New York Knicks: An Elite Team In Eastern Conference?

Carmelo Anthony

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

A few years ago, the NBA‘s Eastern Conference looked less like a competitive league of professional basketball players and more like a Charlotte Bobcats‘ memorabilia dumpster fire.

The playoffs in any professional sports league usually signifies a successful season by the teams that qualify, something that just wasn’t the case by normal standards in the East in recent seasons. The 2010-11 season saw two teams enter the dance with a record of at (Sixers, 41-41) or well below (Pacers, 37-45) .500, while 2007-08 (Raptors, Sixers, Hawks) and 2008-09 (Sixers, Bulls, Pistons) saw three teams qualify after finishing at or below .500.

While teams in the Western Conference were missing the playoffs despite winning nearly 50 games, the East was handing out invitations to good, bad and ugly.

How quickly things can change. In regards to the East, where once stood a few diamonds and a pile of mediocrity now stand five legitimate conference title contenders: the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks. Of these, none intrigue and spark more debate than the Knicks and their roster of question marks, controversy and unfulfilled potential.

Entering the 2013-2014 season, the Knicks possess one of the deeper teams in the league. The starting five of the Knicks will likely comprise Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani, Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert and Raymond Felton, a group high in offensive talent.

Furthermore, a bench consisting of Metta World Peace, Amare Stoudemire, J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kenyon Martin is one of the more lethal units in the league, at least on paper.

Unfortunately, the question marks surrounding the players above are part of the reason why such a talented roster is being overlooked by so many of us.

Will Chandler regain the form that saw him win the Defensive Player of the Year award two seasons ago? Can Bargnani put the turmoil of Toronto past him and produce in MSG, a place he’s historically loved playing in? How much of a distraction will Smith and World Peace be during the year? Are we going to see an MVP caliber season from Anthony? Can Stoudemire and Felton stay healthy?

In my eyes, Chandler will once again be the player he was once on defense, and his presence on the floor as the perfect compliment to Bargnani will translate into Bargnani becoming the second-best player on the Knicks. If patterns persist, we’re bound to see a few questionable tweets from Smith and probably a World Peace NSYNC parody or name change to “Ronrique Queensbridge Artiglesias III”.

If healthy, Anthony should climb charts similar to last season during the Knicks’ brilliant start and indeed challenge for the MVP. Of all the questions, the biggest will always remain the health of Felton and Stoudemire, who are damaged goods to some extent because of the injury bug. Although we cannot predict health, the depth of the roster is something that should effectively buffer the Knicks against any glassed fire extinguishers that Amare may get the urge to punch through.

Ignoring the other conference contenders, let’s rationalize why this is a dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. First of all, the NBA championship is won with superstars and in Anthony, the Knicks have one of the best in the game. Next, the ability to balance scoring is critical to making an offense tougher to predict. With Smith, Bargnani, Stoudemire among others, Knicks management made sure that the team would not struggle to put points on the board.

Finally, the importance of defense cannot be overstated as the league is dominated by perimeter play, and therefore needs detractors to not only prevent them from getting to the basket, but also to scare them into taking longer, less comfortable shots in a game. With World Peace, Chandler, Martin and Shumpert, one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders, the defense is loaded with lockdown potential against opposing offenses.

Although the upcoming year promises to be one of cautious optimism for the Knicks and their fans, one must wonder how much longer we’ll give them before the experiment that began with Stoudemire’s five-year, $100 million contract is deemed to be a failure. Entering this season, the talent is there for the Knicks to compete for the NBA championship, but can they answer enough of those key questions to fulfill that potential?

Pavle Kisin-Rajlic is a Chicago Bulls writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him @Gambitguru77, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

New York has made some good acquisitions this offseason bringing in World Peace and Bargnani. This Knicks team has a ton of potential and if they can live up to that potential will be one of the most entertaining teams in all of the NBA. Watch as New York tries to improve upon last seasons 54 wins and get your Knicks Tickets today.

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