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Mike D’Antoni and Every New York Knick

The New York Knicks signed Mike D’Antoni. You know this already. You also know that D’Antoni has coached the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns for the past six years, four and a half as the Head Coach. D’Antoni is credited with fine-tuning the high octane offense that Bryan Colangelo envisioned when he created a roster with players like Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion. The knock against D’Antoni is that the Suns never won a Championship, falling in the first round once, the second round once, and the conference finals twice, even though he posted a 253-136 regular season record.

Rest assured, the New York Knicks are not the Phoenix Suns. Donnie Walsh and Isaih Thomas are not Bryan Colangelo. Stephon Marbury is not Steve Nash. And so on. The skeptics have come out in droves questioning D’Antoni’s decision to join the lowly Knicks instead of the up-and-coming Chicago Bulls, but the Knicks organization and Coach Mike himself seem to think the future is bright in New York.

The key word there is future. With Donnie Walsh now at the helm and a new coach (and hopefully, philosophy) in place, we should probably expect wholesale changes in the next few years. As it is right now, D’Antoni and Walsh are handcuffed by bad contracts and a bad roster. The Knicks already have nearly $90M in salary committed to 13 players. The Knicks could also have a top-5 draft pick to add to the mix, and there are a few good options in the mix at that point to add to a D’Antoni team. On yet another bright side, in the summer of 2010 the Knicks have just $45M committed to seven players, and that may be an even brighter situation if Walsh can move some of those albatross contracts (see: Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph) between now and then.

But what about the 2008-09 Knicks? Do they have a chance? The 8th seed in the East usually goes to a near .500 team, so if the Knicks have a goal of 40 wins, they should find themselves in a playoff race. Can D’Antoni turn the squad around that quickly with an inability to make many roster moves?

That’s what I set out to decide. The results were inconclusive, since the Knicks have always had some decent players but been a bad team, and it’s therefore tough to be optimistic. Some players fit, others don’t, and there are some huge question marks. What follows is a player-by-player breakdown of how D’Antoni’s style could affect the careers of each Knick.

David Lee - Lee seems like the type of player who can fit in any system because he’s a hustle player who doesn’t take anything off the table. Though he may not be an ideal power forward in a D’Antoni system, he could be the hard-nosed rebounder and defender that the Suns sorely lacked. He’s also fantastic trade bait if Walsh tries to unload a bad contract, but it’s tough to imagine him moving for the time being.

Eddy Curry - Curry may be the worst fit for a high-tempo system, but there is nothing saying D’Antoni will stick to his Suns formula strictly. Curry is still a good scorer despite his defensive and rebounding shortcomings, but I’m sure Walsh will be working the phones endlessly to find a buyer for Phat Eddy.

Jamal Crawford - Crawford had a resurrgent 2007-08, posting 20 points a game for the first time ever and a decent 35.6% clip from long range.Crawford’s quick-shooting mentality and above-average playmaking skills (on this roster, anyways) make him a valuable asset for D’Antoni, despite the heavy contract.

Jared Jeffries - There is potential for him to become the Raja Bell of the Knicks, but he has been a huge disappointment since coming to New York. I’m not a Jeffries fan. He’s one of those guys who doesn’t do any one thing good enough to consistently crack a rotation and the same will probably be true next year.

Jerome James - Ugh. Ouch. What?

Malik Rose - Somehow, Rose has stuck in the league for 775 career games. He’s a decent end-of-the-bench rebounder who could be a nice back-up power forward for this team. Maybe. In all likelihood, he remains Malik Rose, only at age 34 now.

Mardy Collins - Collins has had trouble getting playing time in New York and may be destined to be a throw-in in a trade. Still, Collins is a long combo guard with decent speed and could be the 4th guard for this team.

Nate Robinson - Nate may be the best fit for any potential new system. Despite being wildly undersized, he managed to fill the bucket last season. He’ll have to improve on his 2.9 assists per game rate but a run-and-gun offense may allow him to spend more time at his natural position, shooting guard. Nate may be the most interesting piece of this new puzzle since he has enough potential for D’Antoni to mold him into something exciting.

Quentin Richardson - Q-Rich was ushered out of Phoenix a few years back, but that may have been a financial decision more than a roster fit. Q-Rich is a chucker but had maybe his best season under D’Antoni. He’s a pretty consistent (over his career) 35% 3-point shooter so with two years left on his deal, he’ll probably get a chance to crack the rotation.

Renaldo Balkman - Balkman has been ho-hum in his two years in the league but is a fairly efficient low post scorer and rebounder when given time. He could be an energy guy off the bench but will have to hone his shooting to fend off Chandler for playing time.

Stephon Marbury - Steph is a huge question mark in the final year of his contract. His expiring deal could be jettisoned, he could be bought out, or he could return to form under a coach who he played for only briefly a few years back. Marbury obviously has skills and has said he’s working very hard to get in Suns-shape, so there is great potential for Marbury to succeed in a less restrictive offensive system. Maybe.

Wilson Chandler - Chandler is almost a carbon copy of Balkman but with a better shot, which earned him some extra playing time towards the end of last year. With a lot of mediocre depth on the squad, Chandler will probably be battling with Balkman for reserve minutes.

Zach Randolph - Randolph has a better chance of fitting in as a center on this team than Curry does, but he’ll need to get in better shape than he was last year. Despite the bad character concerns, Zach is still a strong scorer and rebounder. He’s no Amare Stoudemire but the extra dunks and fast break buckets could help him out (if he can keep up).

Fred Jones, Dan Dickau, Randolph Morris - All three have had their contracts expire by now. It seems unlikely, with 13 men on the roster, a top-10 pick and a mid-level exception, that either would be brought back. Fred Jones will probably catch on somewhere, Dan Dickau always does, and Randolph Morris still has some potential, so an expiring contract may be the best thing for all three.

Potential Draft Picks - Obviously, the D’Antoni signing will have huge implications on the Knicks’ draft pick. They had the fifth worst record in the NBA, meaning they’re likely to have a top-5 pick and are guaranteed a top-8 pick. Yes, a top-2 pick would be fantastic for the future of the franchise, but realistically O.J. Mayo could provide a good fit later in the top-10. He is a good ballhandler and playmaker, can play up-tempo, and seems a perfect fit for the New York Media Machine. There are many options and possibilities here, and this pick could dictate a lot of the 2010 free agency action.

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2 Responses to “Mike D’Antoni and Every New York Knick”

  1. Robin Says:

    All I know is that Lee will be a good player in the system if D’Antoni plays him. For a PF, he can run! People don’t think of him as a good offensive player because he doesn’t shoot that well and doesn’t create with the ball, but he’s extremely good off the ball. That’s why he scored like 30 points in the rookie-sophomore game. He was getting open near the basket and Chris Paul was finding him. By definition he can’t be a #1 or #2 option if he scores by getting open near the basket, but he is an effective offensive player. Not to mention all the fast breaks he can start with his rebounding.

    I would like to see Marbury return to form, as I am still a fan of his, but I’m not sure if his body is right. I don’t think Crawford will be very good. He’s not an efficient offensive player like the Suns perimeter players. He’s not really effective off the ball, but he doesn’t distribute well enough to be a point guard. Nate’s speed will be an asset, and his point guard skills have improved recently. It’s unfortunate that the Knicks won’t be able to get another season like ‘06 out of Eddy Curry. He can be a valuable player, but he needs to be the #1 post option and play with a defensive big to compensate on that end. Joakim Noah would be unbelievable in that role, but I don’t see the Knicks getting him, or sticking with Curry for that matter.

  2. Robin Says:

    Oops, I guess I forgot to mention Randolph, probably because I want to pretend he doesn’t exist. Not that he’s a bad player, but he’s just the worst possible fit for this team. If the Knicks could just get rid of him, that would be great, but his trade value is probably way into the negative side now.

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