The Knicks have an exceptionally balanced team and bench this season, with every member playing their role and doing it at a high level. Head coach Mike Woodson's rotation of his over-35-year-olds is working relatively well, and his limited playing time to Amar'e Stoudemire seems to have exhilarated him.
With all that being said, the Knicks have a legitimate shot at contending for a title this year. This slideshow will break down the Knicks' chances of winning a seven-game series against some of the top Eastern Conference foes.
In four close, tightly contested matchups this season, neither the Knicks nor the Brooklyn Nets held the clear-cut advantage as they split the series 2-2.
Carmelo Anthony's play will determine the outcome of this series if the two New York teams meet in the playoffs.
In the two wins this season, Anthony averaged 38 points on 58.7 percent shooting, but only averaged 32 points on 40.7 percent shooting in the two losses (per Basketball Reference).
Even in the losses, Anthony still drew his defenders into foul trouble and caused havoc for the Nets.
Nobody on the Nets roster can successfully slow down Anthony for a full 48 minutes. Gerald Wallace is their best option against Anthony and he's a great defender, but he won't be able to consistently force him into taking tough shots in the post.
On the other hand, Joe Johnson has a size advantage against every guard on the Knicks, so he would have to step up and play at an All-Star level in order for the Nets to have a chance to win a seven-game series.
The matchup of Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez in the middle would probably be the most fascinating to watch. Chandler is an elite defensive presence in the paint, while Lopez is the best offensive center in the league.
It's a simple matter of whether good offense can beat good defense, or vice versa. Lopez is also just as big and long as Chandler and his defensive rotations have improved dramatically this season, so it will be interesting to see if Chandler can still get those easy alley-oops.
Chances of winning a playoff series: 7/10
This series will be a classic matchup of defense vs. offense.
However, the Knicks are a commendable defensive team themselves, sitting at 15th in defensive efficiency, while the Pacers are ranked a lowly 28th in offensive efficiency.
Like the Knicks vs. Nets series, this series will also feature two capable seven-footers. Roy Hibbert has been in somewhat of a slump this year, but his defense is still solid.
If he can out-rebound Chandler and put him in foul trouble on offense, the Pacers have a good shot of defeating the Knicks. The Pacers are second in the league in total rebounding rate, so they clearly hold the advantage on the glass over the 18th-ranked Knicks.
The Paul George vs. Carmelo Anthony matchup would also be intriguing, but I doubt Anthony would be guarding George for the whole game on defense. George's length, speed and athleticism on the wing could be a nightmare for any of the Knicks' wings.
David West is another power player who can pound the ball in the low post against Anthony or Stoudemire, and he would be difficult to guard as well. If Danny Granger comes back healthy after his knee injury, he is another floor spacer and playmaker who could open up the floor for West and Hibbert to operate close to the rim.
Chances of winning: 6/10
Now this series would be a toss up.
If he plays similar to, or better than his 2010-11 self and the Chicago Bulls maintain their suffocating defense, the Knicks would probably have a difficult time beating them.
The Knicks already lost twice to a Rose-less Bulls team this season, but Anthony didn't play in their first meeting and Raymond Felton went a ridiculous 9-of-30 from the field.
On top of that, Joakim Noah's and Taj Gibson's physicality on defense would certainly irritate Anthony and Stoudemire. The Bulls also possess the third highest defensive efficiency and the sixth best rebounding rate.
With the Bulls' rugged big men pounding the Knicks in the paint, the Knicks will need to rely on the three-ball more than ever.
Even without their superstar, the Bulls are still a great team.
But in last year's playoffs, we saw what a Rose-less Bulls team can accomplish—nothing.
As I mentioned earlier, it all depends on how well Rose plays when he returns.
Chances of winning with an average Rose: 5/10
Chances of winning with an MVP-level Rose: 3/10
Don't relax on the Miami Heat, just because the Knicks blew them out of the building in two lopsided victories this season so far.
The Heat are the defending champions, and they will remain the best team in the league until another team can take that title away from them.
In those two blowout wins, the Knicks combined to shoot an unprecedented 37-of-80 from three-point land. Realistically, the Heat have just as many three-point shooting threats as the Knicks, but they were just outworked on offense and defense in those games.
When the playoffs come, the Heat will definitely regroup and tighten up their perimeter defense.
Neither team is great at rebounding, but the Heat have more talent and star power. Anthony took great strides in his individual defense this season, but a suffocating team defensive effort is needed to stop LeBron James and a healthy Dwyane Wade.
Chandler is the biggest guy on the floor at all times, so the Knicks should have the advantage on the glass and in any pick-and-roll situation. He would destroy the Heat with offensive putbacks and easy lobs.
The Heat have fallen off defensively this season, but they're still one of the premier offensive teams in the league. The Knicks cannot allow two of their three stars to have great games, or else they would have a tough time competing in a seven-game series.
Chances of winning: 5/10