Before I argue why the New York Knicks are a legitimate championship contender, allow me to preface that by conceding that the Knicks could easily lose to the Boston Celtics in the first round or get out-muscled and beat down by the Indiana Pacers before getting to their showdown with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But the Knicks have a legitimate shot at winning a title this year because of their MVP, Carmelo Anthony. Right now, Anthony is so hot that Amare Stoudemire could punch a fire extinguisher for every game he is out, and that still wouldn’t cool Anthony down. In April, he is shooting 58.6 percent and averaging 40.6 points per game, compiling a shooting chart that is more accurate than Eli Manning’s pass to Mario Manningham in Super Bowl XLVI.
Assuming the Knicks continue their hot streak, currently a 13-game winning streak where they threaten to break the team record for most 3-pointers in a game every night, into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat, here is why they stack up well.
They are 3-1 against Miami this season, with one win coming without Anthony in the lineup and the one loss going down to the wire. In those four games, the Knicks averaged 102.8 points while allowing 91.3 points per game. One reason for this could be the fact that Miami thrives off of turnovers. They are the best in the NBA in converting their opponents’ turnovers into points, with LeBron James posterizing defenders in the process. The Knicks, however, turn the ball over the fewest times per game in the league, neutralizing one of Miami’s greatest advantages.
Comparing each position, the Knicks stack up well. At point guard, Raymond Felton averages 14 points per game (PPG) and 5.5 assists per game (APG), compared to Miami’s starting point guard, Mario Chalmers, who is averaging 8.6 PPG and 3.5 APG. At shooting guard, Miami has one of the best players in the NBA in Dwyane Wade, but he is dealing with a lingering knee injury. The Knicks likely have the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in J.R. Smith. Since March 18, when the team’s winning streak began, Smith is averaging 23.2 PPG while shooting 49 percent.
If healthy, the Knicks have a decisive advantage at center, with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler and their, pardon my Walt Frazier-ism, neophyte Kenyon Martin, who has energized the team since being acquired. Also, the Knicks bench is outscoring Miami’s bench by a whopping 13.4 PPG, averaging 41.2 to 27.8. Power forward is dicey for the Knicks given Stoudemire’s questionable health, and Chris Bosh has been solid for Miami all year.
But inevitably it will come down to two of the best players on the planet, James and Anthony. Whether Anthony is playing the three or four position for the majority of the game is superfluous because he will more than likely be guarded by James. If James stops Anthony’s recent tear and controls the game by distributing the ball and driving to the basket, the Knicks have little to no shot. If Anthony continues his hot streak to some degree, the Knicks continue hitting their threes and the Knicks’ bigs make life tough on James, the Knicks will be playing for their first NBA championship since 1973.