New York Knicks
Coach: Isiah Thomas
Starting five: PG Stephon Marbury, SG Steve Francis, SF Jared Jeffries, PF Channing Frye, C Eddy Curry
Off the bench: SG Jamal Crawford, SF Jalen Rose, SF Quentin Richardson
Most underpaid: As much as this season will be about Isiah Thomas survival, the Knicks long-term fortunes depend on Channing Fryes development. Frye was the one bright spot for one of the worst teams in history, averaging 12.3 points and 5.8 rebounds as a rookie. He was on track to play in 80 games before suffering a knee injury in March that cost him the last 16 games of the season. Frye did return to play in the Las Vegas summer league. The Knicks at least can hope they have two cornerstone big men in Frye and Eddy Curry. Frye was a $5.5 million player who made $2.2 million on his rookie contract.
Most overpaid: Another season, another $150 million spent by the Knicks on the road to nowhere. That doesnt even include the final cost of Larry Browns settlement. The big question is whether Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis can coexist in the same backcourt. If their career averages are any indication, the two guards would take about 32 shots a game combined if they could. With Francis and Marbury owed a collective $108 million through 2008-09 and all but impossible to trade, Thomas has to find a way for the two to play together. He also should get Jamal Crawford some minutes, if only because the Knicks are paying him $43 million through 2010-11.
Outlook: As long as the players dont quit on Thomas the same way they did on Brown (and vice versa), the Knicks could win the 35 or so games necessary to save Thomas job. At least they wont have to pay Allan Houston any more after this season.
Coach: Brian Hill
Starting five: PG Jameer Nelson, SG J.J. Redick, SF Grant Hill, PF Dwight Howard, C Darko Milicic
Off the bench: PG Carlos Arroyo, SF Hedo Turkolgu, SF Trevor Ariza, C Tony Battie
Most underpaid: One of the overlooked individual performances last season was Dwight Howards 28-point, 26-rebound game against Philadelphia in April. In his second season out of high school, Howard averaged 15.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Keep in mind he barely took 10 shots a game, left an average of three points at the foul line nightly and wont turn 21 until Dec. 8. If not for Ben Wallace, Howard would be the NBAs unquestioned best rebounder, with instincts that defy his age. He hasnt missed a game in his career and could be the NBAs breakout star this season. Howard was a $10.98 million player who made $4.5 million.
Most overpaid: This could be the end for Grant Hill, with his mega contract finally expiring after this season. Hill struggled to recover from a sports hernia last season and played in only 21 games for the Magic. That makes it 135 games played, 357 games missed since Hill came to Orlando. Once Hills contract comes off the books, however, the Magic could offer a maximum deal to bring Daytona Beachs Vince Carter back home. Hill was a $1.71 million player who made $15.7 million last season.
Outlook: If Kwame Brown could get $25 million from the Lakers, what will Darko Milicic command as a restricted free agent next summer? Thats just one question in what should be an intriguing season for the Magic, who finished only four games out of the playoffs and won 16 of their final 22 games last season.