While the Knicks couldn’t get past last postseason’s first round or even get the franchise’s first playoff victory since 2001, their future looks optimistic.
Knick fans are excited about the 2012 free-agency period, when Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams will likely be testing the market but shouldn’t look past next season's team—if there is a next season.
Improved chemistry and a weaker Eastern Conference will help boost the Knicks into an upper echelon squad next season.
Here are my 11 bold predictions for the New York Knicks in 2011-2012.
Get ready to see a lot of Spike Lee in next season's playoffs.
Boston will be in what’s likely their Big Three’s last chance to win a championship. As a result, they’ll probably look to coast as much as possible during the regular to salvage energy and health for the postseason.
Orlando’s big trades last season for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas didn’t pan out like they hoped. Losing Richardson—who was the most productive of those three—to free agency seems likely and they’re probably stuck with Arenas’s bloated contract for at least another two seasons.
Those factors mixed in with a weak supporting cast will incline Dwight Howard towards leaving, which will be—and already has been—a huge distraction.
Atlanta’s likely heading into next season with the same roster from 2010-2011, featuring overpaid superstar Joe Johnson and will have to deal with distracting Josh Smith trade rumors.
The Knicks will finish above each of these teams next season, earning the Eastern Conference playoffs’ third seed.
It will be the first time they have home-court advantage in the postseason since 2000.
Allan Houston was a pivotal member of the last Knicks squad to win a postseason series.
With a rambunctious Madison Square Garden crowd behind them, the Knicks will advance to the second round of next season’s playoffs.
It will be the Knicks first postseason series victory since 2000, when they defeated the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in seven games.
The Knicks won’t reach the Conference finals but will still be able to view next season as a success.
Anthony's got a lot of minutes to look forward to next season.
Last season, playoff injuries to Chauncey Billups and Amar'e Stoudemire hampered the Knicks chances against an experienced Celtics squad.
Still, Carmelo Anthony almost led them to victory in Games 1 and 2.
Next season, Carmelo will have to put together some more epic performances because both of his Big Three comrades will suffer injuries that cause them to miss at least one-fourth of the team’s games—31 for Billups and 24 for Stoudemire.
As a Knicks fan, I strongly hope this prediction doesn’t come true, but after taking into account that Billups will be 35, and the injury-prone Stoudemire might be due—after only missing four regular season games the past two seasons, it seems probable.
This will be a common sight next season.
Carmelo Anthony’s been named to the All-NBA third team three times—2006, 2007 and 2009—and the second team once—2010.
Anthony’s never been All-NBA first team, thanks to the league’s abundance of All-Star quality forwards but will finally break through next season. It won’t be easy, since he’ll have to beat out Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki, but the former Syracuse star will benefit from New York City’s exposure and spotlight boost.
Anthony will average 28.2 points on 48 percent shooting—43 percent from three—and grab 7.5 rebounds per game. His newfound dedication to defense will earn the media’s credence, especially amongst those whose votes determine the All-NBA teams.
Man that looks like fun!
This probably qualifies as my least bold prediction.
Next season, Amar'e Stoudemire will be the All-NBA second team center.
Stoudemire’s been a five-time All-NBA selection, making the second team four times—2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010—and the first team once—2007. 2012 will bring about selection No. 6 before he turns 30.
While I'd love to see him make his second All-NBA first team, which would put two Knicks on the hypothetical squad, Dwight Howard's not going to let that happen, especially in a contract year.
Next season, Stoudemire will average 24.4 points, 9.8 rebounds—a career high—and 2.2 blocks per game. His commitment to defense will help with rebounding and blocking shots, and he’ll even record over one steal per game.
Fearing a riot from Knick fans of colossal proportion, James Dolan will relinquish his heart’s desire to make Isiah Thomas the Knicks next general manager and instead just keep the deviant as a special advisor—and maybe even as a background singer for his band.
Dolan and Thomas ran New York’s once-glorious NBA franchise into the ground.
Fortunately, a knight in shining armor named Donnie Walsh saved the Knicks and brought hope for the future.
Memo to James Dolan: Build Donnie Walsh a statue in front of Madison Square Garden.
He may not know what the word defense means, but Mike D'Antoni's done a pretty good job in New York so far.
Mike D’Antoni will be entering the last season of his four-year, $24 million contract.
While some in the Knick fan community want to see the defensively-impaired coach exit, D’Antoni will receive an extension once the team clinches its’ second consecutive playoff berth.
D’Antoni wants to remain in the Big Apple, and the rapport between him and his players will help fulfill that wish. Amar'e Stoudemire signed with New York in part because of D’Antoni, his coach in Phoenix for five seasons.
Mike D’Antoni's going to be the New York Knicks coach till at least 2015.
Once Phoenix descended into a lottery team last season, Steve Nash’s name has been thrown around in all sorts of trade speculation.
One often heard rumor has the two-time MVP joining back up with Stoudemire and D’Antoni in New York.
Nash—a free agent in 2012—joining the Knicks via trade isn’t farfetched, but is unlikely. New York could offer Billups, and his expiring $14.2 million contract, but Phoenix will probably want young talent in return for their best player.
If the Knicks somehow pull off a magical act and get Nash, they’d have the NBA’s most offensively dynamic trio.
Too bad it won’t happen.
Plays like this would sure look good in a Knick uniform . . .
Jared Jeffries will be an integral part of the Knicks improved defense next season.
This may be my boldest prediction by far.
Last season, the Knicks were the NBA’s third worst scoring defense. John Hollinger’s defensive efficiency rankings, which take a team’s offensive pace into account, listed them as the 9th least efficient defense.
Next season, the Knicks will be stringently dedicated to defense and allow only 99.8 points per game. This unparalleled mentality for a Mike D’Antoni team will be so infectious that even Carmelo Anthony elevates his play on the defensive side of the ball.
The Knicks scoring defense will also benefit from a higher usage of the half-court offense, resulting in fewer possessions for opponents.
When Raymond Felton was the starting point guard, last season, they pushed the ball whenever possible. Next season’s floor general, Chauncey Billups, will slow down the pace and make defenses try to stop Anthony and Stoudemire.
Before the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony, Landry Fields was last season’s Rookie of the Year not named Blake Griffin or John Wall.
The second-round selection out of Stanford averaged about 11 points—on 51 percent shooting—and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Unfortunately, once Anthony joined the Knicks, Fields’ scoring, shooting percentage and overall comfort level on offense went down. He still sustained his rebounding production though, leading all guards in the category.
Next season, the Knick who likely has the highest SAT score on the team will again lead the NBA’s guards in rebounding.
Unfortunately for China’s basketball fans and pandas, Anthony will not be taking his talents to Beijing, DongGuan, Guandong, Jiangsu, Xinjiang or any other squad in the Chinese Basketball Association—or any other international destination for that matter.
Anthony said the world’s most populous country is his top international destination to play basketball, but since he probably didn’t mean it, some kids who don’t understand how marketing works—Anthony was in China on the Jordan Brand Promotional Tour to sell his new shoe—will be let down.
Amar'e Stoudemire, Anthony’s current superstar teammate, will also not be playing in China or anywhere else overseas, regardless of how many offers he receives.
Here’s my last bold—and probably nonsensical—prediction: The NBA will have a full regular season in 2011-2012.
The Knicks will finish with a 55-27 record—their best since 1996-1997—and the Eastern Conference’s third playoff seed. They’ll defeat the Orlando Magic in the first round in six games but lose in Round 2 to the Chicago Bulls in five games by a combined margin of 12 points.
Initially, the Knicks will be disappointed about failing to reach their first Eastern Conference finals since 2000, but after a short-lived grievance period, they’ll realize that the 2011-2012 season was a successful and progressive one.
Their growth will help bring a third superstar to the Big Apple in July 2012—Chris Paul.