New York Knicks off to hot start in 2012-13
The brand spankin' new 2012-13 NBA season is pretty youthful, as only about six or seven percent of the schedule is in the books so far. However, that doesn't mean we can't take a look the Eastern Conference's main storyline so far.
Let's discuss the undefeated and unlikely early juggernaut, the New York Knickerbockers. The Knicks were pummeled with criticism of their offseason moves this summer. First, the Knicks signed Jason Kidd to a multi-year deal. Kidd, who's been in the league since Michael Jordan had zero NBA titles, then proceeded to "allegedly" drunkenly drive his Escalade into a telephone pole just days after signing his contract. Next, the Knicks acquired guard Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade with the Portland Trail Blazers. Felton, who played for the Knicks under Mike D'Antoni and was sent to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster in 2010-11, had received harsh words for being out of shape once the lockout ended and looking "plump" to put it nicely.
Because New York already had these two veterans, along with Italian point guard Pablo Prigioni (who might be old enough to remember Ezio Auditore from Assassin's Creed), the Knicks let restricted free agent point guard Jeremy Lin walk this summer after choosing not to match Houston's 3-year, $25 million offer sheet, which was panned at the time by a majority of NBA analysts. Although it made sense that the Knicks wrapped up Felton and Kidd before relinquishing Lin to the Rockets, it didn't make sense, to me at least, to let a potential franchise point guard walk away due to luxury tax penalties three years down the road. Also, with cadaver Amare Stoudemire on the shelf for at least two months, prospects for the Knicks season didn't look too promising out of the gate.
It's a good thing basketball isn't played on paper, huh?
New York is 4-0 as of Tuesday night, and is the most dominant team in the NBA in the season's early stages. Don't believe it? Let's get statistical, shall we? As of Tuesday night, the Knicks are second in the league in scoring (104.5 points per game, just one point shy of Miami) and lead the league in points against (87.5 ppg, which is absolutely unsustainable, unfortunately for Knicks fans.) They've won every game by double digits, including an opening night 20-point drubbing of the Miami Heat, and have the best average margin of victory in the league at 17 points. Their best lineup (Kidd-Felton-Ronnie Brewer-Anthony-Tyson Chandler) is statistically the best and most efficient in the league, and the group has a plus-minus of +31 points in only four games.
This is all without six-time All-Star Stoudemire.
The main reason for New York's success has been former Syracuse star forward Anthony. The Knicks strategy this season has been to play small ball with Melo playing power forward instead of his natural small forward. And the results have been staggering: Melo leads the NBA with 27.1 points per game, and guys like Brewer, Steve "Discount Double-Check" Novak and J.R. Smith are seemingly hitting every shot they take with the extra space. The interesting part about Melo's game this season is that his field goal percentage and free-throw percentage actually down from his career averages. In fact, Melo is shooting over 50 points below his career free throw percentage of .804. Once these numbers regress to Anthony's career mean, and if he still is taking 21 shots a game, this could be Melo's first year as a 30-point scorer.
Now, will the Knicks keep this up as a team? I don't believe so, but the blistering start should be regarded as bliss for Knicks fans. How Head Coach Mike Woodson works Stoudemire back into the rotation when he returns could be key to the Knicks success during the winter months of the season. Woodson shouldn't touch the starting lineup at all when STAT does make a return, however. Let Stoudemire slowly work his way back into game shape. Stoudemire could be a great sixth man for this team as a versatile scoring big man, who is vastly different than the starters Anthony and Chandler. Having a player make $20 million to come off your bench does sound ridiculous, but as the adage goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
All in all, New York is probably going to make the playoffs, as they were just about a lock going into the season before their hot start anyway. But this team already has gone from Eastern Conference one-and-done to a legitimate threat to make the Conference Finals.
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