This is a much older team after all of their summer pickups, and that works to coach Mike Woodson's advantage because he'll get along with those guys and keep their work level at a comfortable pace. If Jason Kidd stays healthy, I think they can win the Atlantic Division. But that doesn't mean they're going to win in the playoffs. They can win the first round if they have home-court advantage, but after that they're going to lose to Boston or Miami.
They have a new look at point guard after losing Jeremy Lin, and I have no problem with their decision to let him go. It's like losing Tim Tebow. Last year was a perfect storm for Lin to go on that run.
It's going to be hard for a 39-year-old point guard like Kidd to come off the bench, especially because he has been used to starting for so long. With the multiple personalities on this team, Kidd will be really important. He has played with big personalities and he knows how to keep them involved in the game. He's played with Tyson Chandler, too. They're comfortable playing pick-and-roll together. They'll hope that Kidd will be a coach on the floor, keep their scorers happy and then pass that knowledge on to Raymond Felton, who has never had a mentor like him before.
[Chris Mannix: What to expect from the Knicks this season]
Kidd is not great defensively chasing guys around or getting through screens. He's good on the ball because he's smart enough that he stays in front and physical enough that he can body you up.
Felton has never played on a great team, but now he has a lot of talent around him. So having less pressure to score is probably going to make him a better player. He is pretty good in the pick-and-roll, whether it's in the middle or on the side of the floor. He has the ability to make the right pass and make you pay when he's on the move. He shoots it well when he's spotting up. But he's another guy who needs the ball in his hands to be effective.
Is Felton likely to stand up to Carmelo Anthony and tell him where he needs to go and how the offense is going to be run? I think the answer to that is "no," and that's a problem.
[Ben Golliver: Felton an X-factor in Eastern Conference]
The biggest job for their point guards will be to create balance for Carmelo and Amar'e Stoudemire and to make sure that both guys get consistent touches. But I don't think either one of those leopards is going to change his spots. It was flawed when they brought Anthony and Stoudemire together in New York because they both need the ball. When Carmelo has the ball, everybody else stands around and watches. When Amar'e has the ball, he tends to shoot it. While Carmelo can pass it, Amar'e is definitely a black hole.
I wouldn't like to play with Carmelo. But I wouldn't want to play against him, either. He is a hard matchup and a great scorer -- there's no doubt he's in the top five in the league. You have to appreciate the fact that he's 6-9, he can get the ball off the glass and push it, he can pass, he can spot up and he can post up. He's unusual at the 3 because he can handle it in the pick-and-roll. Sometimes you go into a game against his teams and say, "We're going to let Carmelo get his 40 and we'll worry about guarding the other guys because he may not pass it to them."
Anthony is not a committed defender by any stretch. Even though Woodson is a great defensive coach, one of his deals is that if you get your 28 points then he's not going to be so demanding of you on defense.
If you're asking why Carmelo hasn't turned the corner to become a great leader, maybe it's as simple as the idea that his coaches have overlooked the defense and the passing in return for what he gives them. I also think Carmelo has won just enough that he hasn't figured out how important the other parts of the game are. It isn't like he has been totally embarrassed and been forced to deal with his issues. He's always had some level of success doing it his way. I don't think it's too late for him to figure it out. But it's going to have to click pretty soon or he's going to get traded again. Because he's the only big-money guy they could trade.
Stoudemire is not the same explosive player he was. He played the 5 when he was really effective for New York. That made him hard to guard because you could move him all around and he would spot up. He was The Man and then there were four other guys on the court. Now he's in a situation with Carmelo where I don't think either one of them is comfortable being the second banana. It's also hard to tell how much physical deterioration has set Stoudemire back, though I think that definitely plays a role, along with the personalities of the players on that roster.
[Photo Gallery: Rare pictures of Amar'e Stoudemire | Carmelo Anthony]
I would look for Amar'e to have a good year if he stays healthy because now he'll have Kidd getting him the ball in the right spots. Last year Woodson didn't have a problem getting Anthony the ball in the post and in isolations because he understood where Carmelo was comfortable. But I don't know if Woodson knew where Amar'e wanted the ball. Maybe having an offseason and training camp together will help. At the same time, it's going to be hard to figure out a system that makes them both happy. They both are alpha guys and they both want the ball.
One way of dealing with that is having Stoudemire in the second group as much as possible. They can start him at the 4 alongside Chandler at the 5, and then with the second group they can shift Amar'e to the 5 and spread the floor out around him. That way he's on the court at his best position while Carmelo is on the bench, so Amar'e can do what he does best in the second quarter and at the end of the third. In the fourth, that's when it's going to be on Woodson to figure out how to make the best of them playing together.
Chandler is one of the two or three best defenders in the league. When other guys make mistakes, he's there to pick them up. He'll take a charge or give a hard foul because he's savvy enough to know where to be. He doesn't just rely on athleticism and he doesn't get in foul trouble like he used to.
They've reinvented themselves by backing up Chandler with veteran big guys Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas. They have all of these big bodies to try to take advantage of what Miami doesn't have. Camby is not going to give the Knicks much of anything offensively, but at the other end he's going to affect shots and block his share. Thomas is more of a safety net for them and a behind-the-scenes guy who will be good in the locker room to help keep things together.
[Ian Thomsen: Atlantic Division preview]
J.R. Smith is a wild card from night to night. It made sense for them to bring him back at the money they're paying him [$2.8 million this season]. He is as talented as anybody at his position, but consistency-wise he's right at the bottom. His extremes are enormous. He's an off-the-charts athlete and great three-point shooter, but he doesn't know a good shot from a bad shot. Smith can go one-on-one off the dribble, get to the basket and finish with anybody. He's an adequate passer. Skill-wise, he'll tease the crap out of you.
I don't see Smith as an issue in the locker room. I think he's one of those guys teammates ignore or just wave him off and say that's J.R. being J.R. On the court, I think he loses as many games for you as he wins and he makes it all balance out.
The one thing you can say about Rasheed Wallace [who is 38] is that he's not going to be the oldest person on their team -- if he makes their team.
I like their pickup of Ronnie Brewer. You know Brewer will run the lane and defend the wing. Iman Shumpert will also give them good perimeter defense when he comes back from knee surgery.
Steve Novak was made for Mike D'Antoni's system, but he'll be able to help Woodson as a 4 who can space the floor and knock down shots. Even if he doesn't score, his man has to stay with him and that's one fewer defender to help on the other guys.