on the court and off) this actually a pretty talented roster that should rebound well this season.

But they're also the Knicks. So your guess is as good as mine.

New Faces, New Places

Key Additions: Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith, Derek Fisher
Key Losses: Tyson Chandler, Whatever Ron Artest is calling himself these days, Raymond Felton, Mike Woodson

There have been a lot of questions about the Knicks new head coach. Is hiring a coach with no experience a good decision? Will Fisher be able to implement the triangle offense? Will Carmelo respect him? Will Carmelo buy into the triangle? Will Carmelo shift his focus to being a more present part on 'Lala's Full Court Life'? All super-valid questions.

Here's the one thing I think you need to know about Derek Fisher; he's not Mike Woodson. And that in itself should be a radical improvement.

Say what you will about how the Knicks have assembled their roster. Not resigning a first round pick in twenty years is an outright embarrassment, and far from their only one in the past few years. But in a historically bad Eastern Conference, incompetence is the only explanation for this team finishing well below .500. Unimaginative play calling, poor player management, and unfathomably bad late game strategics out of the head coaching position is the only way a team with a star like Carmelo Anthony, who averaged 28 points, 8 rebounds, 3 rebounds and a steal a night last season, could miss the playoffs in the Eastern conference.

Take a look at this late-game blunder the Knicks, who were armed with a timeout, had against the Washington Wizards back in December.

Review that again, and watch Mike Woodson doing his best imitation of a statue who is terrible at coaching in the top left hand corner of your screen. It's just one example of many, but its the embodies all the issues with Woodson. The defensive minded coach, watched his team have a complete breakdown onthat resulted in an uncontested Bradley Beal layup (who somehow found his way past Beno Udrih) on the defensive end, then opted against using a timeout in the final 7 seconds despite it being painfully obvious that he should, to the point (at around 3.5 seconds left) where it's physically uncomfortable to watch.

So while Fisher's inexperience might come into question, and there's good reason to question how long it'll take the Knicks to be able to adopt to the three point offense, there should be little question on if Fisher's leadership qualities should allow him to get more out of this roster than Woodson did.

Helping him mightily will be the steady play of Jose Calderon. For as much talk as there is about the Knicks being interested in Rajon Rondo right now, I think a lot of that will cool down with 30 days of Calderon playing the point for the Knicks.

It's not that Jose Calderon is better than Rajon Rondo, clearly he's not. But Calderon is a better fit. He's the exact type of offensive-player you want to put next to Carmelo Anthony. A strong, heady point guard, who does a great job at running an offense and is deadly form deep (he's shot nearly .450 from 3 last season on 5 shots a game, and .460 the year before). They don't need an elite shot-creator like Rondo, they need a guy who can take care of the rock, initiate the offense, and hit down the many open looks Carmelo will be able to create for him.

Compare that to the play of Raymond Felton, and his .318 shooting from 3 point range, and you can start to see how Calderon could almost immediately benefit his teammates.

Iman Shumpert and JR Smith should have return seasons, as they're both way too dang talented to be as poor as they were last season. Calderon, again, should help; he'll be able to put them in the right places for them to succeed (or, succeed at a better rate than they did last season).

All right, that's enough talking good about the Knicks. Doesn't feel right. Let's get to some bad stuff.

Samuel Dalembert is not Tyson Chandler. Tyson Chandler is an elite defensive anchor who has shown the ability to dramatically elevate the defensive play of a team. Samuel Dalembert is tall. And while he occasionally has shown the ability to block shots, he's actually a really bad defensive player. Consistently alternating between being out of position because he's gambling on a shot block, and being out of position because he's never been able to grasp the idea of team defense.

Here's what the guys over at MavsMoneyball had to say about him:

Dalembert was actually one of the most infuriating players to watch all season, as he seemed to be in the wrong place in the wrong time remarkably often on defense, despite his skillset, he could never seem to finish the easiest of gimme shots at the rim, and he would take maddening 15 foot jumpers from time to time.

Similarly, he was so bad at even catching the basketball on a roll or a cut to the basket, and so bad at keeping his hands on a rebound, that he earned the nickname "Pizza Hands" Dalembert from yours truly, after I had cycled through every other "bad hands" joke I could think of, in honor of the fact that his hands probably functioned better as pizzas than as actual hands.

Between Dalembert and Bargnani, the Knicks should be able to put out their version of the 9 minute 'James Harden terrible defense' by mid-November.

Jason Smith could provide some much needed defensive relief, but you probably know this because he's currently leading the league in 'Compliments by dudes on the internet who haven't actually seen him play the game of basketball before.'

New York Knicks Dunk of 2013/14

Who else?

Thing people aren't paying enough attention to:

After a down season, in which he was recovering form a pretty serious injury to his ACL, many people seem to be down on the value of Iman Shumpert to the point where they think the Knicks should let him walk. Um, this chart

source: Chris Herring, Wallstreet Journal

Iman also owns a really weird clock hat, but I think plenty of people are talking about that already. 

Padraic O'Connor's 'Will They Make a Trade?'

Amidst rumors of Melo on the hunt for greener pastures, the Knicks and Phil Jackson were able to keep their scoring machine in NYC. Several of the teams that showed major interest in Anthony- namely Houston and Chicago- are in much better situations than the Knicks; the addition of Melo to either of those teams would immediately have them in title discussions. The fact that Anthony opted to stay in New York has to be about more than money, which leads me to believe that there has to be some trades on the horizon.

In discussing the state of the of Boston Celtics late last week, Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose theorized that Rajon Rondo may be on his way to NYK. That rumor has been kicking around both Gardens for two seasons and while it doesn’t make a ton of sense right now, that may wind up being the best offer Danny Ainge gets for his All-Star PG.

The persistent rumor is Rondo & Gerald Wallace to NYK for Amar’e & Shumpert with a few other revolving pieces thrown in on either side- the latest version has NYK’s 2018 first round pick coming to Boston and a pick swap between the two clubs down the line.

The Knicks have one star in Carmelo Anthony. That’s it. They’ve got some talented supporting pieces (Calderon, Hardaway, Shumert), and a big expiring contract (Amar’e). Melo needs another superstar to pair with to make the Knicks relevant, so there are definitely trades coming. Knicks for 2014 Irrational Trade Machine Champ.

Mike Dyer's Scorching Hot Take:
Derek Fisher is going to be a terrible coach.

Derek Fisher is a frontrunner, the ultimate selfish player who masquerades as a team first guy. The type of guy that bails on good situations (Utah, 2007; Dallas, 2011) for great situations, because god forbid Fisher have to play for a team that isn't a lock for a top-two seed in their conference.

When the going gets tough, Fisher quits. Literally.

So this year, when charged with running a dysfunctional Knicks team that will need consistent performances from guys like J.R. Smith, Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire to make a playoff run, Fisher is going to have no experience overcoming adversity to draw upon. He's going to be overmatched.

I've always believed a team has a certain number of wins they get on their own, and then a coach can move that total five wins in either direction. For example, a completely average team with Gregg Popovich would win 46 games, while that same team with Vinny del Negro would win 36 (all other factors like health being equal). Well I think this year's Knicks team is just about exactly a .500 team, and I think Fisher is going to be the reason they win 36-38 games as opposed to 44-46. That is, if he doesn't quit halfway through the season to join the Cavs, Thunder, or Spurs staff.

New York Knicks Over/Under: 40.5

Richissin: Over
O'Connor: Under
Dyer: Under