The Knicks have put together their most legitimate team this millennium, something I did not believe during the emotional tumult that was this summer’s free agency period. In the aftermath of what transpired, I believed we were doomed for another inconsistent 46 win team, refusing to believe in the predictions that this team could win 50 games or more. At the All-Star break, it appears that I was wrong.
Despite last night’s abysmal showing in a winnable division game against Toronto, the Knicks find themselves in a pretty good spot at the all-star break. With a .640% winning percentage through 50 games, the team is in a spot that I surely would have signed up for on Labor Day.
Could this team have done better?
Probably, but there were also some games they had no business winning against very good teams that they could have lost. Conversely, there were some losses against poor competition.
There’s also the question of should this team attempt to upgrade its roster. This has been written about by numerous talented writers elsewhere, but not to be repetitive, yes I feel the Knicks should be seeking out deals if it means improving the team for this year and next. A “final four” or Eastern Conference Finals berth is the goal here. If a deal can be made without further mortgaging the future (as in do not trade away draft picks) that improves the team, it should be made.
All in all, as we look to the home stretch of 32 games, it is the recent 6-4 stretch since Raymond Felton’s return from injury that has me worried and skeptical that the Knicks will continue to win at this rate, or reach 50 win. As a result, let’s take an in-depth look at the schedule and what it would take for the Knicks to finish 18-14, producing the first 50 win season since 2000 and most likely the first Atlantic Division Title since 1994.
Given that there are professionals with algorithms who project future sports results for a living, it’s important to note that Accuscore.com currently has the Knicks at 52-53 wins for the season while John Hollinger’s ESPN predictions show a final record of 51-31.
To wrap up February after the all-star break, the Knicks travel to Indiana, then to Toronto before hosting Philadelphia and the Warriors in the garden. Given the recent play of the Knicks and these opponents, I unfortunately think 2-2 is most likely here.
March comes in for a lion for the Knicks (schedule here: http://www.nba.com/knicks/schedule#3) and hopefully they don’t come out of it looking like a lamb. With 10 games against current playoff teams (and half of them on the road), the team could very well go 3-7 in that stretch. This coupled with a difficult west coast trip, as a fan right now I’m not confident that the Knicks will take care of business in all their winnable March games. Simply put going 9-9 in March would be an impressive feat.
Luckily, New York can catch its collective breath in the season’s final ten contests. With six road games (two of which I’d call wins right now) and four MSG games that shouldn’t be lost, the Knicks can finish the year 6-4.
Unfortunately, looking at all 32 games together, that would make the team 49-33 for the year. That record combined with how there are six division contests left implies that winning the Atlantic is far from the lock it seemed two weeks ago. Time to settle in, it’s going to a bumpy ride and no coast to the finish line.