Knicks 2009-2010 Previews Galore Gala
It’s about time for Fanatics to offer their own previews. But in advance of those glorious moments, below are links and excerpts to a few of the more interesting and accessible Knicks Previews floating around the blogosphere. Enjoy.
The Knicks have slowly climbed their way out of salary cap hell — but all that got them is a season in NBA purgatory.
Instead of making moves toward actual improvement, the Knicks are blatantly looking past this season to next summer when they hope to strike it rich with the famed free agent class of 2010. But while Donnie Walsh’s long-term strategy may eventually pay dividends, it offers little hope in the interim that the Knicks might rise above last year’s fifth-place finish in the Atlantic.
Consider their competition: the Celtics are a virtual lock to repeat as division champs, and the 76ers could return to the playoffs if Elton Brand returns to form; the Raptors would like to join them after fortifying their roster with a handful of free agents; and even if the Nets spin their tires in the win-loss column this year, at least they’re doing it with a clearly-established young nucleus.
The Knicks, on the other hand, consist of an odd collection of expiring contracts (including Larry Hughes, Al Harrington, Darko Milicic and Chris Duhon), previous mistakes (namely Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries) and promising but flawed youngsters.
But no matter how optimistic you may be, there’s no denying that this roster is constructed to bide time, not contend. All that’s left is figuring out which players will be around when Walsh attempts to sign the biggest pieces of the puzzle next summer.
Donnie Walsh is the right executive for this team. Mike D’Antoni’s the right coach. And soon enough, they’ll have the right players. Or, at least, they’ll have a chance at them. And it’s just not worth commenting on any of these players because they won’t be Knicks in 12 months time. Danilo Gallinari(notes) will be, and he looks like a stud. Jordan Hill looks solid, for a thin draft at least. Others might come back, but if Knicks fans have any say, they’ll be role players. Even the ones who are brilliant, like Lee. Or explosive, like Robinson.
But whatever happens, another year of taking blows will lead you toward respectability. And though New York’s record won’t be respectable this season, you can respect where they’re going. Even if they step back in 2009-10. Kelly Dwyer
What are the Knicks’ biggest strengths?
The Knicks should thrive on their versatility. There are few pure position players on the roster, with a number of guys who can play and guard multiple positions. Expect Mike D’Antoni to use this to his advantage, as he’s already brought up the notion of a 6’8”-and-over lineup (with Danilo Gallinari running the point), and experimented with a number of unorthodox lineups throughout training camp. Don’t be surprised to see a unit with a 6’10” shooting guard and a 6’8” center at some point this season. D’Antoni’s got the tools to create mismatches aplenty on offense, and adjust to mismatches on D.
Also, the fact that like half the guys on the team have expiring deals could cause a cosmic alignment of contract years that somehow catapults the Knicks into the playoffs. Stop laughing.
What are the Knicks’ biggest weaknesses?
Despite small additions a concerted effort from Coach D’Antoni, this team still doesn’t really intimidate defensively. The acquisitions of Darko Milicic and Toney Douglas should deter the occasional drive to the basket, but it would take a truly dramatic improvement to be considered an even average defensive team.
Additionally, the Knicks still don’t have "that guy". After roster shuffling last year, New York was left without a truly reliable scorer to pick up the slack when things went badly and make it happen in crunch time. D’Antoni will rely on relatively young players to make game-winning decisions. It’ll be exciting, but a real gamble every night.
How will the Knicks ever win playing Euro-ball and not playing any defense?
OK, so I stacked the deck with this question — but it comes up with aggravating frequency in blogs and message boards. Even after years of success in Phoenix and a mostly admirable job with a patchwork of spare parts last season, the myths persist that because D’Antoni favors a fast-paced system that puts pressure on teams with offense and ball movement, somehow his ideal lab experiment on the court results in a glut of 1) European styled players and 2) indifferent defense. (Extra credit if you imply causality between point 1 and point 2!)
It’s true that last year’s Knicks, by any standard, were dreadful defensively (23rd in defensive efficiency, 28th in eFG% allowed, 2.9 Blk% and 0.24 blocks/foul – the block numbers are less than half of most of the rest of the teams in the league). Historically, D’Antoni’s Phoenix teams were most effective defensively through unorthodox means, but the system broke down last year for the Knicks because of the lack of any interior presence, the poor help defense, and especially toward the end of the year, poor transition defense.
Unless Lee, Robinson and Harrington count as honorary Euros, however, this defensive futility isn’t a Euro or D’Antoni specialty — it was simply a function of personnel. The coaching staff isn’t blameless, but with injuries, player turnover, and lack of size, it was difficult to put together effective lineups that could get stops.
There is purportedly an increased emphasis on playing defense in this year’s training camp (help defense in particular), and irony of ironies, an offensively-challenged European player (Darko) is going to be one of the key players in providing an interior presence. Another one of those dastardly international players, Gallinari, shows above average intelligence with defensive positioning and reading screens. The coaching staff has explicitly stated a goal of being in the middle of the pack in terms of defensive eFG%. That would be a major step forward and could make the difference in winning close games and challenging for a playoff spot.
In the bottom-half of the Eastern Conference there is a chance for virtually any team to sneak into one of the final couple of playoff spots. This will also likely include the Knicks. However, it doesn’t appear the Knicks have what it will take to win more than 40 games this season. Expect the team to win 30-something games and stay focused on the summer of 2010. Heck, with all the hype that has surrounded the Knicks and what could happen next summer, some might wonder why the Knicks are even bothering to take the floor this season. One thing is certain: New York darned well better hit a homerun next summer to justify the team’s conservative approach this summer.
4th Place, Atlantic Division
Last season the Knicks shook up their leadership team, and while team president Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D’Antoni are probably the right guys to lead this team into a new era, we’re not talking about a quick-fix. Fans in New York are counting the days until LeBron James and Chris Bosh sign with New York in 2010, but that’s far from a guarantee. The focus must be on who’s in the locker room today, and today it’s murky at best. Draft picks Toney Douglas and Jordan Hill have potential, but the Knicks are still much more about tomorrow than they are about today.
5th Place, Atlantic Division
This team is still at least a year from winning much of anything but the lottery. The Knicks won just 32 games last year and weren’t a player in free agency this summer while other Eastern Conference bottom-feeders Washington and Toronto improved dramatically. It is a good thing New Yorkers have the Giants and Yankees.
5th Place, Atlantic Division
The Knicks are certainly capable of winning more than 32 games, as they did last season, but not a whole lot more. To be .500 in the Eastern Conference means making the playoffs, and New York doesn’t have a roster that looks as though it can do that. Regardless, small improvements are expected and another full year of Mike D’Antoni can’t be all bad. Expect 34-36 wins and another frustrating season.
4th Place, Atlantic Division
The most important thing for the New York Knicks this season is to develop a supporting cast capable of luring away LeBron James or another high-profile free agent and clearing up more cap space. Because of that the wins are not going to pile up, but they’ll still be competitive with guys like Nate Robinson and David Lee playing for a new contract along with their talented young pieces. The Knicks are going to finish fourth in the Atlantic Division and likely miss the playoffs, but that doesn’t make the season a failure for them at all.
4th Place, Atlantic Division
The New York Knicks are in big trouble. While they did finally secure David Lee and Nate Robinson for the upcoming year, they’ve also completely failed to make a discernible splash this offseason. Instead of taking advantage of their nearly endless funds in a weak economy where no other buyers existed, the Knicks sat on their hands in the name of signing two max free agents in 2010.
I’ve got news for you Knickerbockers, it could just be a dream. Most marquee free agents end up staying put. LeBron probably isn’t coming. Bosh probably isn’t coming. Wade probably won’t come either. Sure maybe you’ll land Amar’e Stoudamire and another tier two All-Star, but it’s not like $30 million in cap space is going to buy you a championship quality team when Danilo Gallinari, Jordan Hill, and Wilson Chandler are the only other semi-effective players on the roster. The Knicks needed to solidify their roster this season, but didn’t get it done.
And here’s some more bad news for you, this season your team is probably lottery bound, and you’re not even going to have the pick. For a little more Knicks bashing, as well as some positive points, come on over the jump.
Projected to finish 13th in the East
It has been a strange offseason in New York, with doomed bids to sign 1995 co-rookies of the year Jason Kidd and Grant Hill, a field trip to witness Eddy Curry‘s waistline and endless negotiations with free agents David Lee, Nate Robinson and Ramon Sessions. The reason, of course, is the summer of 2010. In the meantime …