Will New York Knicks Fans Be Content with Eastern Conference Semifinals?
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It's been 14 long years since the Knicks last made it this deep into the postseason, so it's certainly a sign of how far they've come over the last few seasons.
Looking at their past, fans are right to be happy about finally getting out of the first round, but by no means will this be a sufficient end to the season.
The Knicks are the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, and nothing less than a conference finals appearance will do considering the success they had in the regular season.
Looking at the talent on this roster, and the way they mesh together, this team is a genuine title-contender. Unless something crazy happens, there's no excuse for not making a deep run.
With Carmelo Anthony leading the way, the Knicks have one of the game's biggest stars, and the second-best player in the entire conference.
Melo was an MVP candidate in the regular season and eventually finished as the league's scoring champion. Playing at this level, he has the potential to lead the Knicks all the way.
The reason Melo was brought to New York in the first place was to win a championship, not just to make it to the conference semifinals. If they don't even make it to the conference finals, it's hard to justify the trade as a worthwhile investment.
On top of Melo, the Knicks also have a championship-calibre supporting cast. They have last year's Defensive Player of the Year, this year's Sixth Man Award winner and a bunch of savvy veterans who know what it takes to make a deep run in the playoffs.
If they can make it to the conference finals, this team matches up well with the defending champion Miami Heat, and would have a genuine chance of beating them in a seven-game series. They're the only team in the conference that can give the Heat a real challenge and need to prove it by earning the chance to face them.
Ultimately, as the second seed in the regular season, it makes sense for the Knicks' minimum aim to be finished second-placed in the conference in the playoffs. That means a place in the conference finals and nothing less.
One of the most important factors to consider, is that this season is likely the best chance the Knicks will have to win a championship in the Carmelo Anthony era.
The Eastern Conference is weak right now, but in the future it's only going to get stronger. Derrick Rose will be back with the Chicago Bulls next season, the Atlanta Hawks have a lot of cap space and the young Pacers should continue to improve. On top of that, LeBron James is only going to get better.
Based on that alone, earning the second seed again is going to be tough, but the Knicks themselves could be weaker moving forward.
J.R. Smith—one of the team's most important players—will be a free agent in the summer, and though the Knicks could re-sign him, there's a chance a team will offer him a contract he can't refuse. On top of that, there's potential for some of the older players like Jason Kidd to retire.
As a Knicks fan, would you be content with a second-round exit?
The Knicks are too far over the cap to find suitable replacements if key players are to leave, so they better make the most of the time they have with everyone on the roster.
That's not to say that they will be weaker in the future. Glen Grunwald has done a fantastic job building this team, and there's reason to believe it's still going to be strong next season. It's just that it's not a chance they should want to take.
Typically, teams that lose in the first round one year don't have such high expectations the next, but that's not the case for the Knicks. They should have been better last year, and their team is good enough right now to make a run at the title,
As Mike Woodson continues to remind us, this is a win-now team. There's no time for moral victories—this team needs to aim for the top.
These are exciting times for the Knicks, and fans are right to be happy about it. But that doesn't mean the excitement should end in the second round.
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