NBA 2014-15 Power Rankings Preview: #17 New York Knicks

There was significant coaching and management turnover this summer for the Knicks. Will it result in a playoff berth?

This NBA offseason has been very eventful and the preseason is now just around the corner. To help bridge that gap for hoops junkies, we here at numberFire will be rolling out our projections for next season in the form of team previews, starting at 30 and going all the way to number one. We continue today with the 17th-ranked New York Knicks!

The Knicks seemingly got jealous that their fellow New York brethren had a young, hip coach last year in Jason Kidd, so they hired one of their own in Derek Fisher. Oh yeah, and they also hired one of the best basketball minds in history in Phil Jackson to run their front office. Will meddling owner James Dolan be willing to stay out of the way now? If so, the Knicks could be a bounce-back candidate into the playoffs. If the focus is on kazoo-playing, well…well.

numberFire Metrics

Projected Record: 40-42
Eastern Conference Rank: 8th
NBA Rank: 17th
nERD: 46.8
Playoff Chances: 55.57%
Championship Chances: 0.55%

We’re finally to the part of the previews where we have a playoff team. The Knicks went 37-45 last year, which was two wins below their expected wins. With increased health and perhaps an upgrade in coaching and vision, the Knicks should bounce back from last season’s regression. This won’t be a great team by any measure, and would be about 10 to 12 wins shy of the playoffs in the West. But the East, while maybe a bit better this year, is still bad in the middle. They’ll likely be competing with the Nets and Pistons for that last playoff spot this year.

Player Movement

Notable Additions
Cleanthony Early (via draft)
Jose Calderon (via trade)
Shane Larkin (via trade)
Samuel Dalembert (via trade)
Travis Outlaw (via trade)

Notable Losses
Tyson Chandler (trade)
Wayne Ellington (trade)
Raymond Felton (trade)

Losing rim-protecting big man Tyson Chandler will hurt this Knicks squad, even if he didn’t perform at the level he did when winning a championship in Dallas. Amar’e Stoudemire is in the last year of his contract, and will make $23.4 million this season. They did bring in Dalembert and Jason Smith to help bolster the big man rotation, but this will still be a bottom defensive team, as they were last year. The hope is that the addition of Jose Calderon at point and another year of developing younger guys like Tim Hardaway Jr. can get them back to a top offensive team, like they were two years ago.

Three Burning Questions

Who should start in the backcourt along with Jose Calderon?
Tim Hardaway Jr. only started one game last year for the Knicks, but a solid argument can be made that he should be the starter alongside Calderon and Iman Shumpert. Hardaway’s per 36 stats show that he can score the ball as well as J.R. Smith, and do it more efficiently. Hardaway shot .498 from inside the 3-point line last year, as compared to Smith’s .436 mark. Hardaway is also miles better from the free throw line. Hardaway also rarely turned the ball over last year, with a 5.9% TOV%. Combined with Calderon, the Knicks backcourt should be a low-turnover, good-shooting duo.

Can they even get to a league-average defense?
It remains to be seen how the Knicks can defend the rim. Amar’e and Andrea Bargnani will get a lot of minutes at the five, paired alongside Melo at the four. Even at their primes, those guys weren’t rim protectors, and certainly aren’t today. Dalembert has been in the past, but is 33 and is a liability on the offensive end, especially if Fisher wants to run more complex offensive sets. Charlotte was able to have a top-10 defense last year without any rim protection. Can the Knicks mimic that and get out of the bottom-five?

What is this team’s ceiling?
Our algorithms have this squad as a playoff team, although in the last and final eighth spot. The way the East projects, it’s very top heavy at the top two spots with the Cavs and Bulls. Slotting in the seventh or eighth seeds is pretty much doom for a team. The Knicks could win a playoff series, but that mostly depends on them getting up into the 6th seed. If so, the middle of the East is jumbled enough where Melo could certainly go off in a series and swing it the Knicks way.

Fantasy Hoops Stock Watch

SF/PF Carmelo Anthony (Yahoo O-Rank: 8)
Melo has SF eligibility on Yahoo, so that helps his value, even if he doesn’t play there very often in real life. He’s about as safe a first-rounder as you’d want on your squad – last year he was at 27 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.2 triples, low turnovers, and solid percentages. He also has the potential to completely go off in a game for 50 points and 16 rebounds and almost single-handedly win you a week. He doesn’t get the publicity of the Kevin Durant and LeBron James, which is fair, but you could do much worse at the end of the first round.

PG Jose Calderon (Yahoo O-Rank: 79)
Calderon’s stats were a bit down last year, but he did play a bit more off the ball in Dallas with Monta Ellis. He will be the main ball handler in New York this season, so there’s a good possibility that his assists (4.7 per game last year) will rebound back up to the 7.0 range that he has been in the past. The value that Calderon brings, however, is in the efficiency categories and turnovers. The guy just never coughs up the ball and shoots the lights out. Point guard is the most replaceable position, and I’m very OK with gobbling up wings and big men early and getting guys like Calderon late.