Ready to Go

The loss of Shawne hurts a bit. I like continuity. And I'm sure the Knicks will add some sort of player in the next few days. But I think we're good to go.

You need a variety of skills to compete, minute to minute, in an NBA basketball game. You need the ability to ballhandle, pass, and break pressure, you need to be able to rebound the ball, you need to be able to defend big guys and little guys and slow other teams down. And you need the ability to put the ball in the basket from many angles and distances.

Many teams, including the Knicks of recent vintage, struggle not because they don't have good talent, but because they have glaring holes in their skill set. Each team has some difficulties and deficiencies that they must overcome. That's where team chemistry and camraderie comes in. I think the Knicks have it. It just feels right. And that's very important.

So, position by position:

Center: Tyson Chandler is pretty much the perfect center for a team with a power forward like Amar'e. Amar'e is a great scorer, and rebounds and defends with some effort, but it's not his strong point. Tyson provides everything that Amar'e is not. Chandler isn't a 'demand the ball' kind of post scorer, which is perfect. I see no conflicts and chemistry problems between Tyson and anyone else on the floor, and I see no skill deficiencies. When Tyson is out of the game, Amar'e can play center and probably have some success on a temporary basis as he did last year. Jerome Jordan does have a post game and might be able to provide some decent play in limited minutes. So Jordan's game is complementary to Tyson's which gives the Knicks another look.

Power Forward. Amar'e is one of the best in the game, and freed up from having to guard bigger guys and anchor the defense, he should be freer to do what he does best. Jorts at least has the intenion of being a defense and rebounding focused player, but seems to have some natural outside shooting touch. That's a nice complementary skillset, and again, he's a guy who is not going to demand the ball. Carmelo could also see time in a small lineup at power forward, stretching defenses with his speed and range, and being able to hold his own on the boards, I think that works.

Small Forward. Carmelo is a fantastic offensive player and underrated passer. He seems to be a willing defender in a pinch. With solid defenders on the perimeter and at the pivot, he can focus on what he does best - scoring. Without Shawne, we'll probably see some combination of Landry Fields, Bill Walker, and perhaps Shumpert backing Carmelo up. Fields and Walker have both played the 2 but are big enough to play small forward. Fields in particular is a good rebounder and they can both shoot efficiently from outside. Fields is a willing if unspectacular defender and team player, and Bill Walker can foul guys hard. Shumpert can handle the ball and has been a very good defender in college. So they have a good palette of looks behind Melo.

Shooting guard. It looks like Landry is going to reprise his role as starting shooting guard from last year. It seems like he's gotten stronger and apparently has been working on his game. He's no Kobe, but he can find opportunities within the offense and he'll work on defense. As long as he can hit spot up three's, he'll be fine. Landry might be lacking on a team that didn't have a dynamic scoring SF like Carmelo. But here, I think his skillset works. Backing Landry up will probably be some combination of Bill Walker and Toney Douglas. Toney can score and defend better, and Walker has more experience, so while you don't exactly have elite scoring talent here, there is a good palette of options.

Point Guard: It's Toney Douglas' third year and he has yet to distinguish himself as a starting caliber NBA point guard. However, he continues to shoot efficiently and defend with tenacity and hustle. He has also shown the ability to score in pressure situations and hit big shots. With Toney being handed the starting job, he will have every opportunity to grow into the role, and I think that's ideal, if he can do it. Backing him up is Mike Bibby. Bibby is nearly washed up, but still has lots of experience in big playoff situations. Though he cant defend much, he does have more playmaking skill that Toney, so that provides a complementary skill set, and he is not a liability from outside. A wild card here is Iman Shumpert, who, at 6'6" could provide a big mismatch playing point guard if he can show the ability to make correct decisions in the pick and roll.

Nuts and Bolts:

The Knicks have scoring, rebounding and defending nicely balanced throughout their lineup. The holes that I see right now are in floor leadership, particularly as it pertains to offensive flow and getting good shots when Carmelo is not on the floor. But I think that Toney has a fairly decent chance of figuring that out, particularly if his back is against the wall and the team is depending on him to do so. As a third year player, Toney hopefully will have some authority and increased confidence out there. If he can grow with the team, that's ideal, because he's young and will get better.


At the front court positions, we have two elite scorers and an elite defender and rebounder anchoring them. They are veterans, but all similar in age. They are clearly the experienced alpha dogs of the team, still early in their primes and mature enough to mesh well. In the backcourt, we have two young but very level-headed, low ego players in Douglas and Fields. Along with Shumpert, they form a nice trio of young players who are going to do their best to help the team win, and, I think, are going to help each other rather than compete with each other. Though Chauncey Billups is a great player, I think that at this point, these guys need to figure it out on their own. Chauncey also had more of a history with Melo and that kind of caused an imbalance that will no longer exist.

So we have a nice little 'youth squad' back court led by Toney, and a 'superstar squad' front court led by Amar'e, and I think these two subteams work nicely together. The third subteam is the support guys Bully, Jeffries, Bibby, and Jorts. Something about that grouping just sounds right to me. They'll miss Shawne here, but I think Bully can step up, and might be more useful operating as an undersized 3/4 rather than as an oversized 2. Bibby at this point in his career is not going to need to be starting - I think he'll be content to be a sub and to bring order when the young backcourt lets things get out of hand. Jeffries will do those intangible things he does and will be useful playing limited minutes. And Jorts can provide a jolt of youthful energy pushing guys around down low.

I think this team can figure it out - I really do. The big question to me is whether or not Douglas and Shump and Landry are going to be up to the task, but I feel good about it. Those are three talented, intelligent and grounded young men. I have a feeling they are going to work it out., and if they do, we will be rolling along quite nicely come playoff time.

P.S. - I like bringing in an injured Baron Davis, because it gives you a bit of insurance in case Toney just can't hack it at the point. In that case, you slide Davis in and take Bibby out of the rotation, and play Toney at the 2. I think Davis would get along with the young guys just fine. Wheras Chauncey was a bit of a cranky gramps, Baron is more of an eccentric bearded uncle with the heart of a child.

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