Despite having two of the NBA's marquee players in Carlmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks 2011-12 season was all about "Linsanity." The improbable story of the Asian American former bench player turned star, dominated the headlines in both New York and around the league.
Lin's arrival coincided with a seven game winning streak which turned the Knicks season around and allowed them to finish a respectable 36-30 after an 8-15 start.
Unfortunately, things did not turn out as Knicks fans had hoped as Lin was felled by injury late in the year and New York was dispatched by Miami in their first round playoff series.
Reasons to Believe
Offensive Weapons - The Knicks are an explosive offensive team featuring a number of scorers capable of carrying the club on any given night. Beyond stars Anthony and Stoudemire, New York has deep threats J.R. Smith and Steve Novak as well as newly acquired point guard Raymond Felton. The key for coach Mike Woodson will be to find an offensive strategy that utilizes all the offensive talents of his squad.
Despite his emergence as a star last season, the Knicks opted not to match the Rockets' offer for Jeremy Lin.
Star Power - The potential is there for the Knicks to compete with the best teams in the East if players like Anthony and Stoudemire can find a way complement each other and the role players around them. The Knicks have done a decent job bringing in secondary players that can contribute, but ultimately the success of the team depends on their stars. Anthony and Stoudemire have shown the capability of raising their games at both ends of the floor, but will need a more consistent effort if they are to seriously contend.
Defensive Issues - Realizing his team's struggles on the defensive end, GM Glen Grunwald has tried to surround his stars with defensively conscious players like Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby, Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer. Still, besides Chandler, none of the players are high-minute performers, so at the end of the day, they can only have a limited impact. Again, if the Knicks are to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, it will likely come down to whether the team's core performers can show a greater commitment to team defense than they have in the past.
Conflicting Stars - Ever since Anthony was acquired in the second half of 2010-11, he has struggled to work in concert with Stoudemire. The revolving door of point guards hasn't helped the cause, but it appeared the team had found chemistry with Lin leading the way.
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Enough talent on the roster to warrant a top 10 slot.
Carmelo Anthony is the top projected Knick at 7th overall
Unfortunately, after the Knicks decided not to match the Rockets offer sheet for the 23-year-old, the team will once again be relying on a new man to initiate the offence. Come playoff time, the offensive direction became more apparent as Anthony took the bulk of the shots and Stoudemire played a secondary role, averaging only nine field goal attempts per game. Still, it's anybody's best guess if Stoudemire will accept a support role for the duration of the season and whether the team can be successful with Anthony assuming the undisputed No. 1 role he occupied with varying levels of success in Denver.
X Factor: Raymond Felton
The unenviable position of replacing fan-favourite Lin will fall to the veteran Felton, who is in his second tour of duty in New York. Due to his poor play in Portland last season, Felton's productive stint with the Knicks in 2010-11 was largely forgotten. But the reality is, he performed well in his one year, scoring over 17 points per game and adding nine assists. If he is able to return to that level and tap into some of the chemistry that Lin developed with the rest of the starters, the Knicks have a chance to surprise.
What to Expect
A third straight playoff appearance should be a realistic expectation for the Knicks, but anything beyond that will depend on how well the core players buy into the defensive focus that Woodson is preaching and whether Felton can lead the team in a way no one else other than Lin has proved capable of doing over the last few seasons.
Tim Chisholm's Offseason Grade
The Knicks discovered two things last season; that Jeremy Lin is an NBA superstar and that Carmelo Anthony is a dominant power forward.
So, this summer they let Lin walk in free agency and did nothing to help make power forward Anthony’s primary position.
Instead, they brought in a cadre of washed-up former stars (Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby) and Ray Felton after a career-worst season.
Whatever works for you, New York.