Tag Archives: New York Knicks

2014-15 New York Knicks Preview

By Joe Nocco

A season after finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs, the New York Knicks have revamped their team by re-signing Carmelo Anthony and hiring rookie head coach Derek Fisher. Finishing with a 37-45 record in 2013-2014, team president and general manager Phil Jackson hopes that he can lead the Knicks back to the postseason in his first full season in the front office.

After joining the Knicks front office in March, Jackson has attempted to change the attitude and culture of a struggling New York team through free agency, the trade market and a new offensive scheme.

It seems as if everyone in the Knicks organization is on board with the 11-time NBA Champion’s plan. In previous years, the Knicks’ complications stemmed from their lack of defense and focus solely on outscoring opponents. However, last season provided problems in all aspects of the game.

The Knicks finished in the bottom half of the league in most major offensive and defensive categories a season ago. New York ranked 20th in points per game—with 98.6—and 16th in field-goal percentage, coming in at 44.9. Despite ranking eighth in the league in fewest points allowed, the Knicks allowed the fifth highest field-goal percentage for opponents. Though the Knicks held their opponents to under 100 points per game, they allowed nearly 40 points in the paint per game as well.

It is difficult to win games when nearly half of the points allowed are inside the paint especially in close games. The Knicks went 3-8 in games decided by three points or fewer last season, while going 2-3 in overtime. Had New York closed out one of these games, they could have qualified for the postseason.

The Knicks also finished with a 15-29 record against teams with a win percentage over .500. With the second highest payroll in the NBA behind cross-town rival Brooklyn Nets, the problems begin and end at the top.

Derek Fisher, a longtime player under Jackson, was hired as the 26th head coach in Knicks history. Fisher was set to retire following the 2013-2014 after 18 seasons as a player and was signed to a five-year contract with New York on June 10. Fisher and Jackson won five NBA titles as a part of the Los Angeles Lakers and hope to implement a similar system that they used in LA in New York.

The system that will be used in New York is commonly known as the triangle offense. The sole purpose of this offense is to take the ball out of the hands of, in this case, Carmelo Anthony and spread the ball around. This would allow Anthony to get open without having the ball while letting other role players become involved with the offensive game plan. In the long run, the triangle offense relieves Anthony of the pressure of constantly handling the ball and always relying on him to carry the offense.

Carmelo Anthony finished second in the league in scoring, averaging 27.4 points per game. However, Anthony finished 72nd in field-goal percentage after sinking less than half of his shots. At 45.2 percent, the Knicks’ leading scorer made 9.6 out of every 21.3 shot attempts.

The triangle offense also translates to an effective defensive scheme. Instead of Anthony running down the court and chucking up a 25-foot shot, the ball will be worked around the perimeter until an efficient shot can be taken. This will increase the Knicks’ time of possession and keep fresh legs on defense, slowing down the tempo of the game. However, once the triangle is fully learned and executed correctly the tempo can speed up resulting in a high-scoring offensive attack.

Re-signing Carmelo Anthony was the key for the success of this offense. Though Anthony was a major part of this offense and team, the triangle offense cannot be executed properly with just one player. In lieu of re-signing the face of the franchise, Phil Jackson made his presence known in New York by making a six-player trade with the Dallas Mavericks.

Just 16 days after signing Derek Fisher to a contract, Jackson dealt center Tyson Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for guards Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon and Wayne Ellington along with veteran center Samuel Dalembert. The Knicks also received the 34th and 51th picks in the 2014 NBA draft, a draft in which the Knicks previously had no picks.

The move not only bolstered the Knicks bench but made salary cap space for the possibility of Carmelo Anthony re-signing. Jackson’s thought processes proved effective after Antony returned to his hometown on a five-year, $124 million deal.

Jackson wasn’t finished after using the received picks to draft Cleanthony Early from Wichita State and Thanasis Antetokounmpo from Greece. The front office couldn’t believe that Early was still available in the second round and are expecting a strong rookie season. Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, will be stashed overseas to continue to develop for New York. His brother, Giannis, currently plays for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Still, Jackson wasn’t satisfied. The Knicks traded away Wayne Ellington two months after acquiring him from Dallas along with Jeremy Tyler in exchange for Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy from the Sacramento Kings.

It seems as though Carmelo Anthony has bought into the Jackson and Fisher philosophy as the Knicks eye a playoff berth. Although the Knicks are set to win now, both Jackson and Anthony know that this may take time. However, along with the new acquisitions and the return of Anthony, the Knicks have other pieces in place that will allow New York to compete in a weak Eastern Conference.

Amare Stoudemire is in the last year of his contract and will be playing for his future—not just in New York but in the NBA. Stoudemire is set to make $23.4 million this season after signing a contract with the team in the summer of 2010. Former No. 1 overall draft choice Andrea Bargnani also returns to the Knicks’ lineup after suffering a season ending elbow injury. Both Stoudemire and Bargnani opted into the final year of their contracts to stay with the Knicks this season.

The Knicks backcourt comprised of Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Tim Hardway Jr. also remained intact, which will provide a three-point threat and solid defense at the top.

With his near $100 million payroll in place, Phil Jackson is ready to begin what appears to be an eventful 2014-2015 season.

“I flashed back to 1989 when I took over as head coach and had talked to Michael (Jordan) about how I wanted him to share the spotlight with his teammates so the team could grow and flourish,” said Jackson. “In those days he was a gifted young athlete with enormous confidence in his own abilities who had to be cajoled into making sacrifices for the team.

“Now he was an older, wiser player who understood that it wasn’t brilliant individual performances that made great teams, but the energy that’s unleashed when players put their egos aside and work toward a common goal. Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ‘me’ for the ‘we.’”

Joe Nocco is a writer for Scouts Alley and covers the New York sports beat on JoeNoccoSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeNoccoSports.


NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

By Jonathan Diego

Boston Celtics

2013-14 Record: 25-57, 4th in the Atlantic Division

Coach: Brad Stevens

Returning Players: Chris Babb (G), Keith Bogans (G), Jeff Green (F), Chris Johnson (F/G), Phil Pressey (G), Rajon Rondo (G), Avery Bradley (G) (Re-signed), Jared Sullinger (F), Gerald Wallace (F), Brandon Bass (F), Vitor Faverani (C), Kelly Olynyk (C).

Players Acquired: Marcus Smart (G), James Young (G/F), Marcus Thornton (G), Tyler Zeller (F/C), Joel Anthony (opt-in) (C).

Players Lost: Jerryd Bayless (G), Kris Humphries (sign-and-trade) (F/C)

In season 2 of Brad Stevens’ tenure as head coach, the Celtics have plenty of different pieces that will definitely take some time to develop. With the selections of Marcus Smart and James Young in the 2014 NBA draft, the end of Rajon Rondo’s time in a Celtics jersey appears to be looming on the horizon.

Re-signing Avery Bradley solidified the Boston backcourt for now, and it will be interesting to see how Stevens continues to lead the Celtics through a rebuilding period.

Prediction: If Rondo stays for now, this team wins 30 games. If he leaves before the season starts, 28 wins and another 4th place finish in the Atlantic. This season also produces another Jeff Green buzzer-beater, and a Phil Pressey to James Young alley-oop that lands in the top 10 ESPN plays for one day.

Brooklyn Nets

2013-14 Record: 44-38, 2nd in the Atlantic Division

Coach: Lionel Hollins

Returning Players: Deron Williams (G), Joe Johnson (G), Jorge Guiterrez (G), Marquis Teague (G), Mirza Teletovic (F), Mason Plumlee (F), Andrei Kirilenko (opt-in) (F), Alan Anderson (re-signed) (F/G). Brook Lopez (C).

Players Acquired: Jarrett Jack (G), Sergey Karasev (G/F), Markel Brown (G), Cory Jefferson (F), Xavier Thames (G), Bojan Bogdanovic (F).

Players Lost: Shaun Livingston (G), Paul Pierce (G/F), Marcus Thornton (G), Ilkan Karaman (F), Christian Drejer (F), Edin Bavcic (F).

Hiring Lionel Hollins could turn out to be the biggest offseason addition for this team. After the whole Jason Kidd debacle, Hollins’ defensive mentality will certainly bring a refreshing look for this Brooklyn team.

In his last season as the Grizzlies Head Coach, they ranked in the top three in points allowed per 100 possessions, opponent field goal percentage, and rebound percentage, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And the fact that Hollins’ Grizzlies teams improved every year he was there is a promising sign as well.

The losses of Shaun Livingston, Pierce, and the sporadic scoring of Marcus Thornton will affect this team’s offensive production, but hopefully with the addition of Jarrett Jack, consistent play from Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, along with the continued development of Mason Plumlee, this team could make some noise in the Eastern Conference.

Prediction: If Hollins gets this team to cooperate and adapt to his defensive philosophies, this team wins 45 games, finishes second in the division, and is a 6 or 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. If injuries strike and luck favors their neighbors in orange and blue, the Nets could find themselves awkwardly in the middle of the pack.

New York Knicks

2013-14 Record: 37-45, 3rd in the Atlantic Division

Coach: Derek Fisher

Returning Players: Tim Hardaway Jr. (G), Pablo Prigioni (G), J.R. Smith (G), Carmelo Anthony (F) (re-signed), Andre Bargnani (F/C) (opt-in), Amar’e Stoudemire (F/C) (opt-in), Cole Aldrich (C) (re-signed).

Players Acquired: Jason Smith (F), Jose Calderon (G), Samuel Dalembert (C), Shane Larkin (G), Quincy Acy (F/C), Travis Outlaw (F), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (F), Cleanthony Early (F), Louis Labeyrie (F).

Players Lost: Toure’ Murry (G), Raymond Felton (G), Wayne Ellington (G), Shannon Brown (G), Lamar Odom (F), Jeremy Tyler (F), Tyson Chandler (C).

Since Phil Jackson was introduced as the president of the Knicks in March, Derek Fisher has been hired as the new head coach, Carmelo Anthony was re-signed, the team has traded pieces with the Dallas Mavericks, and drafted Cleanthony Early, who could turn out to be the steal of this year’s stacked draft. Things are looking up in The Big Apple.

That being said, these moves could turn out poorly for a team that was ranked in the middle of the pack offensively (11th out of 30), and near the bottom defensively (24th out of 30), according to basketball-reference.com. A new offensive system, a logjam in the backcourt, and a rookie head coach will provide plenty of potential drama in The City That Never Sleeps.

Prediction: If Carmelo fits into the triangle, and the others around him follow suit and gel into their respective roles, this team could be bound for a 43 to 45 win season, and a trip to the playoffs.

If locker room issues arise, and the bad chemistry bug bites this team hard, then it’s another year of Knicks fans ranting on YouTube.

Philadelphia 76ers

2013-14 Record: 19-63, 5th in the Atlantic Division

Coach: Brett Brown

Returning Players: Michael Carter-Williams, (G) Brandon Davies (F), Arnett Moultrie (F), Nerlens Noel (F/C), Henry Sims (C), Hollis Thompson (G/F), Jarvis Varnado (F/C), Casper Ware (G), Elliot Williams (G), Tony Wroten (G).

Players Acquired: Joel Embiid (C), Jerami Grant (F), K.J. McDaniels (F), Vasilije Micic (G), Dario Saric (F)

Players Lost: Thaddeus Young (F), James Anderson (G/F)

When you look at this roster, names like Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric stand out. And that’s pretty much it for this year’s edition of the 76ers.

Although Williams started to pick up some poor shooting habits last year, he still shows promise as a playmaker. Noel had a nice Summer League campaign as he returns from an ACL injury, and with the selection of an injured Embiid, the Sixers should be hoping that history repeats itself in that regard.

Saric is staying in Europe for at least one more year, but the former Croatian League Finals MVP could make a big impact on a team that is struggling to find an identity at the moment.

And with coach Brett Brown looking to emulate the Spurs system, it will be interesting how Noel and Embiid will eventually factor into the rotation.

Prediction: With the potential to land a lottery pick in next year’s draft, it’s safe to say that the Sixers aren’t going anywhere in the Eastern Conference. This team will most likely match it’s record from last year, while Noel makes his case to win Rookie of the Year.

Toronto Raptors

2013-14 Record: 48-34, 1st in the Atlantic Division

Coach: Dwane Casey

Returning Players: Kyle Lowry (G) (re-signed), Patrick Patterson (F) (re-signed), Greivis Vasquez (G) (re-signed), Dwight Buycks (G), DeMar DeRozan (G), Landry Fields (F), Tyler Hansbrough (F), Chuck Hayes (F), Amir Johnson (F/C), Terrence Ross (G), Julyan Stone (G), Jonas Valanciunas (C).

Players Acquired: Bruno Caboclo (F), DeAndre Daniels (F), Lucas Nogueira (C), Will Cherry (C), Jordan Hamilton (F/G), Greg Stiemsma (C), Diante Garrett (G), Lou Williams (G).

Players Lost: Nando De Colo (G), Steve Novak (F), John Salmons (G/F).

The Raptors had a low-key offseason, as they managed to retain Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, as well as turn John Salmons into Lou Williams and the 16th overall pick, Lucas Nogueira, from the Hawks.

The addition of Bruno “The Brazilian Kevin Durant” Caboclo was certainly a perplexing one, but it’s one that could turn out to be a pleasant surprise.

Other than these additions, this team looks pretty much the same, but with another year to play together, this team could remain the third-best team in the Eastern Conference. If the returners can continue to improve their skill sets and team chemistry, then this team will make another exciting playoff run.

Prediction: 50 wins and a first place finish in the Atlantic Division is their realistic ceiling this season, barring any hiccups. I also expect Drake to hold an impromptu concert in the Air Canada Centre if the Raptors stumble into the Eastern Conference Finals, or—at the very least—attempt to do the Shmoney Dance on live TV after a vicious DeMar DeRozan game-winning dunk.

Jonathan Diego is a staff writer for Scouts Alley.