After walking aimlessly and starving for wins in the NBA desert for the past decade the New York Knicks look to be moving away from the laughingstock they had become. The Knicks began to erase the painful memories of Isaiah Thomas and horrendous signings like Eddie Curry (although erasing him will take a little bit of time since he took up about half of the Knicks bench while on the team) by bringing in players who actually wanted to play basketball and posting their first winning record since 2001.
The Knicks made a great signing getting Amare Stoudemire last summer, then trading for Carmelo Anthony and now this month adding a championship winning center in Tyson Chandler. Now I know the trend for NBA teams now is to have a “Big Three”. Three perennial powerhouse players even perennial Hall of Famers in some cases. The Spurs (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan), the Celtics (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) and the Heat (LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh) come to mind. However not all Big Three’s are the same and just because you have three big names doesn’t mean you have a Big Three. The Celtics Big Three is legit as each member is a first ballot Hall of Famer. The Spurs’ is legit as it is made up of the best power forward of the last 20 years (and possibly ever) and two All-Stars who have carried the team at one point or another. The Heat is more of a Big Two and a Half (LeBron and Wade) and a really, really great third guy in Chris Bosh. However Bosh isn’t on the same level as LeBron and Wade.
This brings us to the Knicks self proclaimed Big Three of Melo, Amare and Tyson Chandler. Melo and Amare are both Top 15 players,
perennial All-Stars and could be Hall of Famers when all is said in done. Then there’s Tyson Chandler. He’s a great defender and rebounder but he’s not an All-Star or first, second, third or even fourth team All-NBA player. So if the Heat are the Big 2.5 then the Knick are more like the Big Two with a really nice supporting player.
That being said this Knicks team is probably the best on paper theyhave put out since Jeff Van Gundy was strolling the sidelines. The whole team revolves around the Big Two in Amare and Melo. Melo is one of the best pure scorers in the NBA right now. He only played 27 games with the Knicks last season, and still manged to be 7th on the team in points scored. Melo is also a gifted rebounder but tends to be lax on defense, something he needs to tighten up if he is going to be in the MVP discussion this season. Amare is almost the exact same player but in the power forward position. Amare can get to the tin at will and finishes extremely well but a dominant power forward should be grabbing more rebounds than eight a game. Amare, like Melo also needs to toughen up on defense. He is good for an emphatic block every game, but that masks the poor defense he plays the rest of the game.
The Knicks in general, as they are built, are not a defensive minded team. Mike D’Antoni didn’t coach defense in Phoenix and he hasn’t changed since coming to New York. The hiring of assistant Mike Woodson should make defense a higher priority for a team that can run up the score for themselves, but can’t really keep the other team from doing the same. Last season New York was second in points scored per game (106.5) but 28th in points allowed per game (28th). If they are really going to unseat the Celtics they have to be able to play at least a little defense.
The addition of Tyson Chandler will help that as he adds a big, defensive presence up front. He might not drop 25 points a game but he patrols the lane and can keep slashers and other scoring forwards honest like he did in last years NBA finals.
The Knicks depth doesn’t end there however. They added a veteran point guarde by snatching up Mike Bibby. Bibby may not be what he once was but he can still manage a game and hit a big three here or there. Landry Fields is a solid scoring option when Melo and Amare stuggle and the Knicks certainly believe in him as they refused to part ways with him in the Melo trade. Plus Spike Lee has his jersey so he must be doing something right. Toney Douglas (10.6 PPG) and Renaldo Balkman add further depth in the back court.
Best Case Scenario- 52-14, 1st in the Atlantic
Tyson Chandler and Mike Woodson remind Amare and Melo that scoring alone doesn’t win games. Melo runs away with the scoring
title and MVP in a full season with D’Antoni’s system as the Knicks push Miami to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Spike Lee releases his first Oscar worthy film since 4 Little Girls.
Worst Case Scenario- 33-33, 3rd in the Atlantic
The Knicks set records on both sides of the ball and become the first team to average over 150 points per game in a season and allow that many as well. Melo and Amare scoff at the idea of defense and the Knicks plateau at .500.
How They’ll Finish- 47-19, 1st in the Atlantic
The Celtics will still be a challenge but this team is younger and more athletic than the team in Boston, if they can start to play some defense the Knicks are poised to be a team to reckon with in the East.
Do you think the Knicks can figure out the defensive side of the ball? Are the Knicks an elite team? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter (@seeuinoctober).