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Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and the New York Knicks' 10 Best Tandems

Paul KasabianCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2011

Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and the New York Knicks' 10 Best Tandems

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    Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

    Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire do not have the requisite swagger to make this list just yet, partially because they need to figure out why their team accounts for one-fourth of the Cleveland Cavaliers' total wins this season, but perhaps one day they will be alongside two of the coolest men on the planet, Earl "The Pearl" Monroe and Walt "Clyde" Frazier.

    However, if the Knicks keep posting defensive efforts like they did last night, Anthony and Stoudemire will creep here before the season is over.

    The Knicks do have a captivating history of two-man tandems controlling the team's success (or failure) during particular eras, starting as early as Max Zaslofsky and Dick McGuire and currently ending with Melo and Amar'e.

    Here are the 10 best tandems in team history.

    Note: As you'll see and probably know, there are two different ways to define an NBA tandem. One way is to simply pick the best two players on a team, regardless of position. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal could obviously be considered a tandem when they both played for the Los Angeles Lakers. The other, perhaps more accurate way is to take two players who worked together the most on a basketball court, a la David Robinson and Tim Duncan on the 1999 San Antonio Spurs.

    If applicable, I chose to team a player up with a positional counterpart, so that's why you'll see Walt Frazier teamed with Dick Barnett and Earl Monroe instead of Willis Reed. If it wasn't applicable, I took the two best players on the team, such as Bernard King and Bill Cartwright. It's an inexact science, admittedly, but the goal is to try to pick the two players who worked the best together on the court to lead a Knicks team to its ultimate success.

Honorable Mentions

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire

    They'll make it eventually.

     

    Michael Ray Richardson and Ray Williams

    Richardson's drug issues prevented this tandem from NBA stardom during the late 1970s, a weak period for the league.

     

    Spencer Haywood and Bob McAdoo

    Great individual players, but the superstar tandem didn't work in New York.

     

    Bill Bradley and...

    Bradley is the only Knick player who has a retired number and isn't on this list, but he didn't have a Robin to his Batman.

10. Max Zaslofsky and Dick McGuire

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    You may know Dick McGuire as one of the two reasons why Carmelo Anthony is not wearing No. 15 right now, but this lifelong Knick—he was with the organization for over 50 years—had a fantastic basketball career.

    McGuire was a five-time All-Star point guard and teamed with Max "The Touch" Zaslofsky to form a Knicks backcourt that went to three consecutive NBA Finals series between 1951-1953. The Knicks were the NBA's version of the 1990s Buffalo Bills back then and lost all three series.

    McGuire has his No. 15 retired in the Madison Square Garden rafters and later coached the team in the 1960s, preceding Red Holzman. He was also top four in the NBA in assists for six consecutive seasons.

    Zaslofsky made the All-NBA First Team four times...with the Chicago Stags. He did well in three seasons with the Knicks and made the Eastern Conference All-Star team once. Zaslofsky also led the Knicks in scoring in 1951-52, a season when the Knicks overcame a 3-0 deficit in the Finals to the Minneapolis Lakers to tie the series only to lose Game 7.

    Funny enough, one could earn a nickname such as "The Touch" even with 34.3 percent career field goal accuracy in the 1950s.

9. Bernard King and Bill Cartwright

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    Bernard King and Bill Cartwright were the Knicks' two best players in the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons, when New York made two consecutive Eastern Conference Semifinals appearances.

    King averaged over 26 points per game in the 1983-84 season, posting back-to-back 50-point games against Dallas and San Antonio. He also out-dueled Isiah Thomas in the deciding Game 5 of the Eastern Conference first-round matchup against the Detroit Pistons, scoring 44 points to Thomas' 35 points and 12 assists in a 127-123 overtime victory.

    Cartwright is most well-known for being the Chicago Bulls' starting center on their championship-winning teams from 1991-1993. He averaged over 13 points and six rebounds throughout a 15-year career, but the 7'1", 245-pound center patrolled the paint for arguably the Knicks' two best teams between 1974-1988.

    Unfortunately, this tandem didn't have a long lifespan due to injuries, and the early to mid 1980s Knicks had the misfortune of being in the same division as Larry Bird's Boston Celtics and Moses Malone and Julius Erving's Philadelphia 76ers, but they still excited Knicks fans for a time being.

8. Mark Jackson and Patrick Ewing

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    Patrick Ewing was supposed to form a tandem with Bernard King, but after King suffered a devastating knee injury that sidelined him for the better part of two seasons, the Knicks decided to go in a different direction.

    With the 18th pick of the 1987 NBA draft, the New York Knicks selected St. John's point guard Mark Jackson with the idea of forming a Big East basketball tandem with Ewing until the end of the 20th century. It didn't really work that way, but Jackson and Ewing certainly had their moments.

    Ewing and Jackson played five full seasons together, leading the Knicks to postseason appearances each year, including three Eastern Conference Semifinals visits.

    Jackson won the 1988 Rookie of the Year award by averaging a double-double (13.6 points and 10.6 assists per game) and posted a strong 1988-1989 campaign (16.9 ppg and 8.6 apg) but regressed in his last three seasons and even lost his starting job to Mo Cheeks at the end of the 1989-90 season. He regained it in 1991 and played one more year as the full-time starter before being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Charles Smith and Doc Rivers.

    What more is there to say about Ewing that hasn't been said already? He was at his statistical peak during his time with Jackson manning the point, plateauing with 28.6 points per game in the 1989-90 season. Ewing finished his five-year stint with Jackson by making an appearance on the 1992 Dream Team.

7. John Starks and Derek Harper

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    John Starks and Derek Harper formed the New York Knicks' backcourt from the middle of the 1993-94 season until the team's 1996 Eastern Conference Semifinals loss to the Chicago Bulls.

    Harper was traded to the Knicks midseason from the Dallas Mavericks, and while there were some initial growing pains, the Knicks eventually took off with a late-season 15-game win streak.

    Eventually, the Knicks lost to the Houston Rockets in the 1994 NBA Finals in a brutal seven-game series and were one Starks made three-pointer away from winning the championship in Game 6, but Hakeem Olajuwon came through with a big block as the buzzer sounded.

    Starks is unfortunately most well-known for his 2-of-18 performance in Game 7 of the Finals, but he made the All-Star team that season and ignited New York with his passion on the court.

    The following year, the Knicks went 55-27 and forced yet another Game 7, this time against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Patrick Ewing missed a finger roll at the buzzer that would have sent that game into overtime.

    In 1995-96, Harper and Starks' final season together, the Knicks lost to the 72-10 Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but not before destroying Michael Jordan and Co. in a 104-72 regular season game.

6. Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell led the New York Knicks to the 1999 NBA Finals and a 50-win 1999-2000 season that ended with a Eastern Conference Championship series berth the following year. Together, they were the leading scorers on the team for four consecutive seasons (1999-2003).

    Had Sprewell been a starter in the 1999 season and not the team's sixth man, he may have averaged more than the 16.3 points per game that he did during the Knicks' miracle, strike-shortened season.

    Houston's deft jump shooting and savvy veteran play coupled with Sprewell's burning fire and slashing drives led the Knicks to postseason success. If the Knicks front office didn't botch the transition out of the Patrick Ewing era and Jeff Van Gundy stayed on to coach, New York could have been more successful at the beginning of the last decade.

    The Knicks didn't help matters by outbidding themselves and offering Houston a $100 million contract that hamstrung them in free agency.

    As it was, the end of Houston and Sprewell era was marred by sub-.500 seasons, but they still should be lauded for delaying the mediocrity that was to come.

5. Harry Gallatin and Sweetwater Clifton

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    Harry Gallatin and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton were the Knicks' frontcourt duo during their Eastern Conference championship run between 1951-1953. Together, they played seven full seasons, making the playoffs six times.

    Gallatin and Clifton were 6'6" double-double machines at their peak despite their size disadvantage to the rest of the NBA. Their best season came in 1952-53, when Gallatin averaged 12.4 points and 13.1 rebounds per game, while Clifton posted 10.6 points and 10.9 boards per contest. They averaged double-doubles in 1951-52 as well.

    Clifton also played for the Harlem Globetrotters and was the first African-American player to sign a contract with an NBA team. Gallatin coached for the St. Louis Hawks and New York Knicks following his career.

4. Walt Frazier and Dick Barnett

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    Walt Frazier and Dick Barnett formed the Knicks' backcourt for arguably the greatest team in New York City history, the 1969-70 Knicks that went 60-22 and defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games in the NBA Finals.

    Barnett was drafted fourth overall by the Syracuse Nationals and made a pit stop in Los Angeles before heading to the New York Knicks to play for nine seasons.

    He was the team's star until Frazier came to town, and then the two shared the spotlight in the backcourt, forming great chemistry and leading the team to two Eastern Conference Finals berths and the aforementioned NBA Finals win.

    Barnett was most famous for kicking his legs back when he shot the basketball and for his jumper's sometimes automatic nature. Frazier was known for being the coolest man on the planet, a court visionary and the game's best defensive point guard.

    When Earl Monroe was traded to the Knicks at the beginning of the 1971-72 season (foreshadowing!), Barnett was moved to the bench and retired two years later. However, his No. 12 was rightfully retired in the Madison Square Garden rafters, alongside Frazier's No. 10.

    Today, Frazier is the Knicks' color commentator, and Dr. Dick Barnett is a sports management professor at St. John's.

3. Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley

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    Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley played with each other for 10 full seasons, from 1988-1998. The Knicks made the playoffs each season during that stretch, making nine Eastern Conference Semifinals appearances, making the Eastern Conference Finals twice and the NBA Finals once.

    If not for Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, the Knicks most likely would have made the Finals at least one or two more times.

    Oakley and Ewing both averaged double-doubles three times throughout an entire season together, most notably the 1993-94 season, when Ewing averaged 24.5 points and 11.2 rebounds while Oakley posted 11.8 averages for both points and rebounds.

    Ewing and Oakley formed the core of the Knicks' physical game play and us-against-the-world persona throughout the 1990s that fans fell in love with.

2. Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe

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    Earl Monroe was traded from the Baltimore Bullets to the New York Knicks just three games into the 1971-72 season. The All-Star point guard needed to share the backcourt with Walt Frazier, another All-Star and an NBA champion to boot.

    After the Knicks ironically faced the Baltimore Bullets in their first game post-trade, a 110-87 New York win, they went 3-7 in their next 10 games.

    The Knicks bounced back from that rough stretch, finished an above-average 48-34 (in part because Willis Reed was limited to 11 games) and got hot in the playoffs. They defeated the Bullets in six games (double irony) and the Boston Celtics in five games before losing to the 69-13 Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

    For those scoring at home, yes, the Knicks lost in the playoffs to the teams with the two best records in the history of the NBA.

    Monroe and Frazier posted a dynamite 1972-1973 season, combining for over 36 points per game. Once again, they played the Bullets, Celtics and Lakers in succession in the NBA playoffs, but this time, they defeated the Lakers in five games to win the championship. Fun fact: The Celtics were 68-14 that season and finished 59 games better than the 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers in the standings.

    The Knicks never regained that previous success with Frazier and Monroe, but they still made the Eastern Conference Finals the following season (losing to the eventual Finals champion Celtics). Frazier was blasphemously traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1977, while Monroe retired with the Knicks in 1980.

1. Dave DeBusschere and Willis Reed

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    The only Knicks two-man tandem to make the NBA Top 50 and win two NBA titles.

    The acquisition of Dave DeBusschere for Walt Bellamy in 1968 was a vital piece in the New York Knicks' two championship runs. The transaction let Willis Reed move to his more natural position of center, freeing him for more scoring opportunities, as DeBuscchere became a banger under the boards and the most fierce defender in the NBA.

    Reed and DeBusschere played together for the better parts of six seasons (1968-1974), making the Eastern Conference Finals each time. The Knicks won two NBA Finals (1970, 1973), one Eastern Conference title (1972) and finished as the Eastern Conference runner-up three times (1969, 1971, 1974).

    Why do I say better parts of six seasons? Remarkably, Reed and DeBusschere only played three full seasons with each other. DeBusschere was traded to the Knicks in the middle of the 1968-69 season. The two had mostly injury-free seasons over the next two years, but Reed's body started acting against him in 1971-72, and he was forced to miss nearly the entire season.

    In 1972-73, DeBusschere and Reed teamed up again for a full season and won the NBA Finals. Reed was injured again the following year and missed most of 1973-74, and the two retired together following the season.

    So in the three full seasons DeBusschere and Reed played together, the Knicks had a 169-87 regular season record (68.7 percent winning percentage), won two NBA titles and were one game away from making the NBA Finals in the third season.

    In a sports statistical era where efficiency is the buzzword, it's very difficult to be more efficient than DeBusschere and Reed were together. For that reason alone, they are the Knicks' best tandem and one of the best tandems in NBA history.

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