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February 22, 2011
Big Apple Crystal Ball
SCHOENE on the Knicks

by Kevin Pelton

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Before the new-look New York Knicks make their debut, most likely Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks, all we have is speculation as to how Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and the other newcomers will mesh with Amare Stoudemire, Landry Fields and the other holdover Knicks. Among all those subjective guesses, Basketball Prospectus' SCHOENE projection system has the ability to offer a numerical perspective.

Ordinarily, SCHOENE seeks to project both players and teams. In this case, we have a pretty good sense for the ability of New York's players. Our questions relate to how they're going to fit together. Using their performance from the past three years, weighted toward more recent play, and an educated guess at how coach Mike D'Antoni might distribute minutes, here's a look at what we can expect from the Knicks' rotation.

Player             MPG     PPG    RPG    APG   WARP
---------------------------------------------------
Amare Stoudemire    37    24.0    7.9    2.2    3.4
Carmelo Anthony     37    25.7    6.9    3.3    2.8
Landry Fields       33    10.1    6.6    2.0    1.8
Chauncey Billups    32    15.9    2.4    5.7    3.5
Shawne Williams     25     9.0    4.3    0.8    1.2
Toney Douglas       24    10.3    2.5    2.2    1.3
Corey Brewer        21     7.2    2.5    1.4   -0.2
Ronny Turiaf        20     5.0    3.6    1.8    0.7
Shelden Williams    20     6.1    5.7    0.6    0.0
Bill Walker         10     4.0    1.2    0.5    0.4
Renaldo Balkman      5     1.4    1.1    0.2    0.3

One factor the projections generally do a good job of handling is the adjustment players make when there are too many or too few high-usage players on the same team. In this case, adding Anthony--who ranks second in the league behind Kobe Bryant, having used 32.5 percent of Denver's plays prior to the trade--makes less of a difference than it would appear, because New York will also be giving more minutes to role players like Shelden Williams who shoot infrequently.

Still, playing together can be expected to cost Anthony and Stoudemire some touches. In this case, SCHOENE expects that Stoudemire's scoring average will suffer. He has been averaging 26.1 points per game, trailing only Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, but the projection sees Anthony emerging as the Knicks' leading scorer and improving slightly on his current average of 25.2 ppg. The duo of Anthony and Stoudemire projects to come up just short of the Miami Heat's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (a combined 51.5 ppg) among teammates.

Beyond the two leading scorers, New York can expect balance offensively. Billups remains a very capable scorer in his own right, of course, while his backup, Toney Douglas, might join Billups and Landry Fields in the double-figure scoring department if Douglas plays more minutes at shooting guard.

By Basketball Prospectus' rating system, Billups and Stoudemire both figure to contribute more wins above replacement player (WARP) than Anthony the remainder of the season. All three have strong figures, though, while only one Knicks regular--newly acquired (from the Timberwolves, as part of the trade) backup guard Corey Brewer--is below replacement level, at least before we credit him for his solid perimeter defense.

A surprising area in which adding Anthony could help New York is on the glass. While he may be unable to maintain his career-high average of 7.6 rebounds per game, Anthony projects as the Knicks' second-leading rebounder. Contributions from wings Anthony and Fields on the boards will help New York overcome the poor rebounding of its big men. As a team, the Knicks are projected to improve from 26th in the NBA in rebounding to 15th, right at league average.

Still, by virtue of playing smaller lineups and replacing Wilson Chandler with Anthony, New York will likely suffer a drop off at the defensive end. After accounting for the Knicks' fast pace, they currently rank 20th in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions. SCHOENE sees that dipping slightly to 23rd after the trade, entirely because of weaker shot defense.

New York will be willing to accept that if the gains forecast at the other end of the floor come to pass. New York's offense has been up and down this season. Overall, the Knicks rank seventh in Offensive Rating, averaging 112.1 points per 100 possessions. Adding Anthony and Billups should make New York more potent, and SCHOENE forecasts a 114.0 Offensive Rating that would likely vault the Knicks atop the league. After all, the only offense more efficient than that so far this season has belonged to ... the Denver Nuggets, at 114.5 points per 100 possessions.

A core strength of Denver's offense has been Anthony's ability to get to the free throw line. New York is already pretty good when it comes to drawing fouls, sitting seventh in the NBA in free throw attempts per field goal attempt. Supplementing that skill with Anthony's drives to the basket should make the Knicks one of the league's top two or three teams in terms of attempting free throws.

Adding it all up, SCHOENE sees the revamped New York lineup as about a 47-win team over the course of a full season. That's ahead of the Knicks' current pace of between 42 and 43 victories. While that difference would translate into only a win or two over the second half of the season, that could be an important margin for New York. John Hollinger's Playoff Odds currently predict that the Philadelphia 76ers are likely to jump the Knicks in the standings, but with an average difference of just a win between them. That could mean the difference between facing the Chicago Bulls in the first round instead of the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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