The 7 Biggest Obstacles to a New York Knicks Championship Run

Paul Knepper@@paulieknepContributor IIISeptember 11, 2012

The 7 Biggest Obstacles to a New York Knicks Championship Run

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    The New York Knicks will have to overcome several internal and external obstacles in order to make a championship run.

    The Knicks will have several new faces in camp this fall, some of whom will not be happy with their playing time. The team will have to overcome injuries and locker room squabbles. There is also the added pressure that comes with playing in "the World's Most Famous Arena."

    Mike Woodson's squad is in perhaps the league's premier division and will be competing against super-teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers and the defending champion Miami Heat for NBA supremacy.

    Here are the seven biggest obstacles to a New York Knicks championship run.

7. The Western Conference Powers

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    Even if the Knicks are able to survive the brutal Atlantic Division and knock off the Miami Heat in the playoffs, they will have to defeat a superb team in the NBA Finals.

    The Oklahoma City Thunder were the cream of the crop in the Western Conference last season and should be even better this year as their immensely talented core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka continue to improve.

    OKC's biggest competition in the Western Conference may come from the Los Angeles Lakers, who added two additional future Hall of Famers this summer in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. As always, the San Antonio Spurs will be in the mix as well.

6. James Dolan

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    From Allan Houston's outrageous $100 million contract, to the endless Isiah Thomas saga, to allowing Jeremy Lin to walk after the team all but guaranteed his return, the Knicks' meddlesome owner has kept the franchise mired in turmoil for over a decade.

    Most recently, Scott O'Neil resigned as President of Madison Square Garden. The widely respected executive did not provide a reason, though he has been at odds with Dolan according to the New York Daily News. Not surprisingly, Dolan met with his good friend Isiah a few days later.

    There is no telling what the Knicks' owner will do next. The Knicks have veteran leadership in place to help them weather storms, but if Dolan interferes with personnel decisions the team's delicate chemistry will be at risk.   

5. Outside Shooting

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    Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire will provide plenty of scoring in the paint and from wing. The question is whether the Knicks will shoot consistently from behind the arc.

    Steve Novak led the league in three-point shooting last season, connecting on 47 percent of his attempts, but he is a defensive liability. His minutes will be limited and he will not likely be on the floor at the same time as both Anthony and Stoudemire.

    The Knicks' projected starting guards are not as impressive from long distance. Point guard Raymond Felton shot just 31 percent from behind the arc last season and his career mark of 33 percent is below the league average—35 percent last season.

    Shooting guard Ronnie Brewer has a dreadful shot and has a career shooting percentage of 24 from downtown. His eventual replacement in the starting lineup, Iman Shumpert, nailed 31 percent of his long-range attempts in his rookie season.

    New York needs streaky sixth-man J.R. Smith to find his stroke. The former Denver Nugget shot about the league average last season, though he connected on 39 percent of his three-point attempts during the 2010-2011 campaign.

4. Amar'e Stoudemire's Back

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    If they are going to contend for a championship, the Knicks need Amar'e Stoudemire to play at an elite level. He cannot do that if he is not healthy.

    For the first several seasons of his NBA career, Amar'e's biggest health concern was his knees, but over the past two seasons it has been the power forward's back that has hindered his play.

    Amar'e first injured his back during the playoffs in the spring of 2011 and it took him a few months to get his legs back under him during the compressed 2011-2012 season. Just when he began to regain his explosiveness, the former Phoenix Sun was sidelined again with a bulging disk.

    STAT shed some weight last season in order to take pressure off his knees and back and has been working out hard during the offseason, but back injuries tend to linger and often cut an athlete's career short. Stoudemire's body may not hold up for an 82-game season and deep playoff run.

3. A Tough Atlantic Division

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    The Knicks want to win their division in order to receive a favorable first-round matchup, which will not be easy. Atlantic Division foes the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics all upgraded their rosters during the offseason.

    Boston won the division in each of the five previous seasons and came within one game of the NBA Finals a few months ago. Ray Allen bolted for Miami, but Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo will be back and the team added veterans Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry this summer.

    The Nets will open the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn with an All-Star backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson after acquiring Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks. They also re-signed their starting frontcourt of Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez. 

    Philadelphia landed talented big man Andrew Bynum in the blockbuster Dwight Howard deal to go along with a young core of players that made it to the playoffs last season.

2. Lack of Chemistry

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    Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire have yet to figure out how to play together. They have overlapping skills and thrive at the same position, power forward. Melo prefers to play isolation basketball, while Amar'e is most effective in the pick-and-roll. The presence of Tyson Chandler in the middle further complicates the spacing on the front line.

    In their defense, Melo, Amar'e and Chandler have not participated in an entire training camp together yet. They can still make this work. This season they will face the additional challenge of incorporating several new teammates into the offense, including Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Ronnie Brewer.

    Stoudemire worked on his low-post moves this summer with Hakeem Olajuwon. The Knicks hope that the added dimension to Amar'e's game along with the addition of veteran point guards Kidd and Felton will bring greater cohesion to the offense.

1. LeBron James and the Miami Heat

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    The Miami Heat's "Big Three" figured out how to play together last season and LeBron conquered his fear of performing in big games. The rest of the league is in trouble.

    Miami dismantled the Knicks in five games in the first round of the playoffs on their way to the first of what will likely be numerous championships. Their athleticism on the wing overwhelmed the Knicks, who do not have a point guard quick enough to break down the Heat's defense off the dribble.

    To make matters worse, Miami will be even more potent offensively this season. Dwyane Wade is healthy after laboring through a knee injury during the playoffs and the team upgraded its perimeter shooting by signing free agents Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.

    Even if everything falls into place for the Knicks, they may not possess the firepower necessary to dethrone the defending champions.

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