The New York Knicks are off to their hottest start in decades. At 22-10, the Knicks currently sit just a game behind the defending champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference and play the majority of their upcoming games at Madison Square Garden; a place that they have dominated this season, going 13-3 with multiple blowout wins.
It is only early January and we aren’t even at the All-Star break yet but let’s press the fast forward button to late April/May, in other words: the playoffs.
The Knicks have failed miserably in the postseason for the past decade but this year they are poised for a big run. There are a few factors that make me think the Knicks can win it all and here they are:
1) The 2011 Dallas Mavericks.
Never have I seen so many similarities in two teams before. These two teams feature a couple of the same players but for the most part, different players that have the same roles. Take a look at the rosters for both teams:
2011 Mavericks 2013 Knicks Similarities
Tyson Chandler Tyson Chandler No explanation necessary
Jason Kidd Jason Kidd See above
Dirk Nowitzki Carmelo Anthony Unstoppable scorer
Jason Terry JR Smith Microwave scorer off the bench
DeShawn Stevenson Iman Shumpert Above average perimeter defender
Peja Stojakovic Steve Novak Automatic 3-point shooter
Brendan Haywood Marcus Camby Veteran leader / solid backup center
JJ Barea Raymond Felton Scoring guard who can penetrate
Corey Brewer Ronnie Brewer Defender / glue guy
As you can see, the two teams are very similar. Besides two guys (Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire) the whole Knicks roster is basically the same as the Mavericks. Not only are the rosters alike but so are the way these teams play.
The Mavs ran a 4-out system with only Chandler on this inside just like the Knicks do. Sometimes Dirk would isolate himself in the mid-post, just like ‘Melo often does. The Mavs also relied heavily on three pointers (like the Knicks do) and ran a two point guard system (Kidd and Barea) like the Knicks do with Kidd and Felton.
The other similarity is that the Mavs relied heavily on their bench, especially Jason Terry. The Knicks are exactly the same way, relying on J.R. Smith to pour in points while Steve Novak contributes some three-point shots like Peja Stojakovic did for Dallas.
The question for the Knicks is where does Amar’e fit into this? Can he play the role of Shawn Marion? A guy who just rebounded and defended well and didn’t get in the way on offense, mostly getting hustle points? If the Knicks want to make noise in the playoffs then Mike Woodson cannot insert Amar’e into the starting lineup.
The Knicks need Melo at the 4-spot, just like Dirk was. Amar’e absolutely needs to get better defensively and if the Knicks front office doesn’t think Stoudemire fits into their plans right now, then they should look to trade the perennial All-Star forward for a player that better fits their current style of play.
2) Carmelo Anthony.
Plain and simple. The Knicks will go as far as Anthony takes them. Throughout his career, ‘Melo has not had playoff success. We saw it with Dirk in 2011 and we saw it with LeBron last year. The star player has to play on another level in order to win a championship. Can Melo do it in the postseason like he has so far this season?
Only time will tell.
‘Melo has the supporting cast to get it done though and it looks like he’ll have home court advantage in the early rounds as well. Which leads to my next point…
3) Madison Square Garden.
The Mecca of basketball. Spike Lee leads the Garden faithful and it seems as if the crowd has never been louder. The Knicks have brought constant excitement back to the Garden and Carmelo Anthony has had big time success at home this season. The play of the Knicks bench at home has also been a big part of the teams success. Guys like Novak, Smith and Brewer have enjoyed more success playing in their own backyard than on the road.
The Knicks are without a doubt a top three team in the Eastern Conference this season and will have a favorable first round matchup no matter who they face. Although they will have a more difficult path to the Finals than the Mavericks did in 2011 (Knicks will more than likely have to beat both Miami and Oklahoma City in back to back series), I don’t think it is a crazy statement to say the Knicks can win the NBA Championship this season.