Is Carmelo Anthony's Supporting Cast Enough for Knicks to Surpass Expectations?

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Is Carmelo Anthony's Supporting Cast Enough for Knicks to Surpass Expectations?

It's not easy to land an NBA superstar. And a few years ago, the New York Knicks were lucky enough to acquire one.

Ironically, it seems like finding a championship-worthy supporting cast has been more challenging than nabbing a centerpiece. 

Carmelo Anthony is coming off his best year as a pro, when he led the NBA in scoring and the Knicks to a No. 2 seed in the playoffs. 

But that seed never held up, as the Knicks were eliminated by the Indiana Pacers in the second round. J.R. Smith shot 28.9 percent in that series. Raymond Felton shot 40 percent while averaging 11 points and just four assists a game. Roy Hibbert out-rebounded Tyson Chandler 62-36 and out-blocked him 19-10. 

Anthony's supporting cast ultimately offered very little support.

So the Knicks made some moves in the offseason. And considering their budget and few tradable assets, the additions were pretty good ones. The Knicks brought in Metta World Peace, Andrea Bargnani, Beno Udrih and drafted Tim Hardaway Jr. without losing much in the process. 

But at the end of the day, the Knicks are still faced with the same problem they were faced with last year. 

Behind Melo, the Knicks have a whole bunch of wild cards. 

Smith's ability to implode at any given time explains why nobody seems interested in making an investment in him. And there's a reason why Bargnani is going for the combined value of Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and a future late pick.

While both are capable of dropping 20 on any given night, you just can't trust them to do so with any type of consistency. 

They're effective yet unreliable. Smith and Bargnani as Anthony's top two scoring cushions? These guys have been punchlines for the last five years. I'm not sure how we can expect them to all of a sudden represent keys to a title run. 

While Iman Shumpert has emerged into a two-way stud, his performance won't matter if Smith or Bargnani stink it up. 

What the Knicks have is depth. They've got enough of it, along with plenty of established players, to knock off any team in an isolated matchup. But to do it seven-game series after seven-game series will require consistent supporting offensive firepower. They didn't get it in last year's playoffs, and I just don't see how Bargnani, World Peace and Udrih will be the difference-makers against an improved Eastern Conference. 

You can't talk about the Knicks expectations without mentioning the upgrades made to their competitors. The Brooklyn Nets added Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and the Chicago Bulls get back Derrick Rose, while the young Pacers return a year older and the Miami Heat remain intact. 

After taking in the strength of the East at the top, you have to ask yourself one question—are Bargnani, World Peace and Udrih postseason game-changers? 

For the Knicks to surpass their expectations, they'll need to make it rain in a timely manner. Remember that 13-game winning steak they went on after the All-Star break? It would have been a little more useful in April, but the fact that they're capable of pulling one off is what keeps their chances alive. 

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One of the Knicks' strengths is their ability to heat up like a microwave. Anthony, Smith and Bargnani—even Iman Shumpert—these guys can pour it on once they find that zone. And when they do, they're unguardable

The Knicks' only shot at making a run is finding the zone when it matters most. And not only do they have to find it, but they also have to maintain their presence in it for an extended period of time. That will be the challenge for a group of guys who've struggled with consistency throughout their careers. 

If the Knicks don't get a top-two seed in the East, they'll likely have to deal with either the Heat or Bulls in Round 2. And I just don't think their offseason acquisitions will be enough.

The Knicks have a chance to make a move, but with so many unpredictable supporting cast members, their timing will have to be absolutely money.

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