New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson talks to Carmelo Anthony.
The New York Knicks will make the playoffs this year.
That's not an outlandish claim, nor is it something that would astonish fans. This is a superstar-laden roster with talented role players and veteran depth. Although the Knicks struck out in the Steve Nash sweepstakes, the team improved over the offseason and seems primed to make a push towards establishing itself as an elite contender in the Eastern Conference.
The last two seasons have represented a transitional period in New York. In 2010-2011, the Carmelo Anthony trade blew up a talented roster and established Melo and Amar'e Stoudemire as the foundation for the future. Last season, we saw Mike D'Antoni resign after a disastrous beginning to the lockout shortened season. Mike Woodson took over and brought the team to the playoffs.
However, the 2012-2013 campaign is supposed to be the year that everything comes together in New York. The Knicks' run of mediocrity and disappointment has to end. With that, fans should finally get back to enjoying some exciting, quality basketball in The World's Most Famous Arena.
Let's take a look at four specific reasons why the Knicks will make the playoffs next season, and possibly even make a push deep into the postseason.
New York Knicks' superstars Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.
However, while fans expected New York to be able to compete with the likes of the Chicago Bulls, Celtics, and Heat in the East, the reality was that this team has never been given an opportunity to succeed.
In 2010-2011, the Carmelo Anthony trade forced the Knicks to scramble and find team chemistry in midseason. Last season, the lockout stripped the 'Bockers of a much-needed training camp.
Through all of that, fans still expected this roster to compete with the best teams in the NBA. Not only was that an unfair expectation, but it was flat-out unrealistic.
However, this season will be different. The team played to an astounding 18-6 record under head coach Mike Woodson last year. The players responded to his defensive philosophy, as well as his half-court style of play.
With a full training camp to work with an even more talented roster, it stands to reason that the Knicks will have an improved team chemistry in 2012-2013. If Melo and Amar'e can find a way to feed off each other, the Knicks could become a dominant offense again.
A full training camp under a coach that is willing to tailor his style of play to his personnel will go a long way in helping this team improve.
On the left, Knicks' new additions Raymond Felton and Marcus Camby.
To put it simply, the Knicks did not have a point guard last season that fit their style of play.
While Jeremy Lin worked well in Mike D'Antoni's "seven-seconds or less" offense, his numbers dropped under Mike Woodson. With that, Amar'e Stoudemire had no viable option to run the pick-and-role with, which severely limited his offensive production.
With the departure of Jeremy Lin and the additions of Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, the Knicks will have experienced veterans at the point guard position heading into next season.
With that, Felton will reunite with Stoudemire, a player that enabled him to play the best basketball of his career. The pick-and-role will be reintroduced to the Knicks' offense, which will make 'Bockers much tougher to defend.
Furthermore, the addition of Marcus Camby will allow the Knicks to sit Tyson Chandler without having to make Melo and Amar'e their top rebounding threats. Camby's presence will help the Knicks keep Chandler out of foul trouble, which will enable Woodson to have his star center on the floor during key parts of the game.
In short, the Knicks will be deeper this season than they were last year. The offense will be dynamic and the defense will be as good—or better—than last season. While this roster may not be ready to match up with the Miami Heat yet, the rest of the Eastern Conference should be put on notice.
New York Knicks power forward Amar'e Stoudemire.
The Knicks have disappointed in their last two seasons.
In 2010-2011, they could neither play defense nor rebound effectively. Despite finishing second in the NBA in points per game (106.5), the 'Bockers finished second to last in the league in points allowed per game (105.7).
Last offseason's addition of Tyson Chandler resulted in the Knicks improving their defense and finishing 11th in points allowed (94.7) However, the disappearance of Amar'e Stoudemire's mid-range jump shot contributed to the offense's regression.
For the offense to have a resurgence next season, Stoudemire must put up All-Star-caliber statistics once again. While Amar'e's 17.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game last year still represents solid production, they are a far cry from his numbers with the Phoenix Suns and his first season in New York.
The return of Raymond Felton should help Stoudemire get back on track. With that, he needs to establish his mid-range jump shot that disappeared for the majority of last season. He has the talent to be the Knicks' second-best option on offense. However, he needs to improve for the Knicks to have a chance to compete with the NBA's elite next season.
Chicago Bulls' Derek Rose injures his knee.
This slide does not need much of an explanation.
While Philadelphia has improved, the only other teams that can match up with the Knicks on paper are the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. Although the Knicks finished seventh last year, they could be surprise contenders to make the Eastern Conference Finals next season.
The lack of talent in the East will allow New York to play an easier schedule, which could result in an increased winning percentage from a year ago. Furthermore, the 'Bockers will have a greater chance of advancing past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.