There is something eerily similar about this Knick team and the 2011 NBA champions. And it all revolves around the idea of allocating roles and players buying into them.
I'm not necessarily comparing the players, but rather, their roles on their respective teams.
The Superstar: Carmelo Anthony vs. Dirk Nowitzki
No surprises here. Both teams have a legitimate primary scoring option with takeover ability.
Melo is playing the most confident, efficient and productive basketball of his career, and at 28 years old, he's in prime championship shape.
While both teams have complementary scoring options, the Knicks and Mavericks each used just one elite NBA star capable of putting teams on their back and carrying them through a series.
Sixth Man: J.R. Smith/Jason Terry
Both teams' No. 2 scoring options are, interestingly enough, a guy who comes off the bench.
Smith and Terry have that ability to heat up like microwaves and put up points in bunches. Neither would be the first scoring choices, but rather, pose as one when the time called.
When Terry spent time at the point, he simulates the role of Raymond Felton, who's shown a similar ability to score and distribute quarterbacking the offense.
Rim Protector: Tyson Chandler vs. Tyson Chandler
Chandler seems to be the greatest common denominator amongst teams who have been difficult to score on in the half-court. Except Charlotte. Remember those days? Me neither.
His presence at the rim can change the entire culture of an organization. In one year in Dallas, he turned a dead-money playoff squad into an NBA championship-caliber defensive unit.
Being able to effectively protect the rim forces more athletic finishers like Russell Westbrook and LeBron James to either adjust mid-air or shoot from the outside.
He's a game-changer, and he's doing just that for New York.
Offensive Slashers, Defensive Stoppers: Ronnie Brewer vs. Shawn Marion
Both Brewer and Marion have been two-way players able to finish off the ball and defend opposing teams' top scorers.
Brewer has been a real pleasant surprise for New York. He'll lose some minutes when Iman Shumpert returns, but not his role on the team.
Marion provided that complimentary offensive slashing option who can finish off cuts and convert turnovers into offensive points, and Brewer is capable of contributing similar production.
Perimeter Defenders: Iman Shumpert vs. DeShawn Stevenson
Having a lockdown perimeter defender immediately makes that particular defensive unit tougher to attack. Shumpert has, and Stevenson had the ability to make it difficult for opposing scoring guards to penetrate the defense or get off clean looks.
Stevenson had a crucial limited role for Dallas the year they won, and if the Knicks want to make this run, they'll need Shumpert's elite defensive tools to make life miserable for opposing perimeter scorers.
Jason Kidd Factor
Success follows him; not the other way around. We've seen his impact on the Nets, the Mavericks and now we're seeing it with the Knicks.
Section IV, rule No. 14a. of the "How to Construct a Championship Blueprint for Dummies" states, "Get Jason Kidd."
Team-first, high IQ guys like Kidd are necessary for teams trying to overcome the physical matchup problems teams like the Heat present.
Depth: Rasheed Wallace/Pablo Prigioni/Steve Novak vs. Brendan Haywood/J.J. Barea/Peja Stojakovic
They just have similar players doing similar things. Wallace and Haywood provide interior defense, Prigioni and Barea act as playmakers and Novak and Stojakovic help spread the floor.
Come on, you have to admit this is getting a little crazy, right?
Injured Second Scoring Option: Amar'e Stoudemire vs. Caron Butler
Would the Mavericks have beaten the Heat if Caron Butler was healthy enough to go? Would he have disrupted the chemistry that the Mavericks had built?
The Knicks are most likely asking the same question internally about Amar'e. We'll find out the answer soon enough.
The debate of whether Brewer is better than Marion or Terry is better than Smith isn't really relevant. The Knicks win some of these positional battles, and the Mavericks win some others.
The point is that the Knicks and the 2011 Mavericks have players with similar capabilities and have assigned each of these players with similar responsibilities.
The on-court balance worked for Dallas and seems to be working just fine for the 2012-13 Knicks.
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