COMMENTARY | With the way last season ended for the New York Knicks, there is no doubt a desire among the club to make a deeper run into the postseason. This 2013-14 Knicks team has something to prove after their performance in that six game conference semifinal loss to the Indiana Pacers.
The expectations for New York are generally lower than last year when they finished second in the Eastern conference with 54 wins. They aren't even projected to defend as division champions of the Atlantic after claiming it for the first time in 13 years last season. That would put the Knickerbockers in the pack of non-division winners in the east.
To retain their division crown and make a run at the conference finals, questions will need to be answered and the new pieces will have to successfully integrate into Mike Woodson's system. There are a variety of areas we can look at as keys for Knicks success in 2013-14, but here I have outlined a few.
GETTING STOPS ON THE DEFENSIVE END
Last season, New York ranked 18th in defensive efficiency. Woodson has maintained that he wants the Knicks to be a top-10 defense, an expectation that could tower the teams' capabilities but we can expect the Knicks to defend better overall. With the addition of Metta World Peace, the Knicks have bolstered their defensive core. They now have representation in the backcourt with Iman Shumpert, the middle with MWP and frontcourt with Tyson Chandler. Add Kenyon Martin into the mix and there are some defensive weapons for Woodson to use. The Knicks need to consistently get defensive stops, something they struggled with last season. This makes them a more complete team; not forcing them to outscore every one of their opponents. The ability to win the shootout is one thing, but winning the defensive game will show signs of team evolution. The first three games against Boston in last year's playoffs should be a model to go off of.
OFFENSIVE PROGRESSION OF IMAN SHUMPERT
The Knicks' 17th overall pick in the 2011 draft went through the first training camp of his career. Iman Shumpert brings along with him the reputation as one of the game's best on-ball defenders and the lofty expectations of fans all over New York. Shumpert's offensive game seemed to come along last season, most notably his long distance shooting. For Shump, it's always been a matter of consistency with the ball and making the right decision. It hasn't yet appeared like Shumpert had an NBA-level offensive mind but he knows how integral he is to winning for New York. With out of this world athleticism and a chip on his shoulder, we can look for him to take a leap in this offensive game this season (barring injury, of course).
MELO BEING MELO
Carmelo Anthony is the engine at the center of the Knicks; quite simply, he makes them go. He has the ability the win games when the rest of the offense is imperceptible and draws extra defenders to him like few players in the league do. He may be a flawed superstar, but a star he is and one the Knicks will ride to wherever their season ends. Melo doesn't necessarily have to score 28.7 points per game or win the scoring title again, but the high volume of scoring from Anthony has to be a constant in just about every game the Knicks play. As usual, the hope with Anthony is that he can somehow keep his field goal percentage manageable and find the open when he gets doubled. His inside-out presence gives him the ability to shoot from outside on bigger defenders or take smaller ones to the paint at will. It's painfully obvious, but Melo doing his thing again couldn't be any more important to the Knicks. It also appears Anthony is becoming more of a leader, something he isn't widely regarded as. The fact that he's more vocal and taking a role he normally wouldn't means he is becoming somebody his teammates want to play hard for and with, even more so than before.
PRODUCTION FROM THE BIG MEN
Discounting Carmelo for a minute, there are a plethora of big men that will be worked into the rotation. Newcomer Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire are offensive threats but liabilities on defense. Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin are defensive specialists but nothing to marvel at on offense. Woodson has to find the right combination of players based on game situations, something that he has not been able to do in the preseason due to injuries. Probably a mix and match of the offensive and defensive players would work best to not sacrifice one end of the floor, but it's impossible to know entirely until the season starts. In addition to that, the Knicks are hoping a limit on Stoudemire's minutes will keep him fresh and also open up time for Bargnani to play. New York is attempting to get the 7-foot Italian to shed his reputation as a soft, pure offensive minded player. I don't know how well that's going to work out, but Tyson Chandler needs to keep that neck healthy throughout the season and re-channel the 2011 defensive POY. Chandler's injury at the end of the regular season played a role in him getting destroyed by Roy Hibbert in the playoffs.
These are just some of the areas of focus for the Knicks as we stand a week away from the start of the season. Their adjustments from last year and integration of a revised game plan should have them in a position to at least compete for another division title. With doubters all around, New York should come out hungry from the onset on Oct. 30th against the Bucks.
Brian Sausa is a Queens native and freelance writer that contributes to Yahoo! Sports with Knicks and Jets Pieces. Previously covered a variety of NY area teams for New York Sports World. Intern at UAlbany Sports Information Department. Twitter @BrianSausa
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- New York Knicks
- Tyson Chandler
- Iman Shumpert
- New York