Knicks start season in Toronto, and Azubuike may start there, too

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azubuike_dunk.jpgYour new-look New York Knicks — now with a real point guard! — will begin their season on the road in Toronto Oct. 27.

The first game at Madison Square Garden will be a good one with Portland in town Oct. 30, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. As for the other big games: New York will host Chicago on Christmas Day and the Miami Heat and LeBron James will get booed by Knicks fans on Dec. 17 and Jan. 27.

It should be an interesting season for the Knicks, who now have players much better suited to running Mike D’Antoni’s system. Amare Stoudemire is a legitimate star and one we know thrives in this system. Raymond Felton is a huge upgrade at the point for New York.

And while the Knicks bring back the hustling Wilson Chandler at the two, don’t be surprised if their fans fall in love with Kelenna Azubuike. As the brilliant Tom Haberstroh (of Hoopdata as well) points out in a piece at ESPNNewYork.com, Azubuike could start over Chandler once he fully gets over his knee injury from last season.

Why?

Simply put, Azubuike can shoot and Chandler can’t.  Azubuike boasts a career .409 3-point percentage in his four seasons in the league, giving the Knicks a far superior spot-up weapon on the perimeter than Chandler who had a miserable shooting campaign last season. Among qualified wing players, Chandler shot a league-worst 28.1% on his 89 open catch-and-shoot jump shots last season according to video data from Synergy Sports Technology (the average shooter posts about 42% in such situations).

In the D’Antoni system, spot up shooters are of high value. (See: Johnson, Joe.) Chandler is much more smooth off the dribble but that is not called for as much in the offense.

And when Azubuike starts draining open jumpers because the defense collapsed in to slow Felton and Stoudemire, Knicks fans will love him. Then overrate him. Then try to tear him down. Then doggedly defend him if people not from New York try to tear him down.

You know, the usual New York Star treatment.