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Enemy Lines: Knicks

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New York Knicks
 
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Knicks

What you saw this summer was the fallacy of cap space. For the better part of three years, the Knicks put all of their eggs in LeBron James' free-agent basket, and they gave up all of their draft picks to make it happen. But I still don't see this team as a contender for the playoffs even after signing Amar'e Stoudemire.

I know Mike D'Antoni and the Knicks were trying to put a happy face on the signing of Amar'e. But I will not believe for one second that Amar'e was their target at the beginning of the summer. Either they were desperate to avoid getting shut out, or they had the uninformed idea that getting Stoudemire would make LeBron come. The appearance from the outside was that the Knicks were out of touch; I don't think anybody else was going to offer Amar'e a max contract, and I don't remember D'Antoni being the biggest Amar'e fan when they were together in Phoenix.

Amar'e is a proven scorer and there's no question D'Antoni's system is ideal for him. But there are a lot of holes in his game. It's fair to ask why he isn't getting 10 to 12 rebounds per game. Just as important is that he has never defended well, or even shown an interest in defending. I can put partial blame on his current coach because D'Antoni never demanded it of him. But how does a guy of his size and ability block only one shot per game? It's almost incomprehensible.

His athletic ability isn't what it used to be because of his knee problems. But that hasn't harmed his skill level. From 17 to 20 feet, he shoots the ball very well for his size. But I wonder if his impact on winning matches up with the big numbers he produces.

You have to accept Amar'e for what he is. He's a guy who has to be your No. 2 or No. 3 guy in order for your team to be successful -- No. 3 if you're a title contender, No. 2 if you're a playoff team. If he's your No. 1 player, I don't think you're going to make the playoffs.

Their signing of point guard Raymond Felton is not going to make people excited. He's an upgrade from bad to middle of the road. He doesn't do any one thing particularly well. He's OK defensively and OK at penetrating and creating for others and getting to the basket. He's capable of making shots -- though he's a little streaky -- and he's a capable playmaker, though his priority is to look for his own offense.

His biggest problem is his decision-making, which can be horrible at the ends of games. Last year, the Bobcats were putting the ball more often in the hands of Stephen Jackson or Gerald Wallace instead of Felton, hoping they would get the team into the right situation. Felton would be strong as a backup to both guard positions, but as a starter he's average at best.

Danilo Gallinari would be their one asset who would generate significant interest from the majority of teams. He started most of last season and shot high percentages from three-point range [38.1 percent] and the foul line [81.8 percent]. A 6-foot-10 shooter, he's more comparable to Dirk Nowitzki than, say, Andrea Bargnani, because Gallinari is more mobile. On a good team, I can envision him becoming the No. 3 option while contributing 17 to 20 points per night as the designated sharpshooter -- maybe a Rashard Lewis type of scorer, which is valuable.

Wilson Chandler will generate trade interest from some teams. Chandler isn't a great shooter, but he's a solid rebounder [5.1 per game in his three-year career]. He can score off the dribble -- more so than Gallinari -- but I'm not blown away by his talent. On a better team, he would be a good backup who could start in a pinch.

Anthony Randolph is their most intriguing guy. I may be buying into his hype, but I'm not going to write him off because he had problems playing for Don Nelson -- a lot of guys have had that problem. Randolph is ridiculously athletic and long, a big-time athlete who has the ability to get to the rim and dunk over people.

He can also make shots. Just as easily as he could become an All-Star, Randolph could become that guy who never lives up to his potential. If he does fulfill the Knicks' expectations, their frontcourt makes a lot more sense with Stoudemire, Randolph and Gallinari playing in D'Antoni's system. The only thing they'd lack in that scenario is a rugged rebounder. But it's a tough thing for a franchise to be depending on someone like Anthony Randolph.

Ronny Turiaf gets banged up a lot. But give him credit as a throwback big man who plays the physical style. He's not out there shooting threes [0-for-6 from three-point range in his five-year career] or trying to do things big men shouldn't do. He's a fairly good defender and a shot-blocking and rebounding presence. He saw meaningful minutes on those good Lakers teams, from 2005-2008, and unless he has lingering physical problems, I like him as a backup center in New York.

Toney Douglas is a developmental backup who got more playing time than he deserved as a rookie because the Knicks were so bad last season. He showed he could score and shoot well, but he averaged only two assists in 56 games. He looks like an undersized shooting guard and a decent defender.

Also on their bench, Roger Mason was very good two years ago with San Antonio, which shocked me because I thought he was a fringe NBA player. He's a system player who can provide shooting. Kelenna Azubuike could see some starts. He can score some and get to the line. Eddy Curry has an expiring contract -- that's his value.

 

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