Why Carmelo and the Rolling New York Knicks Shouldn't Top NBA Power Rankings Yet
New York should easily be one of the top five teams in anybody's power rankings, but throwing them at the top just because they have that magic zero in the left-hand column doesn't mean that they're the best team.
Let's take a look at the argument for them before I start to break down the few issues that I have with this team.
Off the top, New York is 5-0 and the only undefeated team in the league.
Its offensive rating is tops in the league, as is its defensive rating. Plus the Knicks are scoring the second-most points-per-game despite playing at an incredibly slow pace. Basically they're hitting an incredible amount of shots while playing very good defense.
Even better, they're playing without Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, two players who were a big part of their team last season and would presumably make them even better were they completely healthy.
They've won every game by a double-digit margin, and they even beat the reigning champions, giving them their first loss of the season.
Obviously they have an argument to be at the top of anybody's power rankings, but there's two sides to every coin, and the Knicks haven't quite yet made their coin two-headed yet. So for now I've got to play the contrarian and let the vitriol from Knicks fans flow over me.
I could point to the fact that they've played fewer games than everybody else thanks to the canceled opening night game against the Brooklyn Nets, but that's an extremely liquid argument. It runs through your fingers quite quickly.
What I want to point to instead is that the Knicks have had the weakest schedule of any of the "top" teams in the league.
Five wins for New York have come against Miami, Philadelphia, Philadelphia again, Dallas and Orlando. That amounts to one marquee win so far on the season.
Their dominant win over Miami was impressive. I can't deny that. However, they racked up two wins against an Andrew Bynum-less 76ers team that relies on jump shots. Take away jumpers, take away a win.
Next they beat a Mavericks team without Dirk Nowitzki whose hot start was proven to be more or less a sham after losses to the Charlotte Bobcats (yuck) and a Timberwolves team that was missing six of its seven best players.
Then they went out and beat up on the Orlando Magic who had just been dished a double-helping of blowout at the hands of the Nets.
Even more concerning, the Knicks have yet to leave the East Coast. Their two away games included a walk down the road to Philadelphia and a quick zip down the coast to Orlando. Once this short road trip wraps up, I'll be able to re-evaluate this team and see exactly what it is.
So if not New York, then who? Two teams stick out above the rest at this point, both with one loss, and both are upcoming opponents for the Knicks.
First there is San Antonio. The Spurs have taken off quickly this season with just one loss coming against the Los Angeles Clippers and wins coming over New Orleans (with Anthony Davis), Oklahoma City, Utah, Indiana, Sacramento, Portland and the Los Angeles Lakers. Four of those wins have come on the road.
In a way I also like that the Spurs haven't blown everyone out. We've seen how they react in close games, and that seems more meaningful than taking the 76ers out to the woodshed and beating them bloody. The Spurs have won close ones over the Hornets, Thunder, Blazers and Lakers with Tony Parker proving he's a clutch shooter yet again and Danny Green even hitting a big shot.
The only other team I could put ahead of New York would be the Memphis Grizzlies. Strangely enough, they've also lost to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Memphis hasn't done this by seemingly playing above its station. Rather, the way the Grizzlies have been playing looks legitimately like they could play that way all season long. They're not hitting an insane number of threes, although they've been efficient from downtown, and they haven't played ridiculous defense. They've just played their game.
So why does that make me more confident in a Grizzlies team than a Knicks team right now? We've seen the best the Knicks can give us, but I think this Grizzlies team is just warming up.
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