New York Knicks: 5 Things to Watch as Preseason Tips Off

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New York Knicks: 5 Things to Watch as Preseason Tips Off

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

With training camp now underway and the preseason getting closer and closer, fans will finally get a chance to see what this year’s New York Knicks look like on the court. Last year’s squad was the franchise’s best in over a decade, so expectations are justifiably high going into the 2013-14 season.

This year’s team has a bit more depth and they’ll have another full offseason of practice to hone their chemistry. It will be exciting to see how the new additions – most notably Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih – mesh with the returning players. Most of the new acquisitions can play multiple positions and they’ll add some versatility to an already-flexible team.

The added depth will present an interesting challenge for Mike Woodson. He’ll have to reconfigure the team’s rotation, all while dealing with issues like J.R. Smith’s suspension (and knee injury) and Amar’e Stoudemire’s injured knees (which were operated on yet again this summer). Woody, who carries a reputation as a strong defensive-minded coach, will also be tasked with improving a Knicks' defensive unit that was ranked at a mediocre 18th-best in the NBA last year. He wants them to finish this year in the top-10 defensively (they had the fifth-best defense in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season), which could be very difficult with the Knicks’ personnel.

Woodson has also not yet committed to a starting lineup for this year, so the preseason will be a very important part of that decision. As camp gets underway, there are tons of questions that remain unanswered. Here are five things to watch for as the Knicks get ready for the preseason.

Chris Harrison is a New York Knicks and NBA writer for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @chris_harrison1.

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Lineups

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest storyline here is obviously the starting lineup. Will Carmelo continue to start at power forward or will he move to small forward to allow Bargnani or World Peace to start? Will Woodson keep trotting out those two-point guard lineups that were so deadly offensively for the Knicks last season, or will he go with a more orthodox approach so as to be more defensively sound?

Additionally, because Woodson’s unafraid of using unusual lineups (does anyone remember Chris Copeland at center?), it’ll be fun to see what sort of lineups he decides to experiment with in the preseason, when the stakes are much lower.

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How Will Andrea Bargnani Fit In?

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Bargnani is unquestionably the Knicks’ biggest acquisition from this offseason. The former first overall draft choice hasn’t lived up to his potential, but he might be able to flourish on a team as offensively creative as the Knicks. Depending on how things shake out, he could end up being anything from the starting power forward (theoretically, he’s a good enough shooter to provide spacing for Carmelo Anthony, although playing them together would be a disaster defensively, even with Tyson Chandler on the floor) to a backup playing a slightly-expanded version of Steve Novak’s old role. If he’s going to win Woodson’s trust, he’ll need to step up his defense and rebounding, two areas where he’s been dreadful in the past.

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Team Defense

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Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Improving the defense could be difficult with the team’s current personnel, but it’s doable. Last year’s Knicks relied on a lot of switching in pick-and-roll situations and it got them in trouble at times. In the preseason, we should be able to find out if Woodson’s made any changes to his defensive system.

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Amar'e Stoudemire's Health

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Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Stoudemire’s creaky knees have left him saddled with a minutes limit in games. He’s also not participated in the team’s scrimmages. Hopefully, that’s just a precautionary measure. The preseason could give fans a good look at his health and readiness, if he plays at all.

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Tim Hardaway Jr.

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Given how often the Knicks have traded away first rounders in the last decade or so, it’s always a pleasant treat when they actually keep one. Tim Hardaway Jr. might be counted on early in the year to be productive due to J.R. Smith’s absence, and the preseason will be his first chance to get experience in-game situations with his new teammates. He looked decent back in the Vegas Summer League. In the preseason, we’ll get a better idea of how his scoring will hold up against NBA competition.

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