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Team Preview: New York Knicks

By John Clemeno, RotoWire.comView: All Team Previews

STATE OF THE FRANCHISE

Nate Robinson enters his third season in the NBA, having won the Las Vegas Summer League MVP award this summer.
(Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)
On Draft Day, the New York Knicks made headlines by acquiring Zach Randolph from the Blazers. Randolph is coming off his finest season to join Eddy Curry, which gives the Knicks a frontcourt duo that will give Eastern Conference opponents fits. Needless to say, it will be watching them share the same space on the floor that should be interesting.

After a few seasons of folly, it actually looks like the Knicks have a plan. In theory, the offensive focus will be on the two interior guys with the guards and wing players feeding the low post. In practice, that means Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson and Nate Robinson will sacrifice shots for Curry and Randolph. Good luck. Marbury reluctantly bought into last season’s plan, ceding shots to Curry. Now he’ll have two guys cutting into his touches. If coach Isiah Thomas can keep everyone happy, the Knicks may actually contend for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION

The arrival of Zach Randolph will impact roles throughout the lineup. Most of the power forward minutes will go to him. He should get 30-35 minutes a night. The blossoming David Lee (29.5 mpg last year) will have to make do with fewer minutes, unless he can play some small forward. Unlikely. Eddy Curry will start at center after playing more than 35 minutes a night in 2006-07. Between the three of them, most of the frontcourt minutes will be gone. Malik Rose will get whatever is left.

The situation gets interesting on the wing, where the Knicks have some decisions to make. With a starting lineup of offensive-minded guys, we might see defensive specialist Jared Jeffries get the start at the three. The need for a defensive presence should give Jeffries somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes even if he doesn’t start. Renaldo Balkman and Quentin Richardson are also in the mix for minutes at small forward, but it really depends on what coach Isiah Thomas is looking for from the position. Richardson can swing between the three and the two and should get 25-30 minutes with Balkman getting about 15-20.

The backcourt will feature notable shooters Jamal Crawford and Stephon Marbury. The two starters will get anywhere between 30 and 35 minutes with Mardy Collins and Nate Robinson coming off the bench. We’ll be watching closely in training camp to see if Collins has moved ahead of Robinson, who is in a make-or-break season.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS* = Projected Starter

CENTER

* Eddy Curry – NYK [C]: Curry had a career year in 2006-07 after coach Isiah Thomas made him the focus of the team’s offense. He was a borderline All-Star candidate; he’s certainly not the reason New York acquired Zach Randolph. But as good as Curry’s offensive game is, Randolph’s game is better. Expect a drop off in Curry’s opportunities. He’ll still be a double-digit scorer, but will it be enough to cover for his less-than-adequate rebounding numbers? There isn’t much backing him up, so Curry will get plenty of run.

Jerome James – NYK [PF,C]: James will continue to thank his lucky stars for Isiah Thomas, who signed him to a five-year deal at $6 million per year. James is averaging 8.0 minutes per game since joining the Knicks in July 2005 and should get even less chance in the frontcourt with the addition of Randolph.

Randolph Morris – NYK [PF,C]: Morris played in five games for the Knicks last season after signing as a free agent in March. The arrival of Randolph really squeezes the frontcourt rotation, and with the Knicks expected to compete for the postseason, there will be little time available to develop Morris. Now, he could move ahead of James on the depth chart.

POWER/SMALL FORWARD

* Zach Randolph – NYK [PF]: Randolph arrives from Portland with a very polished offensive game and will be the first option on offense. Whether he and Curry can learn to co-exist is to be determined, but Randolph is selfish enough to get his shots. He’s a good rebounder and should easily get double-digits every night, as Curry is not an aggressive glass man. We’ll have to see how the playing time gets parsed between Curry, Randolph and Lee, but Randolph should be a double-double machine in New York.

David Lee – NYK [PF]: Lee is coming off a right leg injury that forced him to miss 23 games and put the brakes on a breakout season. He did play with the U.S. Select Team this summer, so the injury is not a major concern at this time. Last season, when Channing Frye disappointed, Lee got 30 minutes a night and was averaging a double-double prior to the injury. Unfortunately, the arrival of Zach Randolph will reduce his playing time. Lee is a high-energy guy who can score and rebound well, but may not be versatile enough to move out to the three, where minutes are available.

Malik Rose – NYK [SF,PF]: How do the Knicks get stuck with these contracts? Rose, 33, has two seasons left at $7 million per. He’ll get whatever playing time scraps are left after Curry, Randolph and Lee get their share.

* Quentin Richardson – NYK [SG,SF]: Richardson had a nice little comeback season in 2006-07 before a back injury finished him off. We don’t like back injuries because they tend to be chronic. Richardson can score from anywhere, and he particularly likes shooting from three-point range. However, with a starting lineup full of guys that need the ball, Richardson may be asked to come off the bench this year in favor of a more defensive-minded guy like Jared Jeffries or Renaldo Balkman.

Renaldo Balkman – NYK [SF,PF]: Circumstances resulted in Balkman getting a lot of playing time late last season, and he produced well in a short burst. He’s a good rebounder and plays with great energy, but has little offensive game for fantasy owners. Due to a stress reaction in his right ankle, Balkman will miss some time leading up to the season.

Jared Jeffries – NYK [SF,PF]: A broken wrist kept Jeffries out until December, and he didn’t show much upon his return. When he’s on, Jeffries can defend three positions and does a lot of the little things well. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, those little things don’t include scoring. His defensive skills could get him a prominent role on a team that is desperate for stoppers, particularly in the starting lineup.

Wilson Chandler – NYK [SF,PF]: Chandler was New York’s first-round draft pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. He’s got good athleticism and can play either forward position, but he will slot in at small forward. Not that he’ll play enough for it to matter, though. The Knicks are expected to compete for the postseason, so giving the rookie time to develop is not a priority as the 2007-08 season begins.

POINT/SHOOTING GUARD

* Jamal Crawford – NYK [SG]: Crawford benefits from New York trading Steve Francis – he’ll presumably be the starter at shooting guard. However, Randolph is expected to need the ball every bit as much as Curry, and since the Knicks will favor the inside game, Crawford will not be asked to shoot 15 times a game like he did last season. That could be okay from a fantasy perspective because Crawford’s a combo guard who can handle the ball and will have a chance to increase his assists while sacrificing scoring. New York is not an ideal situation for Crawford as a scorer, but he can put up numbers all across the board for a fantasy team.

* Stephon Marbury – NYK [PG]: Knicks coach Isiah Thomas has gotten Marbury to buy into the inside-first game featuring Eddy Curry. He’ll have to continue to play like that now that Zach Randolph is on board. Marbury’s a scorer at heart, but he will asked to do more to get his teammates involved in 2007-08.

Nate Robinson – NYK [PG,SG]: Robinson can score in bunches and doesn’t need a lot of minutes to do so, but the Knicks would like him to develop more traditional point guard skills. He’s very athletic, can get to the basket and has a nice jump shot, but he turns the ball over as often as he dishes. Robinson could lose minutes to Mardy Collins.

Why? Robinson enters his third season and has yet to give the Knicks what they want in a point guard. The kid can score and is a legitimate three-point threat, but he hasn’t taken to the ball distribution/getting others part of the job. He has a career 1.7/1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio. The team has an option on him after this season and they’ll wait to see what he gives them this year.

Mardy Collins – NYK [PG,SG]: Collins finished out the season on a roll for the Knicks, averaging 14.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game in April, which amounted to a mini-audition at point guard. That also came with four turnovers per game, but he’s normally a good decision-maker who doesn’t get too flashy. Robinson has never taken hold of the backup point guard job, so Collins could be making a move up in the rotation.

Why? Collins showed some stat-stuffing abilities in a late season audition at point guard and offers coach Isiah Thomas a guard that actually looks to pass first. He’s not an effective shooter, but won’t be asked to shoot much; he’ll usually be on the court with scorers. We look for him to pass Nate Robinson on the depth chart.

Fred Jones – NYK [SG,SF]: Jones came over from Portland in the deal for Randolph, mainly as a throw-in salary. He’s not a great shooter, so he has his limits as a scoring guard. He’s comfortable going to the basket, but there will not be enough playing time for him to make use of his skills.

Jared Jordan - NYK [PG,SG]: The Clippers drafted Jordan in the second round, and many argued that he was one of the best pure point guards in the draft. The Knicks acquired him in late September. There are huge questions about the Marist product's athleticism, and we expect him to spend this year gaining seasoning and strength in the NBDL.

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