The New York Knicks have high expectations coming into the 2013-14 season. A year after winning their first postseason series in more than a decade, the Knicks feel they have the talent to win a championship. J.R. Smith even went as far as saying he is “100 percent sure” the Knicks will end their title drought this year. Every member of the Knicks’ organization should pray that Smith is clairvoyant because the Knicks are facing their most crucial season in recent years.
The Knicks are truly going to be tested this year in the East. With the return of Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls are championship contenders again. Danny Granger is healthy, making the Indiana Pacers even more potent. Teams like the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets have added talent that will presumably make them better. And, oh yeah, the Miami Heat are looking to three-peat.
If that does not concern the Knicks, maybe this will. Carmelo Anthony could potentially look for greener pastures at the end of the season if things do not go well. Anthony has a player option after the upcoming season and rumors have already swirled that he may be interested in playing alongside Kobe Bryant come 2014-15.
Another concern is that many people may be on the chopping block if things do head south. The Knicks have already reshuffled their front office. A few weeks ago, the Knicks demoted their general manager and brought in a former executive, Steve Mills, to serve as team president and general manager. So, it would appear that a single playoff series win will not cut it this year.
That all being said, here are five bold predictions for the upcoming season.
1. The Knicks will have a worse record this year
Last year, the Knicks had one of their best seasons in franchise history. They went 54-28 with a .679 win percentage, which was second-best in franchise history. They were the No. 2 seed in the East; however, they only had roughly four real competitors. To start the season, the Knicks went on a stretch of 18 wins and five losses. They took three of four from the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics and they swept the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers. With the East improving the way it has, it is hard to see the Knicks duplicating last season.
2. Carmelo Anthony will win the scoring title for the second consecutive year
Anthony is a scoring force. He can hit from anywhere on the court and certainly is not shy to shoot the ball. Anthony averaged 22 shots per game last year. He also averaged 28.7 points per game, edging out Kevin Durant by 0.6 points per game and earning the scoring title. This year, it seems, Durant is Anthony’s biggest and possibly only threat. Without Russell Westbrook out for at least the first few weeks, Thunder coach Scott Brooks wants Durant to be the facilitator. This, ultimately, will hinder Durant’s scoring chances. Kobe Bryant, the third-leading scorer last year, is coming of an Achilles injury that will have him sidelined indefinitely and the fourth-leading scorer last year was LeBron James. James probably could win the scoring title with ease, but instead chooses the best shot available for his team, not the best shot available for himself. Unless a dark horse emerges, it will be Anthony’s scoring title to lose.
3. The Knicks will win the Atlantic Division
Even though the Knicks may not win as many games as they did last year, it does not mean they will not be good. All their key players are returning, they have added Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani and they have something to prove. With the Celtics, 76ers and the Raptors appearing to be in a rebuilding phase, the Knicks only threat is their crosstown rivals. The Brooklyn Nets did acquire some new pieces, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. However, it is very unlikely they will play more than 65 games. These new pieces, also, will have to mesh with the Nets’ current superstars. That could lead to a slow start.
4. Amar’e Stoudemire will play more than 60 games
They are called bold predictions for a reason. Although Stoudemire has not played more than 50 games since the 2010-11 season, this year could be different. The Knicks do not need Stoudemire to come back as soon as possible, they need him to come back as healthy as possible. The days of hoping Stoudemire can come back and save the day for the Knicks are over. Now, coach Mike Woodson would like Stoudemire to be a solid bench player. They already have a four big man rotation. So, he will not be asked to play the bulk of the minutes as he once had. This may not be the best news for him, but it does give him the chance to fully recover and slowly work his way towards becoming a starter once again.
5. Andrea Bargnani will initially struggle, but eventually find his niche with the team
Some people call the Knicks’ offseason trade for Bargnani a typical New York trade. A trade where they belittle their future in hopes of becoming marginally better in the present. This may or may not true, but it does not change the fact that Bargnani is a Knick. Truthfully, this trade may be the best thing for Bargnani. He will no longer be one of the main focal points for the team and he will not be dependent upon to win games. All he has to do is contribute where necessary. Bargnani is a career 15-point, five-rebound player, which is not all bad. What Bargnani will have to come to terms with is that he will no longer get his 15 shots per game. He will quickly understand this reality once he starts playing with Anthony and Smith. But, once Bargnani figures out his role, he may still average 15 points and five rebounds a game.