With the Knicks 2011 season almost upon us, it’s time to analyze the roster. Usually teams have some stability from one year to the next, but New York has only a third of the players returning. How New York is going to perform is more of a mystery than previous years. This year I’ll look at each position and attempt to address the critical question for those players.
Power Forwards: Is Amar’e really going to play the four?
The answer to this question is most relevant to how the Knicks will look this year. Having Amar’e entrenched at power forward forces D’Antoni to play Mozgov and Turiaf. Additionally Amar’e and Gallinari averaging 35+ minutes per night, doesn’t leave a lot of time at the forward spot for Anthony Randolph and Wilson Chandler. Mathematically there would only be 26 minutes per game remaining for the pair. Hence if Amar’e stays at center, that could mean either Chandler stays entrenched at SG, or Anthony Randolph won’t see many minutes.
However if the option to have Stoudemire at center is available, then New York can make a much more fluid lineup. With multi-position defenders like Randolph, Chandler, Gallo, Fields, Azubuike, and Douglas the team could go into a Swiss Army mode creating mismatches all over the floor. One of New York’s strengths is their depth and athleticism. As long as Amar’e mans the 5, the team will be fast enough to outrun the opposition whether they go big with the rest of the lineup (Felton, Chandler, Gallinari, and Randolph) or small (Felton, Douglas, Gallinari, Chandler).
At its core, the answer to this question will hint at the power dynamics between D’Antoni and Stoudemire. It has been rumored that with the Suns Amar’e wasn’t happy playing the five, and this caused a friction between him and his coach. Undoubtedly D’Antoni’s system runs best when he has the flexibility with his players. In the three seasons before Shaq arrived in Phoenix, the Suns averaged 59 wins with Amar’e at center. The Knicks coach has said many kind words about Mozgov, but it’s not hard to imagine D’Antoni itching to send the 7 footer to the bench and trot out a more sleek and energetic lineup. If the centers are getting a lot of minutes and aren’t producing, then you’ll know that Amar’e is serious about not playing the five and D’Antoni is restricted in his creativity.