New York Knicks: Are They the Favorites in the East After Beating Miami Heat?

Eric Ball@@BigLeagueEballFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2011

New York Knicks: Are They the Favorites in the East After Beating Miami Heat?

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    What a difference a week makes.

    Last Monday, the Knicks were barely afloat at 28-26, while the weight on Amare Stoudemire's shoulders continued to get heavier. The chants of "Melo" at Madison Square Garden began to really effect the players involved in the trade rumors.

    Finally, the trade went through late Monday and Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups took the floor Wednesday night as members of the Knicks.

    The team has now gone 2-1 in the three games since the trade went down after beating the Miami Heat on Sunday.

    We all knew they would be good...but beating the Heat in game No. 3 together?

    The buzz in New York is getting bigger and louder by the moment. Let's take a look at how high of a ceiling the Knicks have this season and their potential to win the Eastern Conference.

10. Knicks Boast Two All Star Game Starters

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    Let's do a little bit of math...there are 10 starters in the midseason All-Star game. In a 30-team league with 12 players on each roster, there are around 360 players playing in the league.

    The Knicks now have two of the top 10. Not bad for a league that is driven by stars.

    Having two of the 10 best players in the league on the same team makes the Knicks as dangerous as any other team in the NBA come fourth-quarter crunch time.

9. Where's the Defense?

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    The Knicks are 27th in the NBA in points allowed and they just acquired a guy that is notorious for his lack of effort on the defensive side of the ball.

    'Melo can score points at a rate that only a few other players in the league can do, but his defense leaves a lot to be desired.

    The old phrase "defense wins championships" still holds true and the Knicks have to outscore their opponents on a nightly basis...just like before Carmelo arrived.

    Getting those key fourth quarter stops is something that will haunt the Knicks down the stretch and into the playoffs.

8. Chauncey Billups to the Rescue

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    Everybody was obsessed with getting Carmelo to New York...but they have quickly found out this wasn't a trade for just one guy.

    Billups has been marvelous in his three games with the Knicks, putting up 21 points and six assists a game and being the key late in the Miami game with his defense and free throw shooting.

    His veteran leadership and championship experience is something the entire Knicks team can strive to emulate. Billups will teach them how to.

    'Melo and Amare are premier players in the league...but neither can bring the confidence and experience to the table that Billups does.

7. Heat, Celtics, Bulls and Magic All Too Tough

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    One player can't completely shift the balance of power in the Eastern Conference. Sure, the Knicks shocked the world with their upset win over the Heat, but we must remember that this is still the regular season.

    The Celtics are laced with veterans with championship experience. The Bulls are having an incredible season and have yet to play more than a handful of games at full strength. The Magic are still a work in progress and have the ability to get hot in the playoffs.

    The Knicks have a steep mountain to climb just to make it out of the Conference. Can they transform into the top team with only a month and a half to go?

6. Instant Chemistry

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    Lots of critics questioned how long it would take for the new-look Knicks to mesh together.

    We must remember that this trade is quite historic. Shipping out four of your players in exchange for four new ones is as rare as Justin Beiber song that is actually good.

    The Knicks were able to beat a feisty Milwaukee Bucks team less than 48 hours after the big move.

    After beating the Heat in only their third game together—the sky is the limit.

5. Shawne Williams is Now Playing a Crucial Role

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    The Knicks roster is now extremely top-heavy.

    The 6'9" Williams is expected to play almost 30 minutes a game as a starting forward.

    Do the other top teams in the league have a guy that has averaged 5.5 points and 2.7 rebounds a game in his career playing crunch time minutes?

    The third-year Memphis alum is going to have to step up in order for the Knicks to even sniff success in the 2011 playoffs.

    Would you feel comfortable placing a huge stake of your playoff success on Williams?

    Didn't think so.

4. Buzz Is Back at the Garden!

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    Did you get a chance to hear the Madison Square Garden crowd on Wednesday?

    It was as loud as MSG has been in the last 10 years and the energy was vibrant. When you can get a playoff atmosphere going in a midseason Wednesday game against the may be on to something.

    After almost 10 years of missing the playoffs, the New York faithful are dying to cheer for a winner.

    Amar'e Stoudemire brought a ton of excitement to the Big Apple, but 'Melo and Billups are tearing the roof off.

    Madison Square Garden will be a huge home court advantage for the rest of this season.

3. They Lost to the Cavs!

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    How can a team that has championship aspirations lose to the worst team in the NBA?!

    The Knicks laid an absolute egg in their one loss of the Carmelo and Chauncey era.

    The Cavs are a shell of their former selves and have been the butt of jokes across the league.

    But they are good enough to beat the Knicks for the second time this season?

    Sure, the Lakers lost to them last week on the last game of a grueling road trip and the Cetics were slipped up by them at the very beginning of the season as well. The circumstances are different and the Knicks have no excuses for it,

    Unfortunately, the Knicks can't afford to be dropping games to the lowly Cavs. A loss like that is a very bad sign.

2. Knicks Boast Best Offense in the League

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    When was the last time that two of the top five scoring leaders played for the same team?

    Amar'e Stoudemire is third in the league averaging 26 points a game while Carmelo is fifth in the NBA at 25.3.

    That means two players are averaging over 51 points a game. This is without the 17 points a game that point guard Chauncey Billups contributes.

    The Knicks ranked second in the NBA by scoring 106.2 points a night without the new duo. Sit back and watch the show, once 'Melo learns how to co-exist with Amar'e and the rest of the Knicks roster.

1. Bottom Line...Knicks Aren't Ready Yet

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    It's all about what just happened in today's society, so it's natural to overreact to a regular season win over the most talented team in the NBA.

    But don't get too excited Knicks fans.

    The lack of depth is going to be a enormous concern as the season winds down. A serious or nagging injury to any of the starting five (minus Williams) and the Knicks are done.

    Switching a third of your entire roster with less than two months to go doesn't exactly bode well for team chemistry. This team will have to take it's share of bumps and bruises (see, Cavaliers, Cleveland) before they can all play on the same page.

    Acquiring 'Melo and Billups has vastly improved the Knicks right away.

    But is it enough to overcome the other beasts of the East?

    Not quite.

    As the Chris Paul and Dwight Howard rumors get put on the back burner until the summer...the Knicks are merely an explosive offense team that will get knocked out of the playoffs due to their lack of defense and chemistry in 2011.