2014 Preseason Roundtable: Predicting the Unpredictable

In case you didn’t hear, the Knicks signed some crazy guy who was born and raised in New York and plays basketball kind of alright I guess. The KnickerBlogger crew was asked to make their predictions as to what Metta World Peace will bring to the table this season.

Cronin: I am cautiously optimistic that the career rejuvenation that World Peace showed last season will continue in New York. He surely won’t be lacking for motivation in his return to New York, not to mention a desire to prove Los Angeles wrong in amnestying him. I imagine that he will be dedicated enough on defense for any possibly offensive deficiencies to be masked. In addition, at the very least he will be a perfect guy to bring in to cool down the Lebrons and Durants of the world (especially at the end of the game).

McElroy: 2 threes, 2 steals, 4 boards, 5 fouls, 82 must-see post-game interviews.

Fisher-Cohen: Hard for me to see minutes for Metta, honestly, at least not while the team is healthy. The Knicks have about a salary cap’s worth of power forwards already, so Peace is the only spot there’s room for him is as a small forward, and NY really struggled when they were unable to surround Melo with three true threats from downtown. I buy that Peace will be juiced up for the season. I just hope he’s not too juiced because MWP’s brain seems to short out on those occasions when his level of excitement flows up into the red zone.

Cronin: Don’t you think that a Knick team that finished in the bottom half of the NBA in defense will be able to find room in their rotation for a guy like World Peace who can still bring it on the defensive side of the court, Max?

Fisher-Cohen: Brian, I guess you could say the same thing about Ronnie Brewer last year. I know it’s not a perfect comparison, but despite his defense and rebounding, Brewer was +12/100 possessions on 41% three point shooting in November and -5.0/100 possessions on 15% three point shooting in December. Peace shot 32% on threes when he wasn’t in the corners and 36.8% — still below average — on corner threes. That makes him a worse shooter than Raymond Felton, probably the worst rotational three point shooter the Knicks had last year. How much will those numbers go down if he’s not playing power forward and therefore is being defended by players who are comfortable defending the perimeter?

I like Peace and think he can play as a power forward on this team and that there’s a good chance that Stoudemire will get hurt and Bargnani will struggle, making him the best option at there, so I guess i should clarify: In a scenario where the Knicks are better than last year, I don’t see Peace playing much.

Topaz: The starting power forward on the Nets is Kevin Garnett. The starting power forward on the Pacers is David West, and the backup is Luis Scola. The starting power forward on the Bulls is Carlos Boozer.

Though much has been made about the NBA becoming a small-ball league, these contending teams in the East apparently didn’t get the memo. World Peace will not have consistent minutes over 82 games, but he will be a vitally important player against bigger teams, a disproportionate amount of which will likely contend for Eastern Conference supremacy. The Knicks could really use someone to spell Melo defensively when he is at the 4 in these games, and MWP is a great guy to do it.

One more thing about MWP: Don’t confuse weirdness (and gratefulness for one’s teeth) with indifference or lack of effort. World Peace has had an industrious, long, and productive career doing things that many players don’t like to do – play great individual and team defense, bang against bigger players, and defend superstars. He was a very important piece on some very good Lakers teams for four years, and won an NBA championship.

He is leaving a poisonous atmosphere in Los Angeles to come home. He clearly is willing to take a diminished role, given that the Knicks already were forward-heavy when he signed (and that he already has done it once, joining a contender in the Lakers in 2009 knowing his individual numbers would go down.) He is now on a floor-spacing team that won’t need him to create much on offense, will give him some open threes, ask him to defend bigger guys in important spots, and keep him rested (he will soon turn 34 on my birthday, November 13.) I see no reason why he won’t be a productive, hard-nosed player for the Knicks when they really need him.

Silverman: He’s going to be fun as all git out to root for. As we’ve seen in the Preseason, his shot selection can be down right atrocious at times, leading to contested fadeaways from the low post, and put-your-head-down-charge-into-a-slew-of-defenders-and-hope-for-the-best drives, but aside from the gloriously jejeune quotes, I think he’ll be a solid, veteran presence that’ll bring plus team defense. So here’s my unpredictable prediction: We won’t see anything weird, or dumb — let alone crazy — from Metta.

David Vertsberger: Irrational technicals, scuffles, and hilarious sound bites. These I can expect. What I truly wish for? Steady defensive presence, a consistent three-point stroke. Is that too much to ask for? Also – try not to elbow anybody in the mouth. Unless it’s Paul Pierce. You can elbow him in the mouth, MWP.

 

A ‘D’ (or 100) for ‘Drea

I asked our friendly neighborhood Jim Cavan if I could write a piece on how terribly Bargs played in the first half. My two points were supposed to be:

1. Bargs…

2. It’s the first preseason game so EVERYBODY PANIC AS LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE! (But seriously, please don’t. It’s the first preseason game.)

Anyway, this was his response:

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 9.46.58 PM

So I thought, why the hell not?

‘Drea’s dominant days disappeared. Duly, David dreams ‘Drea disappears definitively. Droves decided ‘Drea’s deal dared disastrous days. Dolan, damningly, deemed ‘Drea demonstrably deft. ‘Drea deal doubters draw disrespect David dismisses disgustingly.

Dunderhead ‘Drea done duffed despite despicable draft-destined dregs. ‘Drea didn’t deliver destructive dunks! ‘Drea didn’t dismantle defenses! ‘Drea did diddly doo! Demonstrably, ‘dis ‘Drea dude dreadful! ‘Drea didn’t distribute! ‘Drea didn’t defend! ‘Drea did dip downwards, displacing defenders — didn’t defeat defenders, doe. ‘Dray deemed disturbing, disappointing, disadvantageous.

Damned ‘Drea destroyed David’s dreams. Dumb ‘Drea done David dirty. ‘Drea didn’t demonstrate desirable deeds. ‘Drea doesn’t demand doubles. ‘Drea doesn’t deserve devotion; ‘Drea deserves demotion! ‘Drea’s dexterity duplicates deliberate doo-doo drifting down dirty drains.

David doesn’t despise ‘Drea. David done did demanded discourse — drastically demeaning, definitely — delightfully. David doesn’t deserve death; David done devastated! Dasvidaniya, dorks.

2014 Preseason Roundtable: All of the Bigs, All of the Bigs

Today, the KnickerBlogger crew looks to stand in Coach Woodson’s shoes and determine one maddening question as the season approaches: how should the Knicks’ big-man rotation be handled?

McElroy: First, give Chandler as many minutes as his body can handle. Let’s call it 48 40 36 shit, 33 a night. I don’t want to see a single important minute of Stoudemire or Bargnani at center which I suppose means I’m giving 15 a night to K-Mart, which sounds about right anyway. That leaves 48 minutes of power forward to be shared between STAT and Bargs, so I think that….wait…what’s that? We have the defending NBA scoring champ on our team and he’s at his most dangerous when he plays the four? Give Melo 28 PF minutes (with the balance of his time at the three), give Amar’e the other 20, and tell Bargnani you’ll find minutes for him during the 77 games when one or more injuries renders everything else I’ve written in this paragraph moot.

 

Kurylo: To answer the first question, Chandler, Stoudemire, Martin, and Bargnani, by health. Yes — I would love for Chandler to get lots of rest. But I don’t see a situation where the Knicks can survive without him. Even if Stoudemire is healthy, he is (and should be) on a time limit. Martin is small for every day center duty, and he’s also old and potentially brittle. I don’t think Bargnani should be playing center much or even at all.

Honestly I have my money on Jeremy Tyler, as long as he doesn’t shoot. From best I can tell he’s a poor man’s Reggie Evans. Zero offensive game, good rebounding, not so much with the blocked shots. And that I’m talking about Tyler, tells you everything you need to know about the state of the Knicks bigs.

 

Fisher-Cohen: This might be the most important question here. Every one of these players has the potential to be a disaster if misused or overused, and thanks to the size of other Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls, the effectiveness of New York’s bigs is critical to their hopes of making any sort of playoff run.

The starting point for me is considering which one of these players have the most potential to positively impact a Knicks playoff run. I say there are three of them: Chandler, Martin and Bargnani.

Stoudemire has immense offensive talent, but even if he’s healthy, the main value New York will derive from him will come in the ten minutes a game that Anthony rests. He and Anthony play the same position, like the same spots, and have similar weaknesses. Fortunately for New York, Stoudemire’s body probably won’t tolerate more than token minutes, so limiting his minutes is doubly good. Strictly playing as a backup to Anthony should keep STAT fresh for the regular season while allowing the Knicks to develop chemistry between lineups that are more likely to do damage in the playoffs.

Fun fact about Tyson Chandler: Before joining the Knicks, he had only played over 30 minutes a night three times in ten seasons. It’s no coincidence that his championship season was one of those wherein his minutes were limited. Chandler has a history of injury problems and is not getting any younger, so I say his cap should be 27 minutes. Sure, cutting him down to 27 minutes a night might cost the Knicks a few games in the regular season, but the regular season don’t matter — just ask Rick Carlisle, who learned that the hard way.

Most of the above about Chandler applies doubly to K-Mart, so I’m capping him at ten minutes a game, all at center.

That leaves eleven minutes at center and another fifteen minutes for bigs if we slide Melo to the three when Shumpert rests. In order to not get destroyed on the boards, I give the rest of the center minutes to Tyler, who at least appears to be a rebounder and try to protect him defensively by playing Shumpert and Prigioni alongside him.

Really though, it gets nightmarish trying to build a balanced lineup without Martin or Chandler. I hope Woodson has the brains and testicular fortitude to sacrifice some regular season wins for playoff health.

 

Cronin: I would really love to see Chandler get more rest, but I just don’t see it being realistic. Winning the Atlantic division and therefore more or less guaranteeing avoiding having to play either Miami, Chicago, Indiana or Brooklyn in the first round is huge so I don’t see Chandler getting significant rest. Let us at least hope that his minutes decrease to 30 minutes per game. I don’t think anything under 30 is realistic with the way Woodson has been treating him since he began coaching him. I think Martin is probably best suited to roughly 12 minutes a game but I bet he plays closer to 15-16 minutes a game. Let’s say 16. That’s 46 minutes right there. So 2 minutes to STAT and then STAT can get at least 15 more minutes at the 4 with just Melo’s time on the bench. 17 minutes for STAT is not unreasonable, right? Bargs, meanwhile, I believe will be slowly worked into things, given the chance to play some 5 against centers that the Knicks would prefer to draw away from the rim (guys like Hibbert). Then he just has to prove he can reliably nail the three when he is a tertiary option. If he can, then you essentially blow up the minutes and begin playing Bargs as the stretch 4 with Melo playing more minutes at the 3 and Bargs as the stretch 5 at the expense of Martin’s minutes.

 

Topaz: In a recent piece for KB, I wrote extensively about the Knicks’ precarious situation at the center position. To summarize in a couple sentences, the Knicks need to protect Tyson Chandler, a 13-year NBA veteran who has posted serious minutes (33 MPG the last two seasons) and seriously wore down last season. In other words, the Knicks need to keep Chandler fresh for big games and the postseason by reducing his minutes. Unfortunately, despite having a fairly loaded frontcourt, the Knicks are unfortunately thin backing him up, carrying several poor-rebounding and/or injury-prone forwards who aren’t really suited for the task – Bargnani, Amar’e, and KMart (and an unproven Jeremy Tyler.)

Chandler needs to come down to 28-30 MPG, at least as long as everyone is healthy. And I agree almost completely with McElroy when he says that all non-Chandler minutes must feature KMart on the floor. So Martin should be used almost exclusively as a center and play anywhere from 18-20 minutes a night.

Power forward becomes far trickier, and I’ll have to hedge (hopefully with far more dexterity than Bargnani and Amar’e on pick-and-rolls.) The Knicks have four players who are at their best when they play power forward. Much virtual ink has been spilled at Melo’s terrifying offensive prowess at the 4, and the efficiency of those small-ball lineups in general. Amar’e and Bargnani’s defensive deficiencies, and Bargnani’s comically awful rebounding (worst among all qualified centers last year in rebounding rate), make them incapable of playing center without defensive chaos reigning supreme. And while World Peace remains a very valuable defender, at this stage in his career he is far better-suited to guarding bigger, slower forwards than typical small forwards. Will Bargnani and Amar’e stay healthy? Will the former be effective when healthy? Will MWP continue to find defensive success against power forwards? Will the Knicks stick with small-ball lineups? All those unanswerable questions make figuring out the power forward situation is a headache, for now. It’ll be easier when (and I do mean when) Amar’e and Bargnani get hurt.

 

Silverman: I agree with Lord Jonathan of Topaz. Asking Chandler to log more than 28-30 MPG is practically begging for him to get hurt. Actually, considering his career arc, he’s probably going to miss 15-20 games no matter what. The problem is, while Kenyon Martin was surprisingly effective in the 18 regular season games he logged upon returning to the NBA last year, I don’t think you can expect 20 MPG for a full season without more than a few trips to kindly ol’ Doc Roger Hinds medical practice/glue factory.  I think you have to assume there’ll be 20-odd evenings when he too finds himself on the inactive list, and that’s with keeping his playing time at 15 MPG or so.

By my back of the napkin math (I’ve got an iPhone app that gives you a napkin to do calculations), that leaves three MPG for for the nights when Chandler and Martin are both hale and hearty and 20 games where you’re going to need a full evening’s work from other individuals. That’s where things get a interesting, to put it mildly. It’s partly why Woodson recently stated that one of the Aldrich-Powell-Diogo troika has a good shot of making the roster. And that’s assuming that Jeremy Tyler, regardless of the fact that he’s going to be MIA for a tad longer, is probably already assured of a spot. But the idea of a smallball unit and a grab bag of retread bigs playing significant minutes has to be downright scary. Hell, I think I’m going to go as “Starting Center, Cole Aldrich” for Halloween this year.

 

David Vertsberger: I’d like to give Chandler a good 35 minutes a night, but that’s me being overly optimistic that he’ll be able to handle that load. Whatever minutes he gives up at the center should go to K-Mart. As for the power forward spot, I really couldn’t care less who plays more minutes off the bench between Stoudemire and Bargnani – so long as neither plays more than 15 a night. Go with whoever works there as the season progresses, keep Metta at the 3 for the most part and Anthony at the 4 always. Jeremy Tyler can be the Knicks towel waving human victory cigar.

2014 Preseason Roundtable: Now that JR’s out OH GOD PANIC PANIC PANIC!

Who should be the first player to come off the bench? Our cast of clowns has the answers:

McElroy: Obviously the answer is dependent on who is in the starting five. With JR unavailable, I’d start Felton/Prigs/Shump/Melo/Chandler, bring STAT and Artest off the bench first, have K-Mart play every minute of center that Chandler doesn’t, and let matchups dictate how much time I found for Bargs at the 3 and 4. I also want to see Woody find a role for Udrih who I think could do a lot of the stuff Jason Kidd did last year and possibly even average more than 0.9 PPG in the playoffs. Some may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

Fisher-Cohen: The Knicks have a lot of limited players, guys who are good at one or two things but fall flat on their faces when asked to do more. One key for Mr. Mike Woodson will be putting balanced lineups on the floor. Assuming Felton, Prigioni, Shumpert, Anthony and Chandler start, preserving the chemistry that helped Anthony have a career year and helped what seemed to be verging on a lost cause of a team finally win a playoff series, and assuming Prigioni is the first to the bench given his age, I would sub in Beno Udrih.

With Shumpert still on the floor, the Knicks would have a stopper to contain the best small and a big to help block up the middle, protecting three of the Knicks less gifted defenders.

Cronin: As noted, it really depends on what starting lineup that Woodson settles on and I honestly do not know what he plans on doing. Everyone seems to assume he’ll stick with the Felton/Prigioni backcourt from last season. I am certainly not saying that he won’t do that, but I have not seen any indication from Woodson that he is settled on that lineup. If he does go with that lineup, then I think World Peace will be the first guy off of the bench. If he does not, then I think Prigioni will be the first guy off of the bench.

Silverman: I’ll join the chorus of voices belting out the “Depends on what the starting five is” tune. If Son of Wood goes 2-PG and rolls with the Felton-Prigioni-Shumpert-Anthony-Chandler (the non-Slinky necked version) quintet, and the Knicks are looking for scoring punch, I think the answer’s going to be…gulp…Andrea Bargnani. For all of his faults/flaws, Bargnani can be a versatile scoring big when properly motivated and healthy. STAT’s certainly capable of filling this role as well, as we saw in the brief, 29-game stint before the ligaments and tendons holding his knee together turned into guacamole, but until we/Woodson know that Amar’e’s capable of actually suiting up, I say it’s Bargs. Plus, whereas STAT’s low-posting (assuming he enters for Shump or Prigs) does tend to clog the paint, Bargs as a perimeter threat (assuming he’s healthy and his shot’s been Hopla’d such that he’s capable of hitting the broad side of an edificio agricolo) allows the offense to retain all of the floor spacing goodery we’ve grown so fond of.  And yes, for all the howls of condemnation that I (and many, many others) unleashed at the news of the trade, I’d be tickled chartreuse if Andrea proved all the haterz wrong by having a boffo season.

Kurylo: When I think of first player off the bench, I think offense. So my gut is telling me Amar’e Stoudemire. Remember the guy worked on a whole new repertoire with Hakeem last year? The guy who, when he was healthy, he was able to score on his own in the low post? With Prigioni and — in theory — Bargnani, you don’t need STAT to anchor that second unit. You need STAT when the A-Team is a bit flat and you need some buckets to stem the tide.

Topaz: At the risk of taking the question too literally, if JR is out, it probably makes sense to start Felton/Shump/Melo/MWP/Chandler in the interest of having Prigioni to anchor the second-team backcourt. A starting lineup including Prigs in the Earl-is-out scenario would leave a second-string backcourt of Udrih and Hardaway (and Shumpert in bigger lineups.)

In this scenario, Amar’e is the 6th man (provided he is healthy). A seldom-discussed point about the Knicks’ offense is that, despite having the third-most efficient offense last season, don’t really have too many guys who can create their own shots on a consistent basis. I’d put Melo, JR, and Felton as the 3 absolutes in that category, with Shumpert and Bargnani on a show-me basis. The Knicks need creators, and a healthy Amar’e is a creator who demands defensive attention and double-teams and can create instant offense. Even in these last two injury-plagued years when he has not been 100 percent, Amar’e has averaged 19.2 and 21.8 points per 36 minutes. When he’s right, Amar’e can create his own shot on the catch and on the drive. And in a JR-less game, the Knicks will need their shot-creators to log minutes and stimulate ball movement as much as possible.

David Vertsberger: With my favored starting five being Felton-Prigs-Shump-Anthony-Chandler, I’d vote for good ol’ Metta World Peace. He could easily come in and swap out Prigioni, and fill the 3 or 4 spot with hard-nosed defense and (hopefully) solid floor spacing.
Two caveats though:

1. Perhaps a Bargnani or Kenyon Martin would be better choice to help limit Tyson Chandler’s minutes?
2. If Beno Udrih was the first man off the bench instead of Metta, this would guarantee a two-PG lineup for a longer stretch of the game. Two-PG lineups work well for the Knicks.

2014 Preseason Roundtable: What should be our starting five? What about down the stretch?

As we approach the start of training camp and — EEEEEEEEEK! — real basketball, our in-house panel will be weighing in on the biggest questions facing this year’s Knickerbockers. Will Melo-at-the-Four return for an extended encore? What about two point guard lineups? Has the arrival of Andrea Bargnani spawned a conditioner renaissance within the Bocker locker room? Will Metta World Peace run for President?

In our first installment, we tackle who should be our starting five, as well as what unit should be the one to bring us down the home stretch.

Kevin McElroy: Assuming no material age- or injury-related regression, the team’s best 5 is going to be the same as it was at the end of last year: Felton, Prigs, Shumpert, Melo, Chandler. When JR is hot or we need points in bunches, swap him into the crunch time lineup for Prigs or Shumpert (depending on matchups). The burden of proof is on Amare to demonstrate the inaccuracy of this claim. I’d be thrilled to see him do it.

Brian Cronin: I can’t deny the efficacy of a Felton/Prigioni starting backcourt, but I am tired of guards on the other team just being able to get to the middle at will, so I would go with Shump at the starting two and have Prigioni come off of the bench. I would then start World Peace with Melo at the forward spots, with World Peace guarding whichever is the tougher of the two forwards on the opposing team. It is important to protect Melo from too much banging in the post. Let World Peace do that. That is a legitimately great starting lineup on defense. My lineup is dependent on Shumpert being an offensive threat, though (or else you really can’t play World Peace and Chandler together) but I am confident that he can be one next season.

Mike Kurylo: I agree with Cronin, but for different reasons. Don’t start the game off with Felton/Prigioni. Have the announcer call out the more conventional lineup of Felton-Shumpert-World Peace-Anthony-Chandler. That gives the Knicks three great defenders to put pressure on the other team’s starters to score. Put TPFKARA on the tougher threat at forward to give ‘Melo a rest at one end of the floor, and frustrate the opponent from the opening tip-off. With J.R. Smith hurt, that gives you either Prigioni and/or Amar’e Stoudemire to help jumpstart the offense when it drags. Down the stretch, go with the matchups. If Shumpert and/or Artest can shut-down one of the other team’s main threats, have them in. Otherwise go with Prigioni if he’s helping the ball find the open guy, or you need to spread the floor.

Cronin: I dunno, are those reasons really different than mine, Mike? ;) I forgot to name my “down the stretch” lineup. I’d go with Felton/Smith/Shump/Melo/Chandler with World Peace possibly switching offense/defense with Smith.

Max Fisher-Cohen: Last season, ESPN’s group of 100 analysts combined to project the Knicks to win 45 games. That’s nine game difference for all of you who don’t have a calculator on hand. The Knicks then must have done something pretty smart to have left all those analysts looking like fools with their pants on the ground. What did they change? They bumped Carmelo to power forward and when healthy, did their best to keep two point guards — or at least two players with many qualities of the modern point guard — on the floor at once.

The extra ball handling and passing that the Knicks put on the floor allowed them to severely cut down on turnovers and gave the Knicks more diverse options in punishing double teams.

If the Knicks want to prove the experts wrong again, abandoning this strategic adaptation would not be wise. For that reason, my starters are the group that best matches last season’s best lineups: Prigioni, Felton, Shumpert, Anthony, Chandler.

My closers are Prigioni, Smith, Shumpert, Anthony, Chandler. After all, by the end of the season the Knicks had mostly switched Felton over to the JR Smith role of spotting up and attacking from the weak side. These are areas in which Smith is far more talented, so let’s have Felton eat a bag of celebratory Funyons as the Knicks finish off their opponents.

David Vertsberger: Starting five, as previously mentioned, oughta be Felton-Prigs-Shump-Melo-Chandler. All for swapping out Felton for Udrih or Metta for Prigs down the stretch, but considering we’ve yet to see how either newcomers play this season it’s hard to take a measured guess. I’m a fan of two-PG lineups, especially with how well they’ve managed last season, but I wouldn’t normally push for them to be played for the majority of the game. This season I’d like to see how World Peace fares alongside Shump, Ray, Melo and Tyson, and then I can come up with a more complete analysis. In fact, all of my opinions on this team will probably fluctuate as the season progresses and we discover just how much Udrih, MWP, Bargs, THJ and Tyler can bring to the team.

Jonathan Topaz: Like the rest of the panel, I’d go with Felton-Prigioni-Shumpert-Melo-Chandler, for the offensive advantages of the Knicks playing small-ball. The Knicks made plenty of depth moves this summer, but none that should dictate an immediate change in the starting lineup.

Just as an aside, this lineup played a total of 39 regular season minutes last year.

But Max and David, out of curiosity, why so little love for Felton? Our slightly-heavier-than-we’re-comfortable-with point guard (Knicks … They’re just like us!) put up a PER north of 15 last season, posted the lowest turnover rate of his career despite having the highest usage rate of his career, and shot 36% from 3. The Knicks had an offensive rating of 114 with Felton on the court and at 107.4 with him off the court. Felton has a fantastic first step off the dribble, is a very good finisher around the rim, creates space for shooters, and is a wonderful pick-and-roll partner for Chandler. I’m all aboard the Prigioni train, but can’t we see him play more than 16 minutes a game before we insert him in crunch time minutes over Felton?

As for the lineup down the stretch, that will (and should) depend on matchups. The point of getting at least nominal depth is to have the flexibility to sit or play an often-streaky JR Smith accordingly, to insert MWP against lineups with bruising 3s and 4s, etc. But in general, the crunch-time lineup should be Felton-Smith-Shumpert-Melo-Chandler, a lineup that offers perimeter shooting, shot creation, strong wing and inside defense, and Melo at the 4.

Fisher-Cohen: Jonathan, Like Kidd last year, Pablo is an excellent double teamer, can guard twos, and is extremely generous with the ball, making him an excellent complement to the offense heavy tandem of Smith and Anthony, so for me, it was more about the choice between Felton and Smith than Felton and Prigioni. Thanks to his more aggressive offensive style, Felton fits better in more offensively challenged lineups.

Robert Silverman: I too would go with the Felton-Prigioni-Shumpert-Melo-Chandler quintet. Down the stretch, I think we can safely assume that Woodson will be going with JR Smith, once he returns from his injuries/suspension. Also, Felton closed pretty much every game that was reasonably close, as did Chandler and Anthony. It seems to me that regardless of the bounty of flexibility that Grünwald has assembled, there’s really only one spot on the floor that’s up for grabs, and given Woodson’s predilection for “traditional” lineups — if you’ll recall, the two-PG backcourt was a nice actualization of  the whole  “necessity is the mother of invention” thing — the only question seems to be whether it’ll be Shumpert or World Peace.

So as much as I (and others) may pine for Prigioni’s finishing kick, I think it’s not going to be a common occurrence.

Would Trading Shump with Stoudemire be Worth it?

The Knicks are in basketball purgatory – where the team isn’t bad enough to successfully overhaul the roster but not good enough to have expanded postseason campaigns. With New York’s contractual situation in gridlock, the only means of improving significantly at this point would be trading Amar’e Stoudemire. The ex-superstar brings nothing to to the court that the Knicks don’t already have, when he actually makes it that far. Stoudemire has had to fend off injury after injury recently while burning upwards of $20 million a year doing so.

The concept of trading an aging and injury-riddled player with a max deal seems outlandish – but not impossible. The Knicks could sweeten the pot with their most promising young player, Iman Shumpert, to sway a team into taking on Amar’e and his contract. Shumpert’s excellence on the defensive end and improvement from beyond the arc in his first two seasons is intriguing. With “3-and-D” wings becoming more desired around the league, he and a future pick from the Knicks (like, you know, in 2062 or something) could be enough to persuade a team into trading for Stoudemire.

Stoudemire’s basketball in itself is still at a high level, averaging 21.8 pts/36 on a 63.7% ts% last year. However, his real value to a team might be his expiring contract in two years where a team can unload a high salary that terminates later. The Knicks can’t afford to roll the dice hoping that Stoudemire can suit up for 70 games and be around for the playoffs. New York might be better off getting a lesser player who can stay healthy.

Making a trade happen won’t be easy or simple in any way, but there are possibilities I came up with as an idea of what one could look like.

New York receives: Rudy Gay, Sebastian Telfair

Toronto receives: Amar’e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, first-round pick

A nauseating idea, but trading Stoudemire won’t bring in very lucrative offers. I’d probably become a Hawks fan if this trade went down and save myself the agony. Masai Ujiri is on his way to turning this entire Raptors franchise around, and chances are he’ll unload Rudy Gay where possible if it means getting something back. I’d be shocked if the Knicks were interested, but I’m confident they won’t be – it’s not like they traded for any other awful Raptors. Oh wait.

New York receives: Marcin Gortat, Caron Butler, Glen Davis

Orlando receives: Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, Kendall Marshall

Phoenix receives: Amar’e Stoudemire, Aaron Afflalo, first-round pick (Knicks)

Complex, but it’s one of the best shots the Knicks have at sending out Stoudemire’s contract. Orlando trades away players not a part of their future plans and in return nab not only Shump but also Kendall Marshall. The Suns are looking to shop Gortat and Butler and this trade gives them the perfect medium to do so. Perhaps the Phoenix front office believes that all Amar’e needs is the Arizona sun to return to his former self. The Knicks get a 3-and-D veteran wing in return and serious big man depth.

New York receives: Marcin Gortat, Caron Butler, P.J. Tucker

Sacramento receives: Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert

Phoenix receives: Amar’e Stoudemire, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Jimmer Fredette, first-round pick (Knicks)

Similar to the previous proposal, only with a different third team in play. A Vasquez-McLemore-Shumpert-Frye-Cousins starting five would be very intriguing for Sacramento. Meanwhile the Suns receive two youngsters with upside while accomplishing their goal of trading Gortat and Butler.

Certainly readers here will be able to find their own deals, but they do provide some options to consider.

Hence the question remains, would trading Stoudemire along with Shumpert be worth it for the Knicks? New York is in a “win-now” mentality, with the picks the team has traded away and the lack of a future foundation this is all but evident. That said, having Shumpert around in two years if the whole team gives away won’t save the Knicks from mediocrity. As much as he brings to the team now, if the opportunity arrives for a swap that could bring additions that would push the Knicks into contender territory, I believe the Knicks should take it. Sitting in a gray area hasn’t worked out well, with a first and second round postseason exit. If the Knicks are dealt the right hand, now’s the time to go all-in.

Mo’ Point Guards, Mo’ Problems

Previously, I’ve discussed the New York Knicks’ defensive regression to mediocrity in depth. However, I skipped over one issue of the porous 2012-2013 Bocker defense: the fact that point guards carved this team up with ridiculous ease. As the upcoming season draws closer, finding a way to resolve this issue should be a priority. Problem is, there is no clear answer in sight.

Specific performances stick out, such as Stephen Curry’s 54-point explosion and Kyrie Irving’s 41-point effort against the Knicks. However, point guards in general found success against New York, as can be confirmed via 82games.com’s Team Production by Position Rankings. According to this data, the Knicks ranked 28th in the NBA in opposing point guards’ points and FG%.

Tyson Chandler took home the Defensive Player of the Year award for his stellar play in 2012, when the Knicks had one of the league’s top defenses. Last year, the Knicks sunk to 17th in defensive efficiency, and Chandler seemed to be only a shell of his former self.

To make matters worse, the Atlantic Division has a much stronger array of point guards coming into this season compared to last.

In the 2013 campaign, the Nets were starting a Deron Williams who battled injury problems year round. The former All-Star was unable to maintain his typical level of production until the final months of the season. The Boston Celtics’ Rajon Rondo missed a large chunk of the season (including 3 games against the Knicks) due to an ACL tear. The Toronto Raptors fiddled around with their starting point guard spot in 2013, flipping between Kyle Lowry, stat-sheet stuffer and Jose Calderon, distributor.

Coming into the 2014 season, these division neighbors will bring on a tougher challenge for the Knicks in terms of point guard play. Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo should be fully healed from their injuries come opening night. Additionally, Boston will require Rondo to be featured in their offense with the Celtics’ roster greatly reduced. The Toronto Raptors have shipped off Jose Calderon, meaning the productive Kyle Lowry has secured the starting spot at the point. The Sixers were the only team that backtracked in the point guard category, trading Holiday in a draft-night deal to the Pelicans.

With teams that the Knicks will meet 4 times in 2014 bolstering their one spot and an NBA where talented point guards flood the basketball streets, how does New York look to contain opposing ones in 2014?

As of today, the Knicks’ roster compared to last year’s doesn’t show much promise for improvement. There is the “addition by subtraction” argument, with Jason Kidd’s departure potentially opening up Pablo Prigioni to more playing time. However, with management pursuing a third point guard for the roster (good idea), Prigs could find himself playing even less time with the addition of a more potent offensive point guard (bad, bad idea). Beno Udrih, Bobby Brown and Jannero Pargo are among the names the Knicks have looked at as possible signees, yet none of them are an upgrade on the defensive end. Subsequently, signing one of those names would mean playing Pablo Prigioni – our best defensive one man – fewer minutes a night. I’m still praying for Glen Grunwald to sign Summer League stud Toure Murry to provide some defense off the bench, even at the expense of offensive spacing.

The only acquisition that caught my eye as a fan pleading for the team to improve itself defensively was the signing of Metta World Peace. As much as I love the signing, to say he’ll solve our point guard troubles would be overstating his defensive ability at this stage of his career. He was never the quickest player to begin with and since he’ll be 34 around the beginning of this upcoming season, it’s a daunting proposal to ask him to slide in and barricade point guard penetration. With the help of Steve Nash, last year’s Lakers actually ranked 30th in opposing  point guard points.

The final option that remains at this point is relying on Tyson Chandler’s defensive anchor-ish ways, but this is contingent upon his playing to the level he did in 2012. A repeat of last season simply won’t do the trick, and hoping that Chandler returns to his peak form as a 31-year old playing in his 13th year is a stretch, especially when considering the injuries he sustained last year.

No offseason can swing by Knickerbocker fans without bursts of enthusiasm, angst and anxiety. While this summer has been an eventful one for New York, it hasn’t produced answers to the team’s biggest concerns. Corrections can still be in the works, but at the moment, the upcoming season for New York makes me feel more wary than exuberant.