The 2012-13 NBA season has been one of unpredictable measures. From the slow start of the Los Angeles Lakers to the rapid success of the New York Knicks, there are few who could have predicted what we have seen.
Although there are countless theories as to why such has transpired, the following slides will identify the real reasons behind the Knicks success in 2012-13.
From individual glory to team-wide improvements, the Knicks have taken the league by storm by starting at 9-4. With head coach Mike Woodson instilling an entirely different mindset than we had come to know under Mike D'Antoni, that makes this enigmatic Knicks team that more difficult to pin down.
Fortunately for those conflicted minds, the following slides will break down how NYK has been breaking down opponents.
The New York Knicks are the furthest thing from a dominant force on the glass. They rank 25th in the NBA in total rebounds per game, 24th in offensive boards and 20th on the defensive end.
With that being said, they're one of the best in the league at limiting second chance scoring opportunities.
The Knicks rank eighth in the NBA in opponent offensive rebounds per game. This comes by virtue of the team collapsing on the glass as a method of prevention rather than working out into transition on every other possession.
A key change under coach Mike Woodson from Mike D'Antoni's previous system.
The fact that the Knicks are holding opponents to one shot per possession is the key to their defensive brilliance. When you can trust your interior players to box out and your perimeter players to collapse, a coach feels more comfortable allowing his defenders to press their man.
Something that New York does as well as any.
Through the first 13 games of the 2012-13 NBA season, the New York Knicks are shooting 41.1 percent from three-point range. Leading the attack are the likes of J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd, Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and Ronnie Brewer.
All of whom are shooting above 40.0 percent from beyond the arc.
A clear void from that list is Steve Novak, who shot 45.2 percent from distance during the 2011-12 season. Early this season, Novak is shooting at 39.1 percent, which is down by 6.1 from a year ago.
When "going down" means you're hitting 39.1 percent of your threes, you know this team is dangerous.
The most surprising aspect of the New York Knicks' 9-4 start has nothing to do with the team itself. Instead, it is the individual improvements made by one of the most mercurial players in the history of the NBA.
Entering the 20121-3 NBA season, Smith was described as a "cancer to any team he plays for" by readers on my articles. Little did they know, Smith would emerge as one of the most efficient players in the NBA.
His solid Player Efficiency Rating of 17.43 is just one example.
Thus far this season, Smith is shooting 46.3 percent from beyond the arc. He's also matched his career-best average of 1.5 steals per game and sits at a mere 1.2 turnovers per contest.
His stat line rounds out at 14.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Impressed yet?
The true value is not in his individual numbers, but in the impact he's having on the team.
With Smith on the floor, the team is shooting 41.2 percent from inside the paint. When he is not, they're shooting 22.2 percent.
His ability to stretch the floor is exactly why that has proved to be true.
Too often under former coach Mike D'Antoni did we see the New York Knicks play without a sense of urgency. It appeared as if they were more inclined to pad their individual stat sheets than they were with proving a point when they played a game.
With the promotion of Mike Woodson, that began to change. The arrival of a legitimate in-city rival pushed the Knicks over the edge.
The Knicks are no longer a team that can get by on being the Knicks. They now have a rival in the Brooklyn Nets who are a less-than-an-hour subway ride away from Madison Square Garden.
In other words, if the Nets end up winning the title before the Knicks, New York becomes theirs. As any Knicks fan will tell you, that just can't happen.
Which is exactly why the Knickerbockers are playing so well.
The Knicks are no longer separated from their rival by a state line. They have a city to fight for, a conference to reign over and a head coach that will accept nothing but their best efforts every time out.
The only question left to answer is simple. How long until Carmelo Anthony and Gerald Wallace get physical?
This isn't a new campaign for how the NBA is helping communities around the country. Instead, this is an acknowledgement of the No. 1 change in Carmelo Anthony's game.
'Melo now cares about team basketball.
Every player with a scorer's mentality must experience what Anthony is presently going through. The realization that, no matter how dominant they can be on their own, a team is only as strong as its weakest link.
Which is why 'Melo now knows that he must make the players around him better. Something he has done an excellent job of.
The key to 'Melo's individual success and that of the Knicks as a team has been his willingness to pass the ball. No longer are the Knicks deferring to isolation basketball, but instead working the ball around the perimeter for open looks.
Such has resulted in the previously alluded to point of J.R. Smith's early-season success.
This has also led to Anthony playing a much more efficient game. His field-goal and three-point shooting percentages have improved significantly from a year ago, going from 43.0 and 33.5 in 2011-12 to 46.7 and 43.3 in 2012-13.
Both numbers that can be sustained. Percentages that have led to a more Melo-like average of 26.3 points per game.
If that's not enough, Anthony is committed to defense and consistently crashing the boards. His average of 7.0 rebounds is simply numerical proof of such a change.
Those who crucify Jeremy Lin sound nothing but bitter, uneducated and biased. The truth of the matter is, Lin is a fine NBA point guard who has a bright future ahead of him.
With that being said, there is a marginal improvement from Lin to their current group of point guards. And no, it's not all about talent.
It's about mentality.
With Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni running point, the Knicks have true facilitators dictating the pace of their offense. It is no longer a matter of running isolation sets or pushing the pace for the sake of entertainment, but instead a calculated approach to offense.
Such has led to their posting a team slash line of .451/.411/.774 in 2012-13 after going .443/.316/.736 in 2011-12.
The team now has three players that are somewhere between great and elite on the scale of facilitating. What this allows the Knicks to do is bring variety to their rotations as they rely on no individual aspect of their attack more than the other.
Whether that means they work the perimeter or force it inside, the likes of Kidd, Felton and Prigioni know where to go. Which is exactly why this offense is far more efficient in 2012-13 than they were in 2011-12.
A trend that is likely to continue.
Since Mike Woodson took over the New York Knicks, they are 16-1 when playing at Madison Square Garden. Including the postseason, that number changes to 17-2 with a split against the Miami Heat.
In other words, the Knicks have become one of the most dominant home teams in the NBA. A major reason they're performing so well.
This success has continued in 2012-13, as the Knicks are 5-0 at home. Their average margin of victory during 2012-13 home games is 15.8, which includes double-digit blowouts of the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers.
As for whether or not this level of dominance is new, don't jump the gun.
In their 11 home wins under Woodson in 2011-12, the Knicks' average margin of victory was 18.0 points per game. Including this season, that's a total of 16 home wins by an average of 17.3 points per game.
Now if that's not dominance, what is?
Detractors often label the New York Knicks defense as one of inconsistent standards and productivity. The truth of the matter is, the Knicks have been an elite and flat-out dominant defensive unit since the day Mike Woodson took over as head coach.
In 37 games under head coach Mike Woodson, the Knicks are allowing an average of 92.9 points per game.
Even still, there will be those who claim that this is far too small a sample size to measure. The strength of their 37 games of elite defensive play, however, comes by virtue of the fact that they experienced a full offseason of lay-off.
With any form of momentum broken, the Knicks have stormed back and allowed just 95.5 points per game through 13 games.
Subtract a 131-point drubbing against the Houston Rockets and that number dips to 92.5 per contest. That includes six games in which their opponents have scored less than 90 and an overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets in which they allowed just 96.
Their defense is legitimate, folks. As are their championship aspirations.
The New York Knicks of old were a team that was built with extraordinary talent and an uncanny ability to grab headlines with their individual star power. With their offseason moves to acquire veteran depth, however, the identity has changed.
This is a team that truly embraces the "championship or failure" mentality.
As for how this change transpired, look no further than the presence of players such as Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace. No matter how you view their on-court influence, they are veterans who are in pursuit of a title for the way out.
That type of mentality has spread throughout the organization as each player is handling games as a matter of business. Not a game in which flash and highlights hold any relevance.
Just don't sell the current core short.
Next to LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire may be the most embattled superstars in the NBA. Each have had their fair share of detractors and both STAT and 'Melo have grown accustomed to the harsh nature of the New York media.
The only way to eliminate the ridicule is to win a ring.
With past champions such as Tyson Chandler, Kidd and Wallace, the team has the proper mentality to do just that. Just don't sell the top dog short.
And no, that's not 'Melo. That's Woodson.
No coach in the NBA has done as masterful a job with their current personnel as Mike Woodson with the New York Knicks. No, that is not selling the efforts short of the great coaches across the league.
It is deserved praise for a man who transformed selfish, offensive minds into defensive powerhouses.
An equally responsible party for this transformation has been center Tyson Chandler. Chandler received his recognition, winning the 2012 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award for his contributions to the Knicks.
His defensive-minded approach has influenced each and every player he has come across. Including the "offense or nothing" Carmelo Anthony.
You can credit the way the Knicks have been shooting. You could touch on their defensive brilliance. You may even touch on their dominance when playing on their home court.
Regardless of where you choose to look, each and every improvement this team has made can be tied back to either Mike Woodson or Tyson Chandler.