Knicks coach Mike Woodson enters the season with at least four starting lineups at his disposal. Injuries to Amar'e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert complicate his choices, as does the arrival of 7-foot Andrea Bargnani, one of the league's biggest enigmas. Which of those players will be the most reliable? Which are best suited to contributing as reserves? Which pairings need to have their minutes staggered?
Then there's Pablo Prigioni, the 36-year-old Argentine point guard who arrived in the NBA last season and decided to stick around. There's a lot to be said for a playmaker with a steady hand, a keen passing eye and an ego that's fully in check, and the retirement of Jason Kidd strongly suggests that Prigioni, who averaged 3.5 points and 3.0 assists in 16.2 minutes last season, will see his role expanded in 2013--14. Although Prigioni and starting point guard Raymond Felton shared the court for only 298 minutes in '12--13, they had an off-the-charts 119.4 offensive rating together, as their complementary styles are capable of stretching defenses past the breaking point. New York had its best offensive rating last year since 1988--89, ranking behind only the Heat and the Thunder. The 6'3" Prigioni—who had a higher win share per 48 minutes than Shumpert, Smith and Felton—could help carry that attack to even greater heights, as long as he doesn't get lost in the rotation shuffle.
COACH MIKE WOODSON (3RD SEASON WITH KNICKS)
2012--13 RECORD: 54--28 (1ST IN ATLANTIC)
WHAT'S NEW Long-range shooter Andrea Bargnani arrives from Toronto, and New Yorker Metta World Peace comes home.
PROJECTED LINEUP (2012--13 STATS)
PG RAYMOND FELTON
13.9 PPG; 5.5 APG; 42.7 FG%; 36.0 3FG%
SG IMAN SHUMPERT
6.8 PPG; 3.0 RPG; 39.6 FG%; 40.2 3FG%
SF CARMELO ANTHONY
28.7 PPG; 6.9 RPG; 44.9 FG%; 37.9 3FG%
PF ANDREA BARGNANI
12.7 PPG; 3.7 RPG; 39.9 FG%; 30.9 3FG%
C TYSON CHANDLER
10.4 PPG; 10.7 RPG; 1.1 BPG; 63.8 FG%
SG J.R. SMITH
18.1 PPG; 5.3 RPG; 42.2 FG%; 35.6 3FG%
THREE-POINTERS MADE by New York last season, an NBA record. The Knicks also broke the league mark they set in 2008--09 by launching 2,371 threes—or 37.6% of their total field goal attempts.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE KNICKS
I don't think you can win the championship if Carmelo Anthony is your best player. He doesn't make anybody else better. Guarding traditional fours was a problem for him—but then, guarding threes was too. There are too many times where, if he doesn't get his way on offense, he's getting torched at the other end.... Amar'e Stoudemire was best with a point guard who was spoon-feeding him. He's not a defender either. People are going to put him in pick-and-roll, attack him off the dribble, make him move laterally.... Their defensive system isn't the best for Tyson Chandler. Mike Woodson has always had a gambling scheme instead of a systematic approach, which is how Rick Carlisle did it with Tyson in Dallas. Chandler's injuries have held him back too. He hasn't been as mobile.... What has Andrea Bargnani done so far? He's a perimeter shooter, a nonrebounding big. If they start Bargnani at the four, it won't last long—he's not going to rebound, and he's not going to get back defensively. And if they look at him at center, then Chandler isn't out there guarding the goal. Kenyon Martin will be a better solution because he'll defend and he doesn't need the ball.... Metta World Peace doesn't have the lateral quickness to guard threes the way the game is reffed right now. Wings are athletic and quick at getting up and down the floor, but he is more a plodder and a grabber.... J.R. Smith is a miniature Carmelo. He's an offensive juggernaut who can go off at any time, but sometimes he's got blinders on.
NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (PRIGIONI)
POINT MAN PRIGIONI
DAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (ANTHONY)
NED DISHMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (CHANDLER)
INSIDE JOB Had he qualified (he was 45 field goals short), Chandler would have led the league in field goal percentage, and it's easy to see why: 347 of his 400 shots were dunks, layups or tip-ins.