The New York Knicks would be lucky to make it into the playoffs after a season filled with drama and injury has left the team hovering around .500.
However, with 10 games left the Knicks have the opportunity to actually move up in the playoff standings due to the major struggle in the second half for the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Knicks have actually been playing pretty well since the departure of Mike D'Antoni and the emergence of defensive-minded Mike Woodson as head coach.
The Knicks have hung in there despite the loss of Jeremy Lin and Amare Stoudemire, and going into the playoffs without both stars would actually be better for them.
Carmelo Anthony's season has been subpar at best, but ever since Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin have been off the floor Anthony has played with a chip on his shoulder and has put in the extra effort defensively.
Anthony was not scoring the way Knicks fans had hoped he would in his second season in New York. The reason for this is the vast number of injuries Anthony has faced from the start of this season.
Recently Anthony has looked like the old 'Melo and has started putting up some quality numbers; the reason is the Knicks starting him at power forward.
Anthony playing the four gives him versatility on offense, because most opposing power forwards can't keep up with Anthony's quickness and can't defend him on the perimeter.
Also, defensively Anthony can keep up with opposing fours, and his quick hands have led to more steals.
It would be better for Anthony to stay at the power forward for the playoffs and keep the offensive production high. After all, the Knicks will need all the scoring they can get facing either the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat.
Iman Shumpert has truly been one of the biggest surprises for the Knicks this season, starting with his great defense.
Scouting Shumpert, the one thing that jumped out was his ability to defend, especially on the perimeter, where he generates a great deal of steals.
The Knicks certainly got a steal in the draft when Shumpert fell to them.
This season Shumpert found himself in and out of the starting lineup due to injury, and when he starts he usually impresses.
He was drafted as a point guard, but his best position on the Knicks right now is at shooting guard. He is a better defender than Landry Fields, and his shooting has improved all season.
With the development of a consistent perimeter jumper, he might be the point guard of the future for New York, but if they decide to move forward with Jeremy Lin, Shumpert may eventually steal the starting shooting guard spot from Landry Fields.
Heading into the playoffs this season, the Knicks should stick with Shumpert as shooting guard and Fields at small forward. It gives them versatility offensively and defensively.
They will need to play great defense to even think about contending with the upper echelon teams in the east.
This is not a knock on Stoudemire or Lin as players, but let's face facts. They are not great on the defensive end of the floor; actually they are more of a liability.
When Stoudemire is healthy he can be a great shot blocker, but this season he has struggled to get the same lift back. He has suffered on both sides of the ball, but this season his defense was suspect.
This was incredibly disappointing after Stoudemire had such a great defensive season last year, blocking nearly two shots per game.
If Stoudemire came back for the playoffs and was not at 100 percent, it would hurt the Knicks' defense immensely. The defense is playing very well without him in the lineup, so therefore if Stat can return for the playoffs, the Knicks should consider keeping the starters intact and bringing him in as a spark of the bench, just until he is fully healthy.
Lin, on the other hand, is a different story.
If Lin can come back for the playoffs, the only reason he should start is because of the fact that Baron Davis is not playing well right now.
The Knicks are actually winning despite Davis at times. His turnover ratio is not as high as Lin's, but Davis is not playing well enough for anyone to say he should be the starter over Lin come playoff time.
The Knicks actually use Shumpert on the perimeter for his defense in late game situations, and this should continue if the defense struggles.
The Knicks are not better off without Lin and Stoudemire going into next season, but just for this upcoming playoff run.
Both players do have a pivotal role on the Knicks and should get healthy heading into next season so the Knicks can be back at full strength for the 2012-13 season.
Lin has all the potential to be the point guard of the future. However, he needs to become a better defender and not get caught on screen and roll plays.
He also has to cut down on the turnovers, big time.
It is important that Lin plays at 100 percent and lets that knee injury fully heal before getting back on the court. How many times have we seen great players have shortened careers due to lingering knee issues?
Amare Stoudemire seems to attract injuries, and as he gets older the back issues could become a hindrance for his longevity in the NBA.
The Knicks can't move Stoudemire; no one wants that huge contract for a player that has had so many problems staying on the court.
Stoudemire is a great player when he is on the court and healthy, so the Knicks shouldn't move him anyway. He did help bring the Knicks back to relevance.
Hopefully the Knicks can use a full offseason to adjust on the court as a full unit. We never really got to see the full potential of this team due to all the injuries.
If the Knicks are all healthy heading into next season, they could be a force in the Eastern Conference.
But for now, going into this years playoffs the Knicks are better off without Stoudemire and Lin on the court.