New York Knicks: Who Is the Most Favorable First Round Matchup?

Tom LoughreyAnalyst IIIMarch 8, 2011

New York Knicks: Who Is the Most Favorable First Round Matchup?

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    The New York Knicks were likely going to make the NBA Playoffs before they acquired Carmelo Anthony.

    With the addition of the former-Denver Nuggets star forward, the Knicks were taking a chance to be contenders in the East. The public generally consented that the Knicks weren't ready to win now, but were making steps to win in a year or two.

    The Knicks came out with a drastically different roster—including Chauncey Billups—and beat the Miami Heat, New Orleans Hornets and Atlanta Hawks.

    Yes, the Knicks have also suffered some bad losses. They lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers twice. However, they also held an 11-point halftime lead against the Orlando Magic.

    Basically, the Knicks are overachieving and putting a scare into some Eastern Conference coaches earlier than expected. The best seed the Knicks will earn by season's end is the No. 4 slot.

    The Knicks are not truly title contenders yet, but here's the teams they could potentially face—and scare—in the first round of the playoffs.

5. Chicago Bulls

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    No one in their right mind wants to play the Chicago Bulls at this point.

    The Bulls are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have a stranglehold on their division with a 17-game lead. Derrick Rose is the top candidate for MVP right now, but it's the supporting cast that would give the Knicks trouble.

    Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah would give Amar'e Stoudemire all sorts of trouble. Luol Deng has the talent to make Anthony work hard on both sides of the ball. Rose would tire out Billups. Tack on the fact that the Bulls have more depth than the Knicks and you've got a mismatch.

    If these two teams meet in the postseason, the Bulls would send the Knicks packing with little trouble.

    Predicted series score: 4-1, Bulls

4. Boston Celtics

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    If the Boston Celtics hold on to the top seed in the East, they likely won't meet the Knicks in the playoffs. However, if they slide to the No. 2 or 3 seed, the Knicks might be their first round opponent.

    If this is the case, Amar'e will be covered by Kevin Garnett. Paul Pierce and newly-acquired Jeff Green will be given the task of stopping Carmelo. Rondo will be matched up with Billups.

    A problem arises when it comes to guarding Ray Allen. Landry Fields would be a likely candidate and he has yet to prove his defense. Allen would likely be able to shred the Knicks for a barrage of three-pointers.

    When it came to the Knicks scoring, it would be no easy task. The Celtics are the grittiest defensive team in the NBA, and don't allow people to score easy baskets.

    The Knicks wouldn't mind a chance to take out the East's best team for the past three years—just not in the first round.

    Predicted series score: 4-2, Celtics

3. Orlando Magic

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    Any team with Dwight Howard on it has a legitimate shot at the NBA Championship.

    If the Knicks draw the Orlando Magic in the first round, they are in for a big dose of the league's best big man. When the Magic came back to beat the Knicks in Orlando, Howard went for 30 points and 16 rebounds—on only 15 shot attempts.

    If Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson show up to play, the Magic have a distinct advantage over the new-look Knicks. The Knicks will be able to score in stretches against the Magic, but will have a hard time stopping Howard and company.

    The Knicks could easily put up 100 points in each game against the Magic and lose every time. If the Magic key in on defense, this series can be over even quicker.

    Predicted series score: 4-2, Magic

2. Miami Heat

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    If the NBA Playoffs started today, the Knicks play the Miami Heat.

    The Knicks played arguably their best defense of the season when they took down the Heat on Feb. 27. They only allowed 86 points to the dynamic Heat offense and were better than ever down the stretch.

    If these two teams meet in the postseason, however, one win won't be enough. The Knicks will need to bring that defensive intensity at least four times—probably more. The key player in this series will be Dwyane Wade.

    It's the shooting guard position that offers the Heat their biggest advantage.

    If Dwyane Wade exposes his mismatch, the Heat will get past the Knicks.

    Predicted series score: 4-2, Heat

1. Atlanta Hawks

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    The Atlanta Hawks are a team that the Knicks would likely beat in the playoffs.

    The Hawks have been posting good records for the past few seasons, but they can't seem to take care of business come playoff time. The Hawks have a solid starting lineup and sixth man, but lack any sort of depth.

    The Knicks, who also don't have much to talk about on their bench, have a few favorable matchups. Carmelo Anthony will likely be guarded by Marvin Williams or Josh Smith. Williams is a better than average defender, but Anthony can make him look bad.

    The real mismatch is with Mr. Stoudemire. He may have to be guarded by Al Horford. No one on the Hawks can stop Amar'e from getting to the rack.

    If the Knicks feed the monster that is Amar'e, they will win this series. The Knicks have to work hard if they want to escape the first round.

    Predicted series score: 4-2, Knicks