The Miami Heat and the New York Knicks are supposed to continue their heated rivalry this season as both finished as the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference in 2013. The Knicks came up short again last year even after securing its first division crown in almost two decades. New York already has to compete with Brooklyn for bragging rights in the Big Apple but they were not as active as many teams in the East including the crosstown rivals, making them the number four contender in the East to the Heat's throne.
Coach Woodson led his to team to a solid season last year despite missing former All-Star Amare Stoudemire for most of the season. Starting the season on a tear made many believe this was the year the Knicks could finally get over the hump and get a chance to play in the NBA Finals. New York had some issues to address heading into the offseason and they were going to address them in free agency.
Despite being a high scoring offense, they lacked consistency behind Carmelo Anthony. Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith were the only Knicks players that averaged in double figures last year and that would not be enough to help share the scoring load with team MVP Anthony.
The Knicks started the offseason by drafting Tim Hardaway, Jr. in the first round to help fill a big hole at the off-guard position. He is said to have strong offensive skills and a knack for scoring. Hardaway does have explosiveness like his father but will have to step up his defense in order to make an impact in the league early in his career.
After the draft, the Knicks needed to resign J. R. Smith coming off his best season as a pro, giving them that punch off the bench they so desperately need when Anthony is catching a breather. Smith was courted by a few teams but ultimately decided it would be best to come back "close to" home and play for the Knicks on a three-year, $18 million dollar deal. The team will need him and his energy in order to achieve balance on the second unit. Also, Kenyon Martin and Pablo Prigioni were resigned in the offseason to provide depth.
Being without Stoudemire and with the lack of scoring in the starting lineup, New York dealt for underachieving Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani. On July 10, 2013, Bargnani was traded for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson in addition to a future first round draft pick and two future second round draft picks. Bargnani was plagued by injuries for much of last season and had his 2013 campaign cut short by an elbow injury. His new team expects him to space the floor and be the effective outside shooter he is known for being. His skill set must be respected even with Anthony on the floor. The pressure will not be as heavy as he won't be the primary option on this team.
The Knicks weren't a strong defensive team even with Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler anchoring the team's efforts last year. They struggled guarding players who excelled in one on one situations and the team failed to get crucial stops when necessary even when the offense was clicking. Woodson had his players sold offensively but on defense, there were weaknesses. New York brought home Metta World Peace to help improve the team's defense and be a threat from 3-point range. His toughness is what the Knicks need to gain more of a defensive identity.
Beno Udrih was the final scoop for the Knicks and it was pretty impressive that they were able to add a solid point guard so late in free agency. Udrih offers scoring and ball handling skills that are much needed with the departure of Jason Kidd who took his talents to the Brooklyn Nets to become their head coach days after retiring from playing. He is a more than capable back up for Felton and can help the second unit with scoring with the ability to knock down the mid range jumper.
The Knicks have been trying to renew their rivalry with the Heat after the classic matchups from the 1990's but they have come up short as of late. The two teams met in the first round of the playoffs in 2012 with the Heat taking the series, 4-1, eventually winning an NBA Championship.
New York can only hope they can make a return trip to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1999. The pieces they added may help them be a more aggressive team and could be a more viable contender. The depth they have added could help them rough up the Heat but the jury is still out if they can put together a team effort to knock off the defending champs. The Knicks have Anthony, Chandler, Felton and Smith to lead the team but they have to hope with the improvements they can finally contend with the Heat in the 2013-14 season.
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