Building NY Knicks' Best All-Time Starting Lineup

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2012

Building NY Knicks' Best All-Time Starting Lineup

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    In New York, there is hardly any time devoted to reflection. But that's about to change.

    The Knicks, though it may seem hard to believe now, are a franchise with an extremely rich basketball history; plenty of superstars called Madison Square Garden home long before Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.

    And as the 2012-13 campaign unfolds, current Knickerbockers would be doing themselves a great service by looking back at the players who got it right, who did it right.

    We're not just talking about the athletes who won a championship, but rather those that instilled a sense of hope in the organization, who gave the team something more to play for.

    Because as tantalizing as Anthony, Stoudemire and even Tyson Chandler can be, do any of them hold a candle to the long list of all-time greats who left everything on the floor of Pennsylvania Plaza? When assembling the greatest, most potent starting lineup of all-time, would any of them even make the cut?

    There's always time to reflect, and even fantasize. 

    Which is exactly what we're about to do here.

Point Guard: Walt Clyde Frazier

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    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.9 steals, 2.1 turnovers, 49 percent shooting

    Walt Clyde Frazier is the greatest point guard to ever don a Knicks uniform and one of the most talented floor generals the league has ever seen.

    Like a conventional point man, Frazier was an unselfish playmaker. But unlike most, he did things with the ball in his hands that were just plain amazing. 

    Frazier's ball-handling was impeccable. He could exploit any defender he pleased off the dribble and was a perpetual rim attacker.

    The prolific playmaker was also an outstanding perimeter defender. He had extremely quick hands and manned the passing lanes like his paycheck depending on it.

    You simply don't see many athletes with the penchant for flair that Frazier had. His flamboyance has led to seven All-Star appearances and two championships with the Knicks, the latter of which came in 1973, and is the most recent one the team has won to date.

    So, more than fittingly, New York's best starting lineup of all-time tips off with a tribute to a bona fide champion, and one of the most crafty point guards the NBA has ever witnessed.

Shooting Guard: Earl Monroe

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    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.0 steals, 1.6 turnovers, 46.4 percent shooting

    Earl "The Pearl" Monroe and Walt Clyde Frazier played together once, and here they'll get to do it again.

    Like Frazier, Monroe was a flashy ball-handler who wreaked havoc for defenses with his controlled spins and impressive hangtime; Bill Bradley once described him as "the ultimate playground player."

    But he was more than simply flamboyance at its best; he became a chameleon. When he was traded to the Knicks and forced to take a backseat to Frazier, he adjusted. He learned to play off the ball more, and create opportunities for his teammates that way.

    The culmination of such a pairing came in 1973, when New York won the NBA championship. Frazier and Monroe proved to be one of the most formidable backcourt duos of all-time, and are easily the most talented tandem the Knicks have ever boasted at the guard spots.

    Separately, these two were great, but together, over time, they proved unstoppable.

    And there's no reason to break them up here.

Small Forward: Bernard King

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    Career Per-Game Stats: 22.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.0 steals, 3.2 turnovers, 51.8 percent shooting.

    Sorry 'Melo.

    Bernard King, in just four seasons with the Knicks, established himself as the most prolific small forward the organization has ever had the pleasure of playing host to.

    King left fans in awe with his scoring abilities, arguably more so than Carmelo Anthony ever has. He had an unpredictable first step. excelled at getting around his defenders and could score in the post with his back to the basket or roll over screens and drain shots from the outside.

    And who could ever forget his back-to-back 50 point games in 1984?

    What really separates King from Anthony, though, is the multi-faceted, two-way nature of his game. Not only was he a deft and willing passer, but he didn't shy away from responsibility on the defensive end.

    He was superb at defending the passing lanes, and when healthy, could keep even the most elusive of athletes in front him.

    This is a guy that commands respect, even now. After all he's the reason Anthony doesn't don No. 15 anymore.

    Plus, it also doesn't hurt that he wouldn't have a problem thriving alongside the ball-dominating tendencies of both Walt Clyde Frazier and Earl Monroe.

Power Forward: Willis Reed

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    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.7 points, 0.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.1 steals, 0.0 turnovers, 47.6 percent shooting

    More than any other great, Willis Reed's career stat line is misleading.

    The NBA didn't consider rebounds, blocks, steals and turnovers a statistic for most of his career, destroying Reed's statistical outlook, even more so than Walt Clyde Frazier's and Earl Monroe's.

    That said, we don't need the existence of such stats to validate his talent. 

    Reed was an outstanding scorer, who devastated defenses both in the post and with his mid range jumper. While his rebounds were officially measured just once in 10 years, he grabbed 7.4 boards per game then, in limited action, at the end of his career. Almost needless to say, he was a beast on the glass.

    The forward was also a strong shot-contester as well. In the only year of his career blocks factored in, he averaged 1.1 per game, which again, came in limited action.

    Reed was also the epitome of heart. This was the guy who led the Knicks to a Game 7 Finals victory over the Lakers in 1970 with a torn thigh muscle.

    And you simply can't measure that type of dedication and work ethic, not with rebounds, blocks or even his seven All-Star appearances, two finals MVPs, one league MVP and two championship rings.

    He was simply a workhorse with unwavering loyalty, which yielded the type of results and invoked the level of inspiration that makes it clear he belongs here. 

Center: Patrick Ewing

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    Career Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.4 blocks, 1.0 steals, 3.0 turnovers, 50.4 percent shooting

    Patrick Ewing didn't win any championships, nor did he take home any MVP awards, but there's no doubt he's the right man to cap off this lineup.

    The seven-footer was the face of the franchise for 15 years. His dominant low post scoring became a staple at the Garden, he was money from mid range and drew praise for his renowned free throw shooting abilities.

    Defensively, Ewing was an absolute stalwart. He had some trouble defending back-to-the-basket sets, but he blocked shots in bunches and at his peak, was mobile enough to deflect and intercept incoming passes as well.

    For so long, he was the heart and soul of a Knicks organization that couldn't seem to get the championship equation right. He, and the rest of the team, fell short a couple of times, yet that's not what we solely remember him for.

    We remember him as one of the greatest centers of all-time, and easily the Knicks greatest big man of all-time. We remember him being a symbol of hope for a franchise that was almost buried alive upon his revival. We remember him for his loyalty, his grit and his toughness.

    And now, we can remember–and recognize—him as the perfect ending to the Knicks' perfect starting lineup.