The Knicks reigning sixth man of the year may be mercurial when it comes to his play on the court, but he is always consistent when it comes to making headlines off the court. Last week, while attending a PGA Foundation golf clinic at Chelsea Piers, Smith said he was, “100 percent” positive the Knicks would win it all this year.
It would be the Knicks first title since 1973.
Smith has reason to be optimistic. The Knicks acquired more talent in the offseason while keeping their core players intact.
The Knicks acquired former #1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani in a trade with the Toronto Raptors and signed veteran small forward Metta World Peace and point guard Beno Udrih to replace Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd. The Knicks drafted Michigan shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. in the 1st round. They also signed undrafted NC State small forward C.J. Leslie. Both players showed promise in the summer league. The Knicks also re-signed Smith, Kenyon Martin and Pablo Prigioni, who were important keys to the Knicks regular season success last season.
The Knicks are in good position to contend for a title this year; however, with training camp scheduled to start September 30th, the Knicks still have many unanswered questions.
Will Carmelo Anthony finally be able to lead a team to the Finals? Last year was just the 2nd time in 10 seasons that Anthony has made it out of the first round of the playoffs. We all know Anthony is a proven scorer but whether he continues to elevate other facets of his game remains to be seen. Anthony showed an increase defensive effort at the start of last season but regressed as the season went along.
Will Coach Mike Woodson be able to transition the new Knicks acquisitions into his rotation?
Woodson will start the season without J.R. Smith who is recovering from offseason knee surgery. Smith is also suspended for the first five games he is physically cleared to return due to a violation of the league’s drug policy. It is unknown who will assume Smith’s 6th man role to begin the season.
Rookie shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. could be thrust into action early to replace the loss of Smith.
Woodson preferred a two point guard starting lineup of Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni last season, with Iman Shumpert at the small forward Anthony at the power forward and Tyson Chandler at the center. Woodson would not confirm if he would use the same starting lineup this season.
Woodson could opt to insert Metta World Peace in the starting lineup moving Shumpert to the bench. Woodson also has the option of inserting Bargnani in the starting lineup to add more scoring.
Another key to the rotation will be how Woodson uses the 100 million dollar man, Amar’e Stoudemire. Stoudemire will be on a minutes restriction this season to try and prevent further injury to his surgically repaired knees. A healthy Stoudemire could be an X factor for the Knicks and provide low post scoring for a team that averaged 28.9 threes attempted per game last season.
It will be a tall task for the Knicks to duplicate the success of last season. The Eastern Conference has drastically improved. LeBron James and the Miami Heat will be motivated as they chase a historic three peat. The Bulls will get back Derrick Rose. Danny Granger will return to the Pacers to team up with the emerging Paul George and Roy Hibbert. The crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets added future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Detroit and Cleveland are also improved.
Knicks fans should be happy about J.R. Smith’s confidence that this Knicks team can win its first championship in 41 years, but it is far from a 100 percent sure proposition.
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