So much pressure was mounted upon Donnie Walsh over the past two years to bring major talent aboard this summer. Despite striking out on LeBron James and company, the team gracefully received a “B” for their summer efforts.
While the Knicks were praised for upgrading their frontcourt (grade “A”) with Amare Stoudemire and Anthony Randolph, they were also criticized for not improving much on the defensive end. (grade “D”)
However, with Mike D’Antoni as head coach, defense seemingly takes a backseat to offense at times.
What was surprising, though, was that the team only received a “C” for their bench. After losing out on their bids for multiple marquee talents, the Knicks built around the one star they were able to nab, strengthening team depth.
In theory, with better depth comes a stronger bench.
The Knicks do in fact have a lot of talent off the pine, with a mix of experience and young talent ready to sub in.
Highlighting the second unit will be Randolph (who has the potential to produce ala Ben Gordon), assuming D’Antoni begins the season by starting Ronny Turiaf next to Stoudemire in the frontcourt.
Randolph has the ability to score in bunches, and is quick enough to beat slower, taller defenders to the basket. Many expect him to flourish in a system like D’Antoni’s.
The signing of Raymond Felton means that Toney Douglas will return to the bench as well. As Chris Duhon struggled last season, Douglas was thrown into the fire as the Knicks’ starting point guard towards the end of his rookie season.
While he did make some rookie mistakes, Douglas showed promise of a very solid point guard.
Although regarded as a defensive minded player, Douglas was steadily improving as a floor general towards the end of the season, and should have no problem running the floor with his fellow substitutes.
Assuming Wilson Chandler retains his starting position, the services of Kelenna Azubuike (who is recovering from a knee injury, but is expected to be ready by opening night), Roger Mason Jr., and Bill Walker will all be available off the bench too.
While it may take Walker some time to climb over his competition, Azubuike and Mason Jr. are two reliable wings with starting experience.
Azubuike will provide lockdown defense, something this team desperately needs.
Mason Jr. is known for his clutch three-point shooting on the winning Spurs teams of the last two seasons.
Battling it out for the backup center position are Eddy Curry and Timofey Mozgov. Curry is in dire need of a bounce back season as he enters a contract year that very well may dictate the rest of his career. Mozgov has been impressing in international play. He and the Russian national team take on the USA on Thursday.
Filling out the Knicks roster will be rookies Andy Rautins, Landry Fields and possibly Patrick Ewing Jr., who is currently signed to a non-guaranteed contract. Every good squad could use guys like these, as rookies pleasantly learning their way around the NBA (and hopefully enjoying a winning culture) can only add to team chemistry.
As the Knicks look to change their losing ways, the different skills each player provides could very well end up being key to a winning future.