There is no harder team to figure out than the New York Knicks.
Offensively, they could be spectacular. There are only a handful of better scorers in the NBA than Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire is still a somewhat athletic big who can run the floor and finish.
Defensively, the Knicks bring back the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, center Tyson Chandler. Iman Shumpert emerged as one of the best defensive guards in the league.
So what kind of team are the Knicks?
"With the team we have right now, we have guards, we have big men, we have veterans," said Anthony. "As a team, on paper, we have a well-rounded team. It's just a matter of us buying into the situation."
That's the trick.
The Knicks, for all of their talent, looked clunky and confused at times last season, especially on offense.
Anthony is without question the primary weapon. Stoudemire's game may have to suffer a bit, but the offense should flow through Anthony. Problem is, Anthony can slow the offense to a galactic pace. He holds the ball and creates for himself.
For the Knicks to reach their full potential, Anthony and Stoudemire have to play well together.
"We will be one tight group this season," said Anthony. "If I have to sacrifice some of the scoring to help him (Stoudemire) get back to where he needs to be, and where we want him to be, I don't have a problem with that."
Facilitating the offense with those two superstars is a tough task. The job will fall to Raymond Felton and Hall of Famer in waiting Jason Kidd. They should be adequate and their presence ended one of the most intriguing subplots of the offseason.
Linsanity moved to Houston.
Some thought it was foolish for the Knicks not to match Houston's offer for Jeremy Lin, but once Houston and Lin revised the contract and added a "poison pill" in the form of a $14.8 million salary in year three, Lin was gone.
"It's a tough call," Chandler said after Lin signed with the Rockets. "Ultimately, they've got to do what's best for the organization. So we'll see how it goes."
New York passed on Lin and instead brought back Felton and signed Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace. That is an old group of players, but veterans help teams with chemistry problems.
2011-12 Results: 36-30, second in Atlantic. Lost in East quarterfinals to Miami.
ADDITIONS: G Raymond Felton, G Ronnie Brewer, G Jason Kidd, C Marcus Camby, F Kurt Thomas, F Rasheed Wallace, G Pablo Prigioni
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Raymond Felton SG- Ronnie Brewer SF- Carmelo Anthony PF- Amare Stoudemire C- Tyson Chandler
KEY RESERVES: G Iman Shumpert, G J.R. Smith, G Jason Kidd, C Marcus Camby, F Rasheed Wallace, F Kurt Thomas, F Steve Novak, G Pablo Prigioni.
FRONTCOURT: The most talented frontcourt in the league brings a little bit of everything.
Anthony is a marvelous scorer. He can score in every way conceivable, although he's not a great 3-point shooter. Anthony loves the fourth quarter and wants the ball to win the game. You can't minimize that.
Stoudemire's scoring numbers plummeted in his first full season with Anthony. Stoudemire scored almost eight less points per game in 2011-12 and his rebounding numbers were a career low for a full season. And, Stoudemire's field-goal percentage was below 50 percent for the first full season since 2003-04, his second in the league. Stoudemire has to adapt to Anthony's ways. The best chance of that happening is to move without the ball and pound the glass for offensive boards. He missed some time in the preseason with a knee injury, will miss at least the season-opener and that's always pause for concern when it comes to Stoudemire.
Chandler is the best defensive big man in the league. He polices the paint, alters shots and sweeps the glass, but he's actually underrated as an offensive performer. His 67.9 field-goal percentage last season was the third- highest in league history. Chandler isn't a post-up threat, but he'll get double-figures through hard work.
BACKCOURT: Felton might be the key to the whole Knicks' operation. He was a star in the making two years ago with the Knicks. Felton averaged 17.1 PPG and nine assists per game in 54 games with New York. He was traded to Denver, then went to Portland and has never been the same. Felton's problems in recent seasons had a lot to do with an expanding waist line. The hope is Felton returns to New York, returns to form with Stoudemire and everything will be right with the world. Remember, Felton played the way he did in Mike D'Antoni's point-guard driven offense and he's no longer the head coach.
Ronnie Brewer is not much of an offensive threat, but there's so much depth in New York that all he has to do is play the good defense that's kept him in the league.
BENCH: New York's bench is absolutely loaded. Mock the Wallace and Thomas moves, but they won't play much.
Kidd could see the fourth-quarter minutes at the point. He is going to the Hall of Fame five years after he retires and can still run an offense and knock down a 3.
J.R. Smith and Steve Novak are great offensive players off the bench. Both are candidates for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Smith is a range-less shooter and good slasher, while Novak led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage last season. Novak had a 7-for-7 game from behind the arc in the preseason.
Shumpert and Camby will anchor the defense off the bench and both are more than capable.
This could be the top bench unit in the NBA.
COACHING: Mike Woodson took over for D'Antoni in March and led the team to an 18-6 mark. He was a welcome change from D'Antoni, if for no other reason, he gave a rat's you-know-what about defense.
Woodson guided the Atlanta Hawks for six seasons and was 80 games under .500. That may be unfair since he led them to the playoffs in his last three seasons, but he's got a tough chore ahead of him with these personalities.
Woodson being named the head coach almost immediately after the season ended was a huge plus. It showed the organization had faith and that will help him get the respect he deserves from his players.
OUTLOOK: Again, the Knicks are very difficult to figure out. Talent alone, this roster is honestly in the top-five in the NBA. Can all of these pieces come together for a legit run? That's a trick question. Based on history, you have to lean toward no.
But for all of the clashes and drama surrounding the Knicks last season, they went 36-30. Mock the ages of their offseason acquisitions, but wouldn't solid veterans help out with a team with some possible flare ups?
The Knicks can contend in the wide-open Atlantic Division. The Boston Celtics are good. The Philadelphia 76ers are good and the Brooklyn Nets are good. So too, are the Knicks. They are clearly a playoff team that could win the Atlantic Division and get to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Knicks aren't on the Heat's level right now, but the more good team basketball they play, the more confidence will soar. It's time for the Knicks to buy into the team.