It seems like you can say the same thing about the Knicks every year: They've got plenty of talent, but if they don't learn to play together and play defense, they'll continue to fall short of the playoffs.
This summer, they added 20-and-10 man Zach Randolph to the mix, and while he seemingly forms a lethal low-post tandem with Eddy Curry, there are probably more doubters than believers, Stephon Marbury's exuberance notwithstanding.
The doubts deal with the same issues that have plagued the Knicks for the last few years. Can Randolph and Curry play well together or will they be fighting for touches? And can either of them play a lick of defense?
The Knicks were ranked 25th in the league last year in defensive efficiency, allowing 1.11 points per possession. If they are to contend for a playoff spot in a more competitive Eastern Conference this season, they need to improve on that number. Their best defenders (Jared Jeffries, Fred Jones and Renaldo Balkman) are on their bench. Starting one of them could bring better balance. Otherwise, the starters will need to improve from within.
Stephon Marbury is who he is: Talented, able to score in bunches, but not a good defender and not a real point guard. He'll continue to run the show in New York with Jamal Crawford at the two, which means they'll have periods of both brilliance and ineptitude.
Mardy Collins came on strong late last season (averaging 14.8 points, 6.7 boards, 5.8 assists and 2.00 steals in nine games in April) and should see a bigger role this year, which means Nate Robinson might be without one. Fred Jones should back up Crawford at the two and give the Knicks another solid defender off the bench.
Like the point, there's a bit of a logjam at the three. Quentin Richardson is the starter and Jared Jeffries should get plenty of burn off the bench, while rookie Wilson Chandler will probably need to wait his turn.
The biggest negative to the Randolph trade is that it keeps David Lee on the bench. If you asked the other 29 teams in the league what Knick player they'd most like to have for themselves, Lee would probably would earn a lot of votes. He's one of the best rebounders in the league and gives the Knicks an energetic presence.
Renaldo Balkman is another energy guy that other teams wouldn't mind having on their bench. He should be ready to go for opening night after injuring his ankle in late September. The Knicks also have Randolph Morris (the youngster who needs experience) and Malik Rose (the dependable vet) up front.
-- John Schuhmann
Get to the Garden and be a part of the action. 2007-08 Season Tickets are on sale now.
Last year, Stephon Marbury told Eddy Curry that it was his team now. Indeed, Curry was the Knicks' best offensive player, receiving some consideration (just not enough) for a trip to the All-Star Game in Las Vegas.
But as good as Curry is in the low post offensively, he's not the defender nor the rebounder you would want from a franchise seven-footer. And did we mention that he only averaged 0.8 assists per game with all the touches he gets?
Now Zach Randolph comes to take his position on the other block, so Curry will need to get used to not seeing the ball as much as he did last season. He could take a lesson from teammate David Lee on how to make an impact on the game without having plays run for you. And it wouldn't hurt if he learned to pass out of a double-team.
-- John Schuhmann
Fifth season, Second with Knicks
Three times, 5-10 (.333)
While Thomas, the team President, has been under fire in recent years, his team did improve their record by 10 wins last season when he took over as coach. In general, his players seem to have his back. Still, with all the talent he has on his roster, especially with the addition of Randolph, expectations will be higher this season. So, falling short of the playoffs once again could put Thomas under more fire than before.
-- John Schuhmann
KNOW YOUR KNICKS
Nate Robinson is the eldest of seven siblings.
I know Zach can make that 15-footer, but for them, I just see nightmares of two guys, one on each block, basically fighting to see who gets the ball down low.
But if they're healthy, you need to pick your poison defensively. If you double down low, they've got those guys who can make shots on the perimeter.
Most teams double though, because both Randolph and Curry are like black holes. When they get it, it's not coming back out. Curry might be one of the worst passing big men in the league. So, we'll probably double both of them and make them make shots, because they won't work it around the perimeter to find the open man.
Defensively, Randolph and Curry are pretty lazy, so they'll reach and slap, and get in foul trouble in a hurry. David Lee will play quite a bit, because you know he's gonna go to the offensive glass and get you some extra possessions, and defensively, he'll help them effort-wise.
They're gonna win some games that they have no business winning, and they're gonna lose some games that they have no business losing. With them, you just have no idea what you're gonna get.
-- Eastern Conference Scout