I know it’s still early and I hate talking about playoffs and judging teams in December, but ladies and gentleman the New York Knicks are for real. There’s A LOT of basketball and a lot of factors left in the Knicks season, for example Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert will be coming back, but there’s no reason why the Knicks can’t be considered a title contender out of the Eastern Conference.
Here are five reasons why the Knicks are title contenders this year:
5. Home Court Advantage: Madison Square Garden can finally call itself “the Mecca of Basketball.” The Knicks are the only undefeated home team left in the NBA with an impressive 8-0 record. The Knicks have finally turned the Garden into a true competitive advantage and the last three NBA champions have proved that is a big factor in winning. Here are the last three regular season and playoff home record for the last three teams that hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy:
2011-2012 Miami Heat: 28-5 & 11-2
2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks: 29-12 & 9-2
2009-2010 Los Angeles Lakers: 34-7 & 11-1
4. Not Much Competition: We all know the team with the target on their backs in the east this year is the Miami Heat. After the Heat, the rest of the East was up for grabs coming into the season. A lot of people said Indiana but without Danny Granger they are not the same team. Chicago will always be good but they cannot be judged until Derrick Rose comes back. Brooklyn is a legit threat in the east but is another team that doesn’t have much playoff experience. After these three teams, there isn’t much to worry about. Atlanta will never scare anyone in the playoffs and Philadelphia is a nice team but is no playoff threat. You never want to face Boston in the playoffs but they aren’t the Celtics of the past. The Eastern Conference doesn’t have the competitive depth the Western Conference does, and the Knicks right now are one of the front-runners to take it.
3. Mike Woodson: Coach Woodson has done a masterful job in New York and is an early favorite for Coach of the Year. With an overall record of 34-11 he has been the leader the Knicks needed and has changed the culture. He commands the locker room with gaining the player’s respect. The Knicks have played with three championship traits under him this season: protecting home court, playing defense, and having great team chemistry. Woody’s playoff record worries me, a horrible 12-22, but his teams in Atlanta did not have the same feel as this year’s Knicks team. Woodson will be big reason why the Knicks succeed this season.
2. Team Chemistry & Depth: Every championship team needs depth off their bench and need to trust each other. The Knicks do both extremely well. We know what Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are going to give you game in and game out but it has been the other Knicks who have stepped up to the plate. Jason Kidd has done exactly what he was brought in here to do: hit big shots, not making mistakes, and being a leader in the locker room. J.R. Smith is up there with the best scorers off the bench. Steve Novak can hit a three in his sleep and his buddy Pablo Prigioni has been great in his role.
The starters have played with great trust in each other. Raymond Felton made us forget about that Lin guy with this phenomenal point guard play. Ronnie Brewer is that perfect defender and great all-around teammate you need in a starting lineup. ‘Melo and Chandler are the best at their positions and have stepped up in the leader position greatly. The Knicks can’t be fully judged until Stoudemire and Shumpert come back into the rotation, but if they keep playing well with them, the sky is the limit for this team.
1. Carmelo Anthony: The best scorers in the NBA have reached the NBA Finals: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Carmelo has been a man a mission this season, showing everyone he is the best scorer in the world. ‘Melo can score 20 in his sleep and I knew during the Olympics we were in for a special scoring year from him. He dominated every aspect of the offensive side of the court but this year we have seen a different Anthony. He is playing defense and showing hustle all over the court. Diving into the stands, standing up for his teammates, and being the leader the Knicks need him to be. Melo has done it all for the Knicks and he will be the reason why the Knicks are fighting for the title come April.