Watching the SummerKnicks is fun, but thinking about the RealKnicks' upcoming season is tops! I've been working in an office recently doing HR stuff, which leaves a lot of time for thinking. While Seth is enjoying his time soaking in the southwestern sun and meeting gigantic Russian candidates for "most out of place person in the southwestern sun," I'm in the woods of Pennsylvania carefully considering each facet of the Knicks' offseason in (relative) solitude. While you guys have been generating some great discussion via game threads, postgame recaps and fanposts, I've had a clog. So this post is meant to let some of that clog out all over your faces and bodies.
1. One month ago, the Knicks were far too short to compete. They trotted a 6'9" center out onto the court and lacked a single legitimate big man off the bench. Now? The Knicks are taller than the Celtics, the Nuggets, and the Spurs; all teams with supreme frountcourt depth. Send your thank you notes to Madison Square Garden, and address them to Mr. Stoudemire, Mr. Turiaf, Mr. Randolph, Mr. Gallinari, Mr. Mozgov, and particularly Mr. Walsh, who is the tallest of them all.
The best part about the Knicks' New Found (Glory) height? None of it, with the potential exception of Mozgov, is "slouch" height. Stoudemire and Turiaf are the only two of those mentioned who have fully realized their respective potential, Stoudemire being an absolute nightmare on the offensive end while Turiaf prefers to do his damage on the defensive side. Following these two, you have an already established defensive presence who is still developing offensively in Randolph (by the way, everyone check out these relatively old FD gems), and an already established offensive presence who is still developing defensively in Gallinari (who also has room for additional growth on the offensive end). After this, Mozgov if your wildcard. Although no one has any true expectations for him in terms of offense, blocks and rebounds are the two most highly-translatable statistics, and the Russian excelled at both things in his native land. Do we have much of the same to look forward to from our newest gigantic import? Only time will tell.
What should you take from all this confusing talk? The combination of length, toughness, established presence, room for growth and enthusiasm, the Knicks bigs should keep the crowd buzzing.
2. Who the hell will start for the Knicks at shooting guard this year?
Bill Walker. No, Wilson Chandler. No wait, Andy Rautins. Actually, it could be Kelenna Azubuike. Could you slot rookie Landry Fields in as a dark horse candidate?
Look, the truth is that I have no idea who will start for the Knicks at the 2. The most nebulous position on the roster will be fun to guide your attention toward for two interrelated reasons, youth and money, which combine to formulate the backbone of our justice system: judgment.
All of the players I just mentioned are being judged this year in one way or another. For Walker, it's both to uncover whether or not his production last year was a fluke and to see if his offseason weight loss gives him more lateral movement and spring in his step. I mentioned just the other day that I suspect him to play significant minutes with Toney Douglas, who I suspect will average a ton of steals per 36 and will need someone to sprint down the court for easy points (if only we could have two Toney Douglases). However, looking at him so far in Summer League he looks to be out of focus and without motivation. In other news: it's Summer League.
Of the other candidates, Azubuike is looking to prove he's still worth a damn after knee surgery, the kicker (pun intended) being that his contract is up after this year. A strong performance would do him a big favor while turning in a floppy-ass season would quite frankly screw him pretty badly. For these reasons, I suspect Azubuike to compete vehemently for a starting job.
Wilson Chandler is, quite simply, not a shooting guard. The first two guys are stretches as it is. Wilson Chandler has played much of his past two seasons at the two-guard spot (again, it doesn't matter what 'position' someone is playing, only his production), but has proven to be grossly ill-fit. He can't shoot from distance and hasn't proven to be the lockdown defender he seemed to be developing into (speaking of which, why does everyone think he's so good defensively? Don't get me wrong, he's valuable, but he's basically average). His best spot is probably the three, but Gallinari will command ample time there this season. I'll be rooting very hard for Wilson to develop a reliable shot and grow some balls in terms of rim attack, but I'm not holding my breath.
Rautins and Fields are not serious contenders for the spot, although one or both have a shot at coming off the bench, particularly in the latter half of the season.
3. Is Toney Douglas doomed to be a combo guard off the bench?
To be honest, I think so, although I wouldn't agree with the author's use of "doomed." The jury is still out on whether Douglas can run run the point guard position, but one thing is absolutely certain at this point: He is a scoring guard. Another Tony (Parker) shares this trait and consequently taught himself to drive-and-kick with the best of them. Why can't this Toney do the same thing? He is already a very good penetrator and is beginning to beat the "pure shooter" thing to death in Summer League, draining threes seemingly at will, so could he conceivably eventually draw defensive attention away from his teammates enough to make available passes? I think so. The important thing is not to expect it. Although Toney Douglas is only about 6'2" or 6'3", he's the type of guy who is so good at defending and good enough at everything else that he can make his living as a scoring guard off the bench. Two things to consider: could Douglas approach or surpass 15 points per game this year? Also, could Douglas possibly approach 40% on threes again this year? These two things will determine the fate of both rookies, as Douglas's scoring prowess will likely dictate the necessity for Landry Fields, and his three-point percentage will likely dictate the need for Rautins.
4. Will Danilo Gallinari take a step forward or a step back this year?
Gallo strikes me as the type of player who will thrive with better teammates. Remember, this is a player who often made passes that surprised the piss out of his obviously inferior teammates last year. This is a player who was so dominant in the first third of the season in terms of long range shooting that defenders wouldn't travel much further than five or six feet from him for fear of him making them pay in the only way the Knicks knew how last year. This is a guy whose demands to guard the opposing team's best player were the first signs of true in-season initiative (read: leadership qualities) we've seen in years. and years. and years.
My hypothesis is that Gallo will benefit incredibly from his new teammates. Raymond Felton and Amare Stoudemire will do wonders for Gallo's focus and efficiency. Expect big things from the Cock.
5. Who will lead the Knicks in blocked shots this year? With how many?
It's a pretty straightforward question.
That's all I have for right now. As usual, please chew up my opinions and spit them out in the comments. I'm not a whore for comments, but I don't have work tomorrow and want to generate some discussion.