If you just look at the stats, it appears the Knicks are playing pretty good defense this season. Teams are only averaging 98.4 points against them and shooting 44.7 percent from the field. But those numbers are illusions hiding a simple fact.
The Knicks would not have beaten the Cavs last year. Not with Mike Woodson as their head coach. Not in a million years.
I’m landing the Knicks at 43-39, getting the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. It will be a good start to the Jackson and Fisher era.
Here are the 10 things that will determine the Knicks’ success this season, in order of importance.
The only starters that appear certain are Carmelo Anthony (likely at small forward) and Jose Calderon. The other positions all seem to be, potentially, up for grabs.
Most of New York’s players are what they are: one-dimensional guys. Shumpert, Hardaway and Larkin can be more than that.
The trouble always remains the same: When it comes to team defense, Stoudemire cannot be hidden. He continues to play the same abhorrent team defense that he has his entire career.
Derek Fisher has wisely used the first four preseason games to experiment with different player combinations. But he has been shorthanded at one of the most competitive spots on the roster.
Can Anthony fit into the triangle? Will he get shots in rhythm in spots where he likes to score? Will the ball move? Will he be willing to move off the ball and cut for easy baskets?
When the preseason starts in four days, we’ll see how much head coach Derek Fisher is getting through to his team.
Anthony doesn’t have many years left in his prime. It’s the summer of 2015 or bust. Unfortunately for the Knicks, their options next offseason are somewhat limited.
Assuming the Knicks want to play a nine- or 10-man rotation for most of the season, Fisher is going to have to bench guys that expect to play serious minutes.
With too many wings and not enough big men, the Knicks had to add more depth up front, and they did that by signing Jason Smith.
They should still be happy that their star is back and that the Knicks will be very competitive for the next four to five years, but it is going to be very hard to get to a championship level during that same time frame.
The natives are always restless, and as Melo embarks on the second half of his Knicks career, he is going to learn that quickly. How he handles it will help define his Knicks career.