SB Nation New York will be running a five-part season preview of the 2011-12 New York Knicks, culminating right before the start of the season on Christmas Day.
Part II: The Non-Stars
I was originally going to devote a section of this five-part preview as "The Bench", but I opted to go with "The Non-Stars". The reasoning behind that is fairly simple: outside of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler (who we discussed in Part I), what's the difference between who's on the bench and who starts at the guard positions - likely Landry Fields and Toney Douglas? I'm not going to make a mistake and say that the rest of the Knicks roster isn't important, because it is. It's actually very important, and one of the players were look at in this Part II we'll discuss in-depth in another section of the preview, The X Factor (oh, the anticipation!). But the three most important Knicks are the stars. What everyone else does will go a long way towards where the Knicks eventually end up this season, but those three should be looked at separately. That's what we'll do in this section as we zero in on the rest of the Knicks' roster.
Douglas is going to battle rookie Iman Shumpert and
dinosaur veteran Mike Bibby at point guard. Mike D'Antoni has pretty much said it's his job to lose, but with the way Douglas played in the playoffs in Chauncey Billups' absence last year, it's not a given that he won't lose the job. Douglas is way more of a combo guard than a true point. D'Antoni has insinuated that he'll look to run the offense more through Anthony, using him as a point-forward.. If that is indeed the case, the most important thing Douglas can do is knock down shots from distance. Right now, the Knicks lack a bit of outside shooting (further explained by their pursuit of Jamal Crawford), and Douglas will need to pick up that slack.
What a strange season last year was for Landry Fields. It pretty much boiled down to pre-trade Fields and post-trade Fields, and post-trade Fields wasn't very good. In the Knicks' final 17 games last year, Fields hit double digits in points just five times. It's strange because Fields isn't a player that demands the ball or needs it to be valuable. He's a good rebounder for a guard and a solid defender. Maybe the trade coincided with Fields hitting the rookie wall towards the end of the season. Maybe he just meshed better with Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, etc. It could probably go either way for Fields this year. Like Douglas, Fields will need to knock down shots from the perimeter, which he did quite well last year (to a very solid Effective Field Goal Percentage of .568). Fields has to find his niche on this team soon or three years from now we might be having the "What the hell ever happened to Landry Fields?" conversation.
I'm directly on the fence with this signing by the Knicks. Bibby can still hit form behind the arc, which the Knicks desperately need, especially off the bench. To me, the effectiveness of Bibby for the Knicks rests with D'Antoni and how he uses him. With the crazy schedule this year, Bibby can't be playing a ton of minutes, almost ever. Why can I see D'Antoni forgetting this, falling in love with Bibby's range, and having nights where he plays 30 minutes? I'm having nightmares of Tyson Chandler getting in foul trouble and D'Antoni putting out a lineup of Bibby-Douglas-Bill Walker-Anthony-Stoudemire (a team that would struggle to defend five traffic cones) for an extended period of time. If D'Antoni uses Bibby effectively -- 15-20 minutes a night in the right situations -- I think he can be a valuable piece. He fits the "cheap veteran who still does one thing very well" mold that a lot of winning teams have. Let's hope he doesn't wear down before the playoffs.
Shumpert seems like the absolute anti-D'Antoni player. Every scouting report I've read talks about his athleticism first, and his offensive ability second. Which is completely fine, by the way. I just wonder if D'Antoni will find enough minutes for a guy who doesn't give the team much offensively. If so, I think Knicks fans could fall in love with Shumpert, who from all accounts is an athletic freak and a great defender.
Is Billy Walker really still on the Knicks? Jeez. He's going to get minutes too, given the crazy schedule. He'll hit his share of threes and that's about it.
Jeffries is a solid rotation forward who knows the system and the coach loves. He was always coming back to the Knicks, so deal with it. And really, as long as he's not the intended receiver during a crucial last possession in a playoff game with a one score deficit, then everything will be okay. With Tyson Chandler and Jerome Jordan in tow, Jeffries slots in as the backup to Stoudemire. He won't play nearly as much as he has in the past under D'Antoni, so he'll solely be in there to take charges, grab some rebounds and use up fouls. Which is about all he can do anyway, so this is a good thing.
The Knicks have brought Jordan over from Slovenia, as he's been based in Europe since the Knicks acquired his right on Draft Day 2010. Comparisons have been drawn to last year's 7-foot project Timofey Mozgov. This is going to sound strange, but if Jordan can give the Knicks what Mozgov showed towards the middle of the season (enough for some really strange people to complain about his inclusion in the Carmelo trade), the Knicks would sign up for that in a heartbeat. When was the last time the Knicks had two legitimate 7-footers at center? What other team in the NBA has that? We don't have any reason to believe Jordan has supreme talent or will be a huge difference maker, but for a team that used Jared Jeffries at center a lot over the past few years, having more legit size cannot be looked at as a bad thing.
I guess it's actually possible given the schedule we're going to see this year that Balkman may actually get some minutes. It won't be a lot though, and that's positive, since Renaldo Balkman lacks all the requisite skills that a real NBA player possesses.
New York Knicks fans, meet your version of Brian Scalabrine. The Garden will go NUTS when Harrellson comes into blowout games.
The Knicks simply signed these guys to fill out their roster so that they could meet league guidelines and take part in the season.
So as you can see, the play of the Knicks' stars is going to be extremely important. The few cogs outside of Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler are Douglas, Fields, Shumpert and Bibby. Each have question marks heading into the season. There have been rumors floating around that the Knicks are interested in Michael Redd. If Redd has anything left in the tank, it's a low-risk move that's worth making. You can never have too many shot-makers, and the Knicks still do need some. I'd expect the Knicks' roster towards the middle of the season to look a bit different, as they'll continue to try and acquire some much-needed depth. But with the regular season fast-approaching, these are the guys they'll go to work with.