The Knicks didn’t land LeBron James or Dwyane Wade in free agency this summer, but they didn’t exactly lose out on the festivities either.
New York reunited four-time All-Star forward/center Amare Stoudemire with his former head coach in Phoenix, Mike D’Antoni, in hopes that the pair can spark some of the same magic that helped the Suns win at least 54 games four years in a row.
In Phoenix, D’Antoni ran a high-powered offense that relied on fast break points and a ferocious pick-and-roll with Stoudemire and two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash.
But in New York, that kind of strategy doesn’t exactly fit the makeup of the team. This squad, unlike any other D’Antoni club in the past, will have to play a half-court style of basketball with solid defense if it wants to go anywhere.
The Knicks are a very frontcourt-heavy club, especially in terms of scoring. Stoudemire will team up with former sixth-overall pick Danilo Gallinari, Anthony Randolph and Wilson Chandler to form a formidable front line — one that could be comparable to those in Boston and Orlando.
Stoudemire’s numbers are pretty much a lock — he’s averaged at least 20 points and eight rebounds in each of his last six full seasons (he played just three games in 2005-06).
As for Gallinari, the 6-foot-10 small forward is a versatile player who keeps getting better with experience. Entering his third season in the NBA, the 22-year-old Italian should improve on his 15.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last year.
Randolph, who was picked by the Warriors just eight spots after Gallinari in the 2008 draft, came over from Golden State in the David Lee trade. The 6-foot-11 forward was limited to just 33 games last season, but managed to score 11.6 points and grab 6.5 boards per game.
Chandler will come off the bench as the Knicks’ sixth man, something that should give the team a huge boost. The 6-foot-8 wingman averaged 15.3 points in just over 35 minutes last year, and he should see similar time and produce similar numbers in a reserve role.
The combination of Stoudemire, Gallinari, Randolph and Chandler poses a threat to any opposing team. Unfortunately, the Knicks’ backcourt doesn’t really scream intimidation.
New York brought in Larry Brown-trained point guard Raymond Felton from Charlotte this offseason in order to bring some consistency to the point position.
Felton can’t manipulate an opposing defense like Nash does in Phoenix, but he knows how to run an offense and contributes a little of everything. At 6-foot-1, 198 pounds, Felton’s stocky frame makes him one of the more physically solid point guards in the league. And he can put points on the board, as he averaged 12.1 points and 5.6 assists last year.
Other than Felton, the Knicks don’t really have a legitimate starting guard on their roster.
Bill Walker, who played just 27 games with New York last season, should start at shooting guard, while Toney Douglas, Kelenna Azubuike and former Spur Roger Mason should all see significant minutes.
The Knicks can’t expect too much scoring out of the backcourt, including from Felton. Therefore, the guards will have to play solid, fundamental basketball and concentrate on feeding the ball to Stoudemire and Co. in the post.
Meanwhile, D’Antoni will have to find a way to adjust to a new coaching style — one that doesn’t involve telling his players, "Just keep running and shooting."
That won’t work in the new and improved Eastern Conference.
If the Knicks have something on their side, it’s the element of surprise. As a franchise that has been so awful for so long, with a coach that has been stuck on the same kind of style, nobody expects anything different out of the Knicks this year.
That could be the case — the Knicks could be terrible again — but if they play a different, solid brand of basketball, there could finally be some life back in Madison Square Garden.
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