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Vegas Win Total Projection: 31.5 (VegasInsider.com)
2014 Record: 17-65
Although practically every Knick's fan bashes their draft and continually thinks they'll do as bad as last season. I'm very optimistic with this team. They've signed Arron Afllalo, Derrick Williams, and Robin Lopez, and while although they don't "jump off the page", they certainly fill some much needed depth and talent issues. A long with those free-agent additions, they get Jerami Grant and Kristaps Porzingis in the draft, while still having Carmelo Anthony and some other good role players. They may not be a playoff team this year, but they certainly should be better. Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher aren't accustomed to losing for long periods of time, granted neither were in these roles previously, but still I think they can turn this ship around.
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As long as Carmelo Anthony is healthy I don't see another go-to player on this Knicks roster currently. Carmelo is one of my more hated players, because of his ball-centric nature and below par attitude at times. But he does give you lots of scoring and the ability to score at will. If he can some how learn to play with his teammates, I think the Knicks can be a better ball club because he can open up lanes and allow creation of space. As of now, I see Carmelo as an excellent scorer, but a "me" guy, not a team guy, which is good for fantasy players wanting as many points as possible. The downside is when things go south and he begins to become a somewhat readable basketball player, in this case, he turns the ball over and makes poor shooting decisions that cost him field goal percentages and turnovers. Overall, I see Carmelo as the top option on this team, but only when healthy and at 31, that could be difficult.
Many of you would think I would've picked Kristaps, but no, I think the player poised for a down year is Carmelo. He's played 40 minutes a night for a number of seasons in his career and because of that his legs are ran to the ground. If he can stay healthy, I still don't see him producing at the same level as when he was 27 or 28. Besides the injuries, Carmelo averaged less minutes, points, blocks, and free throw percentage than ever before. Playing only 40 games doesn't help, but I think he will have to adjust his game to continue to play the triangle offense with some form of efficiency.
I think Robin Lopez is one of the most underrated big men in the game. He provides consistency, defensively and offensively, as well as continuous spurts of blocks, low-post rebounds, and "dirty work" inside the paint. Lopez, unlike his brother, plays defense efficiently and spreads the floor well for a big. He has a high-percentage short shooting game and excels at the free throw line. I think in the triangle type offense, Lopez gets more looks than ever and plays exceedingly well on the defensive end to keep the Knicks in the games. Last season, he averaged career highs in points, rebounds, and blocks, as well as providing a 16.26 player efficiency rating. With his free throw percentage close to 80% and playing in a weaker Eastern conference, I can see Lopez average close to a double-double this season.
Instead of being in my "hyped up", I decided to put Kristaps right here. Not only is he a freakish basketball talent, he has all the tools to become a great NBA player. It starts with his versatility offensively, he can shoot the three, go in for a dunk, have a mid-range turnaround, and still make plays either via pass or off the screen. He is going to be a stretch player, who'll be able to open the lanes and create space for players like Williams, Anthony, and Lopez down low. Obviously with Kristaps, it will be a work in progress and although he still has a lot of growing to do, I see him as someone who could be an offensive difference maker for the Knicks.
The Knicks are not in a great position to make the playoffs this season. But I really like what they've done in the offseason and through the draft. There are starting to take a "shape", and it starts with this season. I expect to see them hover around 30 wins this season, best case scenario maybe 35, worst case being close to 25. I think Derek Fisher and coaching staff will try and utilize the pieces they have to create a winning culture in NYC. I expect to see the total points scored go up to 95 or 96 at minimum, instead of their 29th best 93 points per game. I can also assume the team defense with the additions of Lopez and Afflalo will go up from 21st to 18 or 19 as well. Overall, we can certainly expect to see a better performing Knicks team, but it certainly won't be enough to keep the New York media off their backs.