Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nets or Knicks, Who's the Better New York Team?

     In the past two weeks, it's been nothing but hype for Brooklyn Nets fans. They've retained their franchise cornerstone in Deron Williams, as well as acquired All Star guard Joe Johnson from the Hawks, giving them what GM Billy King calls "...the best backcourt in the NBA." I don't know if they're as good as Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash of the Lakers, but they are definitely one of the top three backcourt tandems in the NBA. The Nets have also re-signed promising young center Brook Lopez, double-double machine Kris Humphries and athletic forward Gerald Wallace. To have some depth for next year, the Nets kept guard MarShon Brooks, but everybody else on their bench is new. They've signed stretch forward Mirza Teletovic of Bosnia, who is often referred to as one of the best basketball players in Europe. They've picked up Reggie Evans, one of the league's most proficient rebounders, and C.J. Watson, a point guard who filled in admirably for Chicago during Derrick Rose's absence. In the draft, they selected Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor and Georgian (the country, not state) forward Tornike Shengelia, as well as international big man Ilkan Karaman. Although they didn't get Dwight Howard this summer, things are looking up in Brooklyn.

     For Knicks fans, maybe not as much, but their team is improving. However, their team is also getting older, and it is clear the Knicks are in a "win now" mode. The Knicks made two solid moves by acquiring Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby in free agency. Though they traded away some assets, they now have a strong veteran presence in the locker room, and both Kidd and Camby will produce coming off the bench. In the latest twist of the Jeremy Lin conundrum, the Knicks traded away Dan Gadzuric and Jared Jeffries to Portland for Raymond Felton and Kurt Thomas. Felton and Thomas make their returns to Madison Square Garden, but it might not be for the fans' liking. Now that the Knicks have acquired Felton, they've let go of Lin to the Houston Rockets. I believe that this is truly the best move for the Knicks though. Felton is coming in at a much cheaper price, and he wants to play in the Big Apple. He produced well in Mike D'Antoni's system, but analysts are suspect on whether he could play at a high level under Mike Woodson. But, Felton is proven in this league and if he doesn't distribute the ball well, he always has Jason Kidd behind him to pick him up. Personally, I believe it's a smart move by the Knicks to not gamble on Lin. He has only played in 35 games, and was injured at the end of the season. He turns the ball over sporadically, is not a great defender, and cannot penetrate to the hoop forcefully dribbling with his left hand. If the Knicks kept him, they'd be owing nearly $30 million in luxury tax. He might be a fan favorite, but it's ultimately a huge risk, and I'd rather take the cheaper, sure things in Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd.

     Now let's take a look at position by position, depth included, on who has the better players in each spot...

Williams is now the true face of the
Brooklyn Nets organization.

1. Point Guard: Deron Williams, C.J. Watson, and Tyshawn Taylor vs. Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd

Isn't it obvious? It's the Nets by a wide margin. Deron Williams is one of the best point guards in the game. Watson filled in great for the Bulls while Derrick Rose was injured, and Taylor is a rookie who can benefit under the mentoring of Williams and Watson to become a rotation player one day. While Felton and Kidd are both serviceable players and will produce with the Knicks, this one's not even close.

2: Shooting Guard: Joe Johnson, MarShon Brooks and Jerry Stackhouse vs. J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert

How effective will Shumpert be when he
returns after suffering a major injury?

This one might not be as obvious, but the edge still goes to the Nets. I can't wait to see NBA sophomores Brooks and Shumpert battle it out on the court again, because I think both of them can become future All Stars once they hit their prime. I pretty much view them as equals in terms of overall skill. This one comes down more to Joe Johnson or J.R. Smith. Johnson is a perennial All Star and will largely benefit from playing with Deron Williams. Smith provided energy and excitement to the Knicks after returning from China, and while I think he fits nicely with the Knicks, Johnson is still a much better player.

3. Gerald Wallace and Mirza Teletovic vs. Carmelo Anthony

Advantage right now goes to the Knicks, but it can change. If Teletovic can really become one of the better shooters from Europe since Dirk Nowitzki or Andrea Bargnani, then this might shift over to the Nets. But, the jury is still out on Teletovic, as everybody is unsure what his production will really be in Brooklyn. Wallace is a great effort player, and can fill up a stat sheet. He's a bit older, but he still plays hard every night and is a very skilled defender. While Carmelo isn't a great defender, he's improving under Mike Woodson, and everybody knows he's one of the best offensive players in the game. If the Knicks add somebody behind him like Matt Barnes, then they would have a more domineering advantage.

4. Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans vs. Amare Stoudemire and Steve Novak

At the end I would just barely give the edge to the Knicks. Here's why. While Amare Stoudemire is a consistent All Star, his production dipped last season. He was injured here and there, and when playing with Carmelo, he did not thrive. He's a very solid player, but his constant injuries concern me, and I think he and Humphries are much closer in overall skill than a lot of people would think. Meanwhile, Reggie Evans and Steve Novak are one-tool players. Evans is a very good rebounder, and Novak is a very good 3-point shooter. They don't do much else, but they are solid at the one thing they do. Neither Stoudemire or Novak are particularly good on defense, and Amare seems to be gradually declining. Humphries is entering his prime and has a consistent all-around game. The Knicks are winning this category at the moment but it could change in a year or two if Humphries keeps steadily improving.

Humphries and Stoudemire are key contributors to their teams,
but who will have the final say when they face off on the court?

5. Brook Lopez vs. Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby

While both Chandler and Camby are limited offensively, they are the anchors of the Knicks' top five defense. Lopez is exactly the opposite, because although he's one of the best offensive centers in the game, he lacks defensively. Lopez doesn't quite have the same defensive presence inside as Dwight Howard, Chandler, or even Anthony Davis. Lopez is slow and if there's one major area of concern in his game, it's in defense. The Nets are rumored to be heavily interested in Nazr Mohammed, a veteran center whose game is predicated on defense. He would be a worthy, solid player behind Lopez. But even if he signs, the Knicks still have the better tandem because of their level of defensive prowess in the paint. Lopez might be able to use his skills to his advantage by playing a bit more outside the paint, so he can bring Chandler out, but we'll have to wait for game time to see what happens in that regard. For now, the edge goes to the Knicks.

Can Anthony's style of play lead the
Knicks past the first round of the playoffs?
     If you look at each team's rosters, I believe they're about even. I'm a little biased though, so I think the Nets are better. Jason Kidd is a great distributor for the Knicks but at this point he's old, and so Raymond Felton will get most of the playing time. Although Felton loves playing for the Knicks, he won't be playing in Mike D'Antoni's point guard-friendly system anymore. Mike Woodson's approach is on defense, and last year, Carmelo Anthony made strides of improvement in his defensive game. Without Iman Shumpert for most of the year because of a torn ACL, they've lost their best on-ball defender. Jared Jeffries was also a good defender, but he was traded in the deal for Felton. The Knicks will be good again defensively because of the likes of Chandler and Camby in the paint but otherwise, every one's defense is questionable. Kidd is still a good defender, but like I stated before, he's old. At 39, his body is wearing down and he is not the force he once was when he was a Net. Anthony's game is improving because he uses his bulky body to his advantage. Stoudemire isn't even a defensive liability; he's atrocious when he doesn't have the ball in his hands.

     For the Nets, Lopez is obviously just as bad a defender as Stoudemire, but they both make up for it through solid offensive production. Humphries and Wallace are both stout defenders, and Joe Johnson is not bad at it either. Like Carmelo, Deron Williams uses his size to "body up" against smaller guards, and he takes advantage of them. Both head coaches have systems predicated on defense, and I think each team will make improvements in that part of the game. My reason why I pick the Nets is because I think they will execute on offense better. Yes, I've heard everything about Iso-Joe, but he doesn't have to play that kind of game all the time anymore. He'll get his isolation plays of course, but not like he did in Atlanta. His ability to spread the floor and create will be a great luxury for the Nets. Deron Williams is one of the premier facilitators in the game, and his craftiness will trick defenses. His bravado makes you doubt what to do on defense. He's a proven scorer in this league, and that makes him all the more dangerous. The Nets have a lot of great shooters who can spread the floor, and I believe Williams, Johnson, and Lopez will be able to get them open. Don't be surprised if the Nets are one of the best offensive teams in the NBA this season. I also doubt the Knicks have chemistry on offense. Everything runs through Carmelo. Stoudemire's production continues to decrease, and it's now evident they can't co-exist. Chandler is not a scorer by any means. He gets mostly garbage baskets or points from the free throw line. Felton can score and create, but we've yet to see what he'll be like in Woodson's system. Outside of Carmelo, the only other consistent scorers are J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, if you don't count Stoudemire like I do. The Knicks have the star quality talent, but like the Dallas Cowboys, they can't seem to put it together to lead them to the promised land. This season will be very intriguing for New York basketball, but because of the new arena, team, and location, I think the Brooklyn Nets will create something special, and be better than their cross-city rival New York Knicks.


  1. Hey Stephen...Just checking out your blog at long last. Really great and thorough stuff! Love your Nets/Knicks piece! Keep at it buddy!

    Bob Considine

    1. Thanks Bob! I appreciate the comment and support!