Enemy Lines: A rival scout sizes up the Knicks
2012-13 Record: 54-28; lost to Pacers in Eastern Conference semifinals
Coach: Mike Woodson (third season with Knicks)
I don't think you can win the championship if Carmelo Anthony is your best player. He tries, but it's very difficult to play with him in a team capacity. He doesn't make anybody else better. Your best player has to drag along the others. He can't just do it by himself. He might be like Dominique Wilkins. As great as he was, he couldn't get his team over the top the way he did it.
When Anthony is on, he's incredible offensively. He has it all: He can make perimeter shots, attack, handle the ball, post up and score in transition. He follows his shot and is persistent in pursuing the ball off the rim. He can pass, but he also forces a lot of shots.
I don't think Anthony is really a 4, but they were a better team when he was a 4. Guarding the traditional 4s was a problem for him -- but then, guarding the 3s was a problem, too. There are too many times where, if he doesn't get his way on offense, he's getting torched at the other end. Whether it's simply not running back or getting distracted from running back because he's upset about not getting a call, he has too many of those mental lapses where he doesn't stay within the defensive scheme.
The few times that Amar'e Stoudemire has been healthy and on the floor with Carmelo, it hasn't worked out. Those situations expose Stoudemire, who was best with a point guard spoon-feeding him. He doesn't have that setup offensively anymore. Stoudemire is a finisher through rolls to the basket and pick-and-pops. He's not an isolation guy like Anthony. Carmelo needs the ball, while Stoudemire needs someone to get him the ball in scoring position.
His knees have turned out to be as bad as the Suns predicted. The Suns were right not to guarantee Stoudemire as much in their contract offer as the Knicks did. [Stoudemire signed a five-year, $99.7 million deal with the Knicks in July 2010.] He never developed the post moves that could have enabled him to keep producing once his explosiveness began to decline. His game was all about quick movement and putting it on the floor going to the basket.
I have a hard time believing he's going to give the Knicks a lot this year. It's going to take him some time to get a rhythm going, and they can afford to wait. They also can't count on him because of the inconsistency of his availability. Stoudemire is not a good defender, either. People are going to put him in pick-and-roll, attack him off the dribble and make him move laterally.
Their defensive system isn't the best for Tyson Chandler. Mike Woodson has always had a gambling scheme instead of a systematic approach, which is how Rick Carlisle did it with Chandler in Dallas. Woodson is more about trapping and getting the offense out of its comfort zone. That can lead to guys getting out of position and put more pressure on Chandler to cover for them. Chandler's injuries have held him back, too. He hasn't been as mobile. He can be one of the best defenders in the league because of his experience and competitiveness, but he's tailing off a bit.
I like Pablo Prigioni a lot. He handles the ball well and is very good defensively. He has quick hands, he gets deflections and he plays hard. He's just tough. The way he came on at the end of last season as a 35-year-old rookie, I could see him taking another step forward now that he's more comfortable in the environment.
What has Andrea Bargnani done so far? He's a perimeter shooter, a nonrebounding big. He hasn't shot all that well the last few years, and he doesn't make an impact defensively. Is he what Chris Copeland was for the Knicks last season? Copeland played well before signing with Indiana. If they start Bargnani at the 4, it won't last long -- he's not going to rebound, and he's not going to get back defensively. And if they look at him at center, then Chandler isn't out there guarding the goal. Kenyon Martin will be a better solution because he'll defend and he doesn't need the ball.
Martin didn't miss a beat after a late start last season. Signing in late February and transitioning quickly into a playoff situation played to his strengths as a player who brings toughness, defends, rebounds and takes fouls. I don't know if he could have been as effective if he'd been playing all season. He probably should sit out until March again this year because it's going to be a fine line of protecting his minutes and making sure he's available for the playoffs, when he'll be 36.
Metta World Peace doesn't have much left. He doesn't have the lateral quickness to guard 3s the way the game is reffed right now. Wings are athletic and quick at getting up and down the floor, but he is more a plodder and a grabber. His style works in certain matchups, but I don't know if he can do it all season. He can guard Paul Pierce and the older wing players, but he can't chase through a lot of screens or keep up with the more athletic wings.
World Peace isn't a good enough spot-up shooter. They need players to space the floor around Anthony, like the departed Steve Novak and Prigioni did last season. World Peace isn't a knockdown shooter of that quality. He can do it from time to time but not consistently.
Iman Shumpert is a good defender. He has size, he can guard wings, he pressures the ball and he has good hands. He's become an offensive threat as a spot-up shooter. He's one of their most valuable players and someone who needs to be on the floor a lot.
Raymond Felton was a mess two years ago in Portland. He was out of shape and couldn't get up and down the floor. But he came around last year with the Knicks, attacking the basket and making plays. He competes, and it isn't a mano-a-mano kind of competing; he's a team player who wants to win.
J.R. Smith is a miniature Carmelo with his own set of skills. He's an offensive juggernaut who can go off at any time, but he's got blinders on at times, too. They rode him last year, and when he got hot, they relished that. When he isn't hot, they almost need to get him off the floor because he can lose a game just like he can win one.
Beno Udrih has always been solid. But with Felton and Prigioni ahead of him, he's probably going to be disappointed with his minutes.
I'm not really excited about their roster as a whole. They're outside the top four of Miami, Brooklyn, Chicago and Indiana in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks are going to push the back end of that group. It's going to be difficult for them to get out of the first round.