Saturday, July 10, 2010

LeBron and "The Decision"

As a Knick fan every since 2008 I have put all my hopes and faith into signing LeBron in 2010. But as the summer approached I realized we had serious competition. New York, Chicago, Miami, LA Clippers, Dallas, New Jersey and of course Cleveland all were in the hunt. I immediately knew the Clippers were eliminated. There was no chance that LeBron would go to Los Angeles and be in Kobe's shadow and literally be playing in Kobe's house. The next team to go was Dallas because it was clear that Dirk was not going anywhere and the deal was too complicated to work out. The only reason people even mentioned Dallas is because with Mark Cuban anything is possible. Now New Jersey, even though it seems that New Jersey was in the race I thought they had no chance. If he would leave Cleveland he would not chose New Jersey over New York. The Nets are stuck in New Jersey for 3 years with no roster. This leaves Cleveland, New York, Chicago, Miami. I felt any of these were possible. At the time I also had thought Wade was considering leaving Miami for hometown of Chicago and possibly bring in LeBron. I dismissed the rumors of LeBron, Wade, & Bosh going anywhere together as a fantasy. All 4 had there features: Cleveland- his hometown, his team for 7 seasons, family, loyalty, legacy...Chicago- best core group of talent and money...New York- best city in the world, marketing, msg, money...Miami- flexibility, good city, smart management. In my reasoning I did not attach Wade to Miami. I then narrowed it down to two: Cleveland and New York. Of course I am biased but I have reasons. Cleveland will always be in it because it is team and home, but if he was going to leave why would he go to Chicago where he will always be #2 to MJ and compared in every way. In Miami there is no one on the roster unless he brings people with him and with Wade it will always be wade vs lebron to the fans. The fans would be most understanding to a move to New York because it is the greatest city and a major career opportunity outside of just basketball. He could rebuild a team and be the King of New York. But when LeBron announced he was joining Wade and Bosh in Miami for a big 3 it was career suicide. For Wade and Bosh this is a good move because Bosh has a chance to get his max money and win titles (he is not worries about legacy since he is not one of the greatest of all time) and for wade he already has his ring and is staying at home. But LeBron is concieding any chance at being considered the greatest player of all time. No matter what he does he will never surpass Kobe, Michael, Magic, Kareem, Bird, and Russell. All were players who were commited to intergirty in the game. All of whom also have won a large number of titles. Even if LeBron wins 4 rings in the next 6 seasons he will be behind a large number of people. He put himself into a situation where Wade will always be better than LeBron due to the 1 ring advantage. If he had stayed in Cleveland and proved his loyalty then he had a chance to stay there for the rest of his career and even if he only won 1 or 2 titles he would still be in the top 10.

My Projected New York Knick's Starting Lineup

PG- Raymond Felton- The Knick's signed him to a 3 year deal after LeBron's decision. Felton has averaged about 13 points and 6.5 assists in his first five seasons and never missed more than 4 games in a single reason. He can be a key addition and immediately have an impact as the team's point guard. Felton shot 39% from 3 point range last season and will have a lot of opportunities to shoot the long ball in D'antoni's system. Adding Raymond Felton is a good move because it allows second year PG Toney Douglas to remain in the back up role. Felton adds to a good young core of talent in New York and can spread the ball in this fast paced offense as well as being able to drive and hit 3's when necessary. I love this signing because he is also a above average defender and has always been healthy, some refreshing news for Knick fans. With Chandler slashing to the hoop, Gallo being a matchup nightmare, and Amare down low Felton should be able to rack up the assists. I predict that Felton will average around 13 points and 7-8 assists a game. This is a much needed change as Duhon (a free agent) had seen a sharp decrease in his numbers.

SG- Wilson Chandler- In his fourth season season Chandler is most likely going to be the starting shooting guard on this team. Even though he is 6'8" and listed as a SF he seems to be the only option to fill the need at SG. This will be his first year as a full starter. He has shown he has the ability to get to the hoop and finish strong. Chandler could be a primary scoring option. Last season when T-Mac arrived McGrady was the primary option and took away time from Chandler. None the less Chandler made the most of his chances and will see an increase in shots. Last season he averaged around 15 points and 5.5 rebounds as well as 2 assist. It will be interesting to see how more playing time, shift to SG, and the addition of Amare of other role players will impact his numbers. The wild card in predicting Chandler's stats is Kelenna Azukuike. Azukuike only played nine games games list year but should be healthy for the start of training camp. Azukuike is 6'5" and will most likely be a used as wing player either at the 2 or the 3. I can see a competiton between Azukuike and Chandler for a starting spot but I think Chandler will start off. The shift from playing SF to SG might see a drop in his rebounds but an increase in assist. Wilson definitely needs to work on his 3 point percentage because he will see a lot of looks in this offense. Ultimately I can see that being the reason why Azukuike may move into the starting SG role with Chandler being the 6th man & backup SG/SF.

SF- Danilo Gallinari- In 08-09 (his rookie season) he did not see much playing time and was insignificant. But last season was a breakthrough. His second year in the league out of Italy "Gallo" was one of the few bright spots on the Knicks. He was a fan favorite and a unique player. Gallinari was amongst the league leaders in 3 point shooting and will be used so spread the floor. At 6'10" he almost always will have the height advantage over the opposing SF. He can either stay on the wing knock down shots, post up a smaller defender, or drive to the hoop with his quickness. The pick and roll betwen Gallo and Amare will be deadly and should be the focal point of the Knick's offense. I expect to see increases in his points and rebounds as he matures and improves. He was a lot of potential and can even go down and play the 4 or 5 in a smaller lineup. Look for him to be used on drive and kicks and to work the post. He plays good defense and is very coachable and energetic. Look for him to emerge as the leader of the wing on the Knicks. Azukuike or Chandler can also see some time at SF depending on the type of lineup. Watch out for his rebounding and blocks to sky rocket with his height and leaping ability.

PF- Amar'e Stoudemire- He is the Knick's prize this offseason. The summer of 2010 was supposed to be about LeBron, Wade, or Bosh for the Knicks, unfortunately all three teamed up in Miami. With Joe Johnson, Dirk, Pierce, and Rudy Gay all re signing with there teams the Knicks were lucky to get Amare in the beginning. Teams like the Clippers and Nets are now left with money to spend and no one to give it to. In my opinion Amare was the second best big man in this free agency class. With Bosh leading it, Amare is a better player than Lee and Boozer. This is the first time the Knicks have had an all star that is not out of his prime (or injuried) in a long time. Amare's is seen as a superstar in this league. He won rookie of the year in 2002, is a 5 time all star, and was named to the All NBA second team last season. Upto this point he has spent his entire career with the Suns and has been a major part of some teams. Amare played under D'antoni and knows the system. This is a huge move for the Knicks and gives some hope to the fans. Undoubtedly Amare will be the primary scoring option and leader of this team. He has suffered some injuries to his knee and eye but played and started all 82 games last season. His stats are of course very good and he brings a low post presence to the Knicks that other teams should fear. I think if he stays healthy he can put up numbers as high as 25 points with 10 rebounds. We saw David Lee average 20 and 12 and Lee was a double double machine in New York. I see no reason why Amare cannot grab 10-11 boards in this fast paced offense. He will do a majority of his work down low and also shot some jumpers. With Gallo and Chandler on the wings Amare will have a lot of options and should get a few assist per game.

C- Anthony Randolph- I do not know if Randolph will start off the season in the starting lineup but he should definitely be in it before December. He was one of the players that the Knicks received in the David Lee start this offseason. He is also the most coveted of the three. This kid is full of potential and at 6'10" is extremely athletic. He was injured last year and played sparely in his rookie season but Randolph showed signs of superstar talent at times in those games. If you just look at his stats you may see a nice young big man to come off the bench and play some strong minutes but I see more. I see the potential for a starting center that can score 15 points and grab 8-9 rebounds. Not to mention countless blocks and a major presence down low. I'm basing this on a few highlights of him but we haven't seen him play much at all. If he can develop a mid range jumper then the Knicks have a franchise big man that can be used in many ways. I compare him to a Gerald Wallace or a Lamar Odom with a higher ceiling. A big man that can run up and down the court and be a scoring threat in the open court. I don't see him doing much "back to the basket" work but maybe he can develop that which will turn him into an all star. The move to get Randolph was one that had a purpose to trade Lee who was a free agent in return for something. The other two pieces, Azukuike and Turiaf can be role players off the bench but Randolph has tremendous potential. I can see someone else beginning the season at center. If Randolph stays healthy watch out for him when he Knicks decide to run or as a help defender. Currently his body is not as big as needed and he needs to hit the weight room to be able to go up against some other centers.


I see Douglas being the back up PG to Felton (again), Kelenna Azukuike as the 6th man getting a lot of minutes (like chandler), Bill Walker will be a "Nate Robinson" type scoring spark off the bench, Andy Rautins as the sharp shooter (Eddie House last season), and Earl Barron as the back up big men at PF/C. The rotation will include: Felton, Gallo, Amare, Chandler, Randolph, Azukuike, with Barron and Douglas in the mix. It seems as if the Knicks are full of young players but there is not enough room for everyone. Out of the three rookies I think Rautins is the best but can't see him getting much time with all these guards. Landry Fields and Jerome Jordan will most likely sit back and watch for the time being. While Curry and Turiaf are the veterans bigs ready for garbage time.

PG- Felton/Douglas
SG- Chandler/Azukuike/ Walker
SF- Gallo/Azukuike/ Rautins

Curry should be traded by the deadline and rookies Landry Fields and Jerome Jordan are nice pieces for the future.