NBA Free Agency: New York Knicks Becoming Legitimate Title Contenders

Michael DulkaContributor IJuly 10, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on against the Miami Heat in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The New York Knicks have had a successful offseason and are putting themselves in prime position to be competitive in the Eastern Conference. This Knicks team has finally been stabilized since being in constant flux after missing out on LeBron James and landing Amar'e Stoudemire instead.

Anthony and Stoudemire have yet to play a full-length season together after the lockout shortened training camp and the regular season. At times, the two have struggled to mesh when playing on the court. This will only improve the more the two have an opportunity to play together and adapt.

Having those players buy in and adapt is key for the Knicks' success. During Mike D'antoni's coaching tenure, it seemed as if the players had not fully bought into the system. The lack of willingness to adapt seemed to change once Mike Woodson took over the head coaching job. Woodson's philosophy down the stretch seemed to ignite the players and should carry into the offseason and training camp.

While point guard Jeremy Lin agreed to an offer sheet with the Houston Rockets, the Knicks are believed to match this offer to bring back Lin as be their guy at point guard. During the "Linsanity" period, Lin showed he is a capable point guard in the league, but also that he is quite raw as a player. 

With heaps of potential, Lin will get plenty of playing time and coaching. A full offseason with the organization behind him will heavily benefit Lin after just trying to make teams the last few seasons.

Another big positive for Lin and the Knicks is the signing of Jason Kidd as a backup and mentor to Lin. Kidd is one of the greats to play the position and will be a capable backup. In addition to mentoring Lin, Kidd's presence should have a nice influence on Iman Shumpert, who also showed potential at times last season.

Adding Marcus Camby in a sign-and-trade was another big move for the Knicks. While it isn't the flashiest move, the Knicks have bolstered their front court into one of the tougher in the East. Camby provides stability and flexibility beyond Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. 

In addition to bringing in new role players, the Knicks re-signed some of their own guys, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, to build a solid bench. Not only was it smart to bring these players back after they proved their worth down the stretch, the Knicks were able to do so without over-paying for either player.

After a truly up-and-down season, the Knicks finally look like a stable force to be reckoned with on a nightly basis. While they have improved this offseason on paper, they will only realize that potential by buying into Woodson's system and buying into the team as a whole.

The Knicks should certainly be a better and more consistent team in the 2012-2013 season, but where do they fall among other powers in the Eastern Conference?

The Miami Heat are definitely the team to beat until further notice. Any team, including the Knicks, is going to have trouble dethroning King James and the Heat in a playoff series.

The Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics seem to fill that second tier (though Bulls fans would with argue against this). Chicago hasn't been able to stay healthy enough or dangerous enough in the playoffs to be considered better than Miami when it matters most. The Celtics are definitely getting older, but the signing of Jason Terry and the re-signing of Kevin Garnett should leave the Celtics similar to last season.

If the Brooklyn Nets can add Dwight Howard, they may also jump into this tier, but until then they aren't at the same level even with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.

Following the season, it would have been hard to say the Knicks were close to reaching this tier, but with the overall talent of the roster and key off-season additions, the Knicks can't be overlooked.