New York Knicks: Better Or Worse Than Last Year?

In 2012-13 the New York Knicks went 54-28 and won the Atlantic Division crown.  Last year a very similar roster finished just 37-45.  The Knicks made a number of major changes this offseason, but will they translate to a better record in 2014-15?  Let’s examine each of them one by one, starting at the top:

General Manager: Phil Jackson replaces Steve Mills.  Mills lasted only one year at the position, and Jackson has won more NBA titles as a coach than anyone in league history.  Jackson also recently said that team owner James Dolan has promised “not to meddle” with the club’s basketball decisions.  Clearly this should be an improvement on both accounts.  Verdict: Better.

Coach: Derek Fisher replaces Mike Woodson.  This one is complicated.  There was not a lot of love for Woodson in New York, but he was a veteran NBA head coach who guided his teams to the playoffs for five straight seasons before last year.  Fisher has no coaching experience, and was still a player in the league less than five months ago.  Jason Kidd didn’t fare so well under very similar circumstances with the Brooklyn Nets in 2013-14.

However, there is also the question of whether or not Fisher really is the head coach.  Along with Kurt Rambis as the top assistant, Jackson has installed a pair of former Los Angeles Lakers who’ve worked with him in the past and know his triangle offense.  If Fisher and Rambis are merely Jackson’s puppets, its that a good thing?  General managers who are also coaches often get in the way of themselves, and Jackson took the GM job because he didn’t have the day-to-day energy at 69 years old to be a head coach anymore.  Now he may be doing both to some extent.  Verdict: Worse.

Center: Samuel Dalembert replaces Tyson Chandler.  Jackson (not Fisher) has already said he expects Dalembert to start at center rather than Amar’e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani.  Chandler was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2011-12, and averaged 30.2 minutes and 9.6 rebounds per game last year.  The 33-year-old Dalembert hasn’t even played 26 minutes a night since 2007-08.  Verdict: Worse.

Point Guard: Jose Calderon replaces Raymond Felton.  Calderon is quicker, more versatile and a much better shooter than Felton, both from inside and outside the 3-point arc.  The former Dallas Maverick and longtime Toronto Raptor has connected on 41 percent of his long-range attempts over the course of his nine-year career.  Knick fans will also be pleased to no longer see Felton’s slightly rotund form pushing the ball up the floor.  Verdict: Better.

Depth: Bargnani, J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni are what they are, but Tim Hardaway Jr. could easily build on his solid rookie season.  Young newcomers Quincy Acy and Cleanthony Early likely represent an upgrade (and an overall shift towards the future) over the likes of Kenyon Martin and Metta World Peace.  Verdict: Better.

Carmelo Anthony: Can Anthony thrive in Jackson’s triangle offense?  Will the star forward be inspired enough by the ensemble around him this year to carry New York into the postseason?  Now that he’s already procured a five-year, $124 million contract, motivation may be an issue.  And how will Anthony (and other veterans) react to Fisher as coach?  Verdict: Unknown.

Final Verdict: Going forward, the franchise is clearly in a better place now than it was at the end of the 2013-14 season.  However, whether or not that will bring more wins this year is unclear.  Chances are the Knicks will be slightly improved in 2014-15, and likely compete for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.