From Azubuike's Twitter:
I couldn't agree more, Kelenna. Obviously the plane is a metaphor for the coming season, and we're all lookin a little stupid as we speculate and wait. Still, what can you do?
And now, from Ronny's Twitter:
New York! Stand Up!
With that vitriolic command in mind, I will now delve into a series of topics that weigh heavily entering the coming season. Jump like these kids.1. Who should start at the SG spot for the Knicks next season? Who should close games at the position?
I think without a doubt this is the most debatable position in our starting lineup. The main possibilities: Wilson Chandler, Kelenna Azubuike, Bill Walker, Roger Mason Jr. The other options: Danilo Gallinari, Toney Douglas, and Landry Fields. Azubuike and Chandler seem the most likely candidates to start games, and the health and performance of both during training camp should help determine who gets the nod. Obviously Mason is a possibility as well, but I see him as a bench shooter brought in when the starters struggle who can carry some of the PG duties alongside TD in the second unit. I particularly like the idea of Bill Walker backing up the 3 alongside Mason at the 2, as it gives us extremely solid bench shooting along with the right mix of athleticism and ball-handling. Chandler and Azubuike are more traditional shooting guards in that they cannot be relied on in the same way as Mason to bring the ball up the floor. This actually works in our favor, since our starting point guard, Raymond Felton, is a true distributor who can easily be slotted alongside a player like Chandler or Azubuike. So in our backcourt, the first and second units would each have balanced skill sets. One other thought that many have pointed out is that Chandler is arguably more suited to playing the 3 or the 4 in a backup role alongside Anthony Randolph. This would make the starting spot all Azubuike's, in my mind, and may help Chandler progress as a player given that he would be asked to do things more natural to his game.
As far as who would close games, I like the idea of sometimes pushing the small ball unit of Felton and Douglas out there, but Roger Mason Jr. is undeniably the best closer on our team, so I could see him getting a bulk of the minutes. What I'm sort of overlooking is that almost all of the Knicks who play the 2 or the 3 are basically interchangeable at their positions, so we may end up seeing D'Antoni go with the two hottest hands late in the game at those positions. This could mean Chandler and Gallinari, Douglas and Walker, or whoever. There's a fair amount of flexibility there, which is a beautiful thing. Even if D'Antoni decides to use an 8-man rotation, I hope those 8 players change based on the opponent. It will help keep the team fresh throughout the season while also allowing us to see who can really contribute come playoff time.
2. How improved will our defense be from last year?
It's been often stated about last year's Knick defense that Jared Jeffries was the main cog, operating towards the top of the key and covering players at just about any position. When we traded Jeffries, this became even more evident. The idea that Anthony Randolph can fill that role is decidedly intriguing, but I worry about him facing up against players like Rondo, something that Jeffries did with regularity (and some success). Either way, I definitely want to see Randolph crash the boards more on defense than Jeffries ever did. I expect Randolph's defense to be somewhere between the positional versatility of Jeffries and the ball-hawking of Shawn Marion.
The biggest difference between this year and last year's team is our post defense, however. With Ronny Turiaf and Amare Stoudemire as our two main additions in the post, it won't be as easy for opposing guards to break the defense down with the pick and roll or penetration. I'm not quite sure the statistic, but somewhere on this site someone mentioned that Turiaf ranked among the league leaders in defensive percentage against the pick and roll. Even if he's a max 25 minute a night guy, that's a major difference for our team defense. Blocked shots can come from a variety of sources on this team, perhaps none greater than Randolph, who should develop into a terrific weak-side shot blocker with some practice.
Ultimately, I think the Knicks defense is as deep as it's been since the late 90's and will be one of the main reasons for whatever success we have this coming season. People talk about the improvements on the offensive end with new guys like Stoudemire and Randolph, but the biggest improvement is undoubtedly at the other end of the floor, and it doesn't come a minute too soon.
3. Should we make a trade during the coming season?
No. Keep the young talent, we've got the cap space to fill out the roster as we see fit next summer. This question is simple and I don't want to discuss it anymore.
4. Which new Knick will Clyde love the most?
Probably Felton, I would think. The Knicks' upgrade at the point guard position has to have our patron saint excited. Look, I'm not saying Felton is a godsend at the point guard position, but he may represent the best distributor we've had since...who? Mark Jackson? I honestly don't know. Putting Felton in D'Antoni's system can only mean that he'll flourish in ways we haven't seen him do as a pro in the oddly lethargic Bobcat offense. I think both Felton and Anthony Randolph have a shot at vying for the Most Improved Player award this coming season; both players are meant to run in a system like D'Antoni's and have never been given a chance, Randolph due to a lack of minutes and Felton due to the wrong system. That's the sort of thing that usually produces a marked improvement from one year / team to the next, such as Steve Nash from Dallas to Phoenix or Hedo Turkoglu from Sacramento to Orlando. Just thinking about this gets me amped up to watch 82+ games next year.
And some videos because I can't resist:
90's Knicks "Thug" Edition (via CAPNCRUNCH07)
Latrell's glasses at 1:48 in the above video are classic.
Speaking of that dude...
Do you guys know which Blackstreet song the above video's beat is taken from?
That's all for now, discuss below.