If we take an NBA snapshot right now, the Carmelo Anthony trade sure looks good for the Knicks. First, let’s review:
The Knicks gave up:
- Raymond Felton
- Danilo Gallinari
- Timofey Mozgov
- Anthony Randolph
- Wilson Chandler
- Eddy Curry
- 2014 draft pick
- Carmelo Anthony
- Renaldo Balkman
- Chauncey Billups
- Sheldon Williams
- Anthony Carter
- Corey Brewer
How are these players doing now?
Raymond Felton- At 28, Ray’s still in his prime. This season he’s averaging 14.1 points/game, while shooting 43%FG, 36% on threes and 79% from the line, all of which are above his career averages. His assists are down slightly, but so are his turnovers. The kicker, of course, is that he’s doing all this for the Knicks, not the Nuggets. To be fair to the Nuggets, they traded him away for Andre Miller, who’s giving them 10 points and 6 assists a game this season.
Danilo Gallinari- The 24 year-old was averaging 16 points and 5 rebounds a game this season, while showing signs that he might have the potential to eventually be an all-star. Unfortunately, he is currently out of the Nuggets’ lineup with a season ending knee injury.
Timofey Mozgov- The 26 year-old center has been unable to crack the Nuggets’ rotation, as he averages less than nine minutes a game.
Anthony Randolph- At 23 he still has time to blossom, but like Mozgov he’s languishing at the end of the Nugget’s bench averaging less than eight minutes a game. In the actual trade he was sent to the Timberwolves, who sent Kosta Koufos to Denver. The 23 year-old Koufos is giving the Nuggets 8 points and 7 rebounds a game.
Wilson Chandler- The 25 year-old Chandler is the actual only member of this trade really contributing to the Nuggets at the moment, putting up 12.5 points and 5 rebounds a game.
Eddy Curry- This was just about his expiring contract. He hasn’t played more than 14 games in a season since 2007-2008 and his career seems effectively over.
2014 draft pick- It remains to be seen who this will end up being, but the Nuggets used this pick to help them acquire 29 year-old Andre Iguodala, the one player on their roster who’s played in an all-star game (last season) and he’s averaging 13 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game.
Carmelo Anthony- At 28 Melo’s having the best season of his career, averaging a league best 28.7 points a game, along with 7 rebounds a game.
Renaldo Balkman- Out of the NBA.
Chauncey Billups- The 36 year-old is averaging 8 points a game for the Clippers. The Knicks amnestied his contract, which enabled them to sign 30 year-old center Tyson Chandler, who is currently the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and an all-star this season.
Sheldon Williams- Out of the NBA.
Anthony Carter- Out of the NBA.
Corey Brewer- The 26 year-old is back with Denver, where he’s averaging 12 points a game.
So, basically, the Knicks ended up with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, while the Nuggets have Gallinari, Chandler, Mozgov, Miller, Koufos and Iguodala. Both teams are headed to the playoffs this season. With Gallinari out for the season, Denver is currently getting 45 points and 21 rebounds a game from the players they got courtesy of the Knicks. Anthony and Chandler are giving the Knicks 39 points and 18 rebounds a game. While this seems to give the Nuggets a slight edge, you need to consider that Denver is getting that production from a total of five players and NY is getting almost as much from only two players. Both Anthony and Chandler made the all-star game this season and no one from the Nuggets made the Western Conference team.
Quality is a much bigger deal than quantity when it comes to NBA players. It’s not like the Knicks are being forced to play with less players than Denver. Players that give you 10 points and 5 rebounds a game are relatively easy to find. NY recently picked Kenyon Martin up off the NBA scrap heap and he averages 7 points and 5 rebounds a game. All-star quality players are obviously a much rarer and more precious commodity in the NBA.
While Denver is obviously hoping to change this, the NBA title has never been won by a team without an all-star player on the roster. Denver’s entire roster has one all-star appearance between them. It was made by Iguodala, but it was before he became a Nugget. Anthony and Chandler have seven all-star appearances between them and they were both selected this season.
While this trade looks great for the Knicks, it was good for Denver too. Melo wanted out of Denver, so they had to at least try to get something in return, rather than see him walk at the end of the season and get nothing. The Nuggets currently have five decent players under 30 years old on their roster because of this trade. Miller, Koufos, Chandler, Gallinari and Iguodala are a huge part of the reason they’re going to the playoffs this season and Denver already has more wins this season than their last full season with Melo on their roster. If Gallinari, Koufos or Chandler eventually has a career spike and becomes an all-star, this trade may be one of the best moves they’ve ever made, up there with drafting Anthony.
Yet the positive impact in New York has been much greater. In their last full season without Anthony on the roster, they finished 29-53. This season, thanks in large part to Anthony’s career year, they already have more than 50 wins and their first Atlantic Division title in almost 20 years.
In a league dominated by superstars, the Knicks found a way to acquire one without having to get lucky in the draft lottery. Since the 1986-87 season, nine different players have won the NBA scoring title. Six of them have helped their team win championships and two of the others, Kevin Durant and Allen Iverson, helped their teams reach the finals. There is a very good chance Carmelo Anthony will win the scoring title this season, now let’s see if he can help the Knicks make it to the Finals.
The Knicks lost a hard fought overtime game to the Bulls 118-111. Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks in scoring with 36, but missed the game winning jumper in regulation. Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 35 points off the bench and did it in a very flamboyant fashion.
The Knicks rode a blazing hot start to a 30-23 first quarter lead. The Knicks hit their first six shots from the field to jump out to a 16-4 lead. Chris Copeland, Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert all hit three-pointers and Carmelo Anthony hit two elbow jumpers in that run. Pablo Prigioni’s three-pointer gave the Knicks a 23-6 lead and the Knicks hit their first four from downtown. The Bulls then went on a 13-2 run to cut the Knicks lead to 25-19. JR Smith’s three pointer with 34 seconds remaining in the quarter gave the Knicks the NBA single season record for most three-pointers as a team with 842. Chris Copeland did a very nice job on Carloz Boozer in the quarter, holding him to three point on 1-5 shooting, although he had help with double teams some of the time. Anthony led the Knicks in scoring with eight, but he only shot 4-12. However, he was big on the boards with seven rebounds.
The Bulls took the second quarter from the Knicks 31-29, but the Knicks led 59-54 at halftime. This quarter was marred by Joey Crawford feeling the need to have people make sure they know that he is officiating. Crawford and his crew called 14 fouls in the quarters and three technical fouls, including Anthony and Nate Robinson getting them seconds apart. The fouls really slowed down what had been a very nicely paced game. Felton and Copeland started the quarter with some good pick-and-rolls. Felton scored the first five points of the quarter for the Knicks. Copeland hit a three-pointer but missed some other good open looks and only finished the half shooting 2-8. Robinson burned the Knicks with 14 points in the quarter and he did a lot of talking as you might expect. The quarter was very chippy and physical, especially when Anthony got the ball in the post. He finished the half with 16 points on only 6-16 shooting, as he forced some shots that he has not been forcing of late. Smith scored nine in the quarter off of his patented step-back mid-range jumpers and drives to the basket. The Knicks held up fine on the boards for the half without their big men, only losing the rebounding battle 22-20. Also, they only had two turnovers and shot 6-9 from three-point range.
It was another tale of two halves of the quarter for the Knicks. They went up 79-64, but allowed the Bulls to 16-3 run to close out the quarter and the Knicks led 82-80. Copeland scored five points, Felton five and Anthony six to get the Knicks out to that lead. A turning point seemed to be when Chirs Copeland got his fourth foul with 6:30 remaining in the quarter. This forced the Knicks to play Anthony, Smith and Kidd in the front court and that was just to small. After that, turnovers by Felton and Prigioni gave Jimmy Butler easy transition layups that turned the momentum to the Bulls. Over the last four minutes of the quarter the Knicks scored five points on 2-9 shooting. They were still getting open shots, but they went cold. Meanwhile, Butler was killing the Knicks inside and Robinson outside.
A wild fourth quarter ended on an Anthony miss from the top of the key for the win, and the Knicks and Bulls went to overtime tied at 105. The Bulls opened up a 97-90 lead with 6:16 remaining off of a Robinson three. Robinson proceeded to celebrate like a clown by doing Steve Novak’s discount double check belt multiple times. As great as Robinson played in the game he really came off bad there. A Butler layup put the Bulls up nine and it looked like the game was over, but Anthony and Smith brought the Knicks back. Anthony took advantage of his strength advantage over Butler and made six free throws down the stretch and scored four points in the paint. Smith was fantastic down the stretch; his three-pointer with 2:36 remaining cut the lead to 103-99. Then, he made a beautiful pass down the baseline to Felton for an easy bucket to cut the lead to 103-101. After two Robinson free throws, Smith hit a turnaround jumper on the baseline to cut the Bulls lead to 105-103. After a terrible shot by Robinson, Anthony got the ball at the top of the key and drove the baseline and got a foul on Butler. After making both free throws to tie the game, Anthony played great defense on Luol Deng to force him to miss and the Knicks got the ball back with a little over a second remaining. Anthony got a great look at the top of the key, but the shot went off the side of the cylinder.
The Bulls blew the Knicks out in the overtime period 13-6 to win the game 118-111. The overtime started off with a huge scare for the Knicks, as Felton landed awkwardly and he laid on the ground in pain holding his knee. Fortunately, he was able to walk it off and he did not have to come out of the game. However, on the ensuing possession Robinson blew right by him for an and-one layup and the rout was on. The Knicks, only playing eight players, just did not have enough stamina renaming to be able to compete in the overtime. Anthony answered with a bucket, but Deng hit a three-pointer to put the Bulls up 111-107. The Knicks missed their next five shots, which put their nail in the coffin. The Knicks were still only down 111-107 with about two minutes remaining, but Smith was given a technical foul after a getting a loose ball foul on Butler. I don’t know how Smith got the technical, since the whole Bulls team was complaining about the call on Butler, but that is Joey Crawford for you. Robinson made the technical and scored on the next possession to ice the game.
- For the purpose of the standings this loss is not bad at all. The win for the Bulls keeps them as the five seed and if they stay there it essentially ensures the Knicks of not seeing them in the playoffs. Also, if the Knicks drop to the 3 seed and play Atlanta it certainly would not be the end of the world.
- While the loss is not a big deal overall, Robinson’s antics made that loss hurt. Some things never change I suppose. Really, who picks a fight with Steve Novak off all players?
- Anthony (19 rebounds) and Smith (14) should be applauded for their efforts on the boards. And outstanding effort without the big men.
- With Felton playing 49 minutes, Anthony 45, and Smith 42 I would not mind them getting significant rest vs. Cleveland tomorrow. The minutes clearly hurt Felton, as he had a terrible second half after a very good first half.
- After starting our 4-5 from three, the Knicks only finished 10-30. The Bulls did a great job in their defensive rotations to cover the would be open shooters.
- With all the minutes they were playing it was a great effort from the Knicks to force OT. Chicago’s physical play did not fluster them enough to make them quit. Unfortunately, when Anthony missed the game winning jumper you had a feeling like the Knicks missed their chance.
- Tough loss, but a little wake up call never hurt anybody and it was a good effort undermanned. Should be able to get back in the win column in Cleveland tomorrow.
The New York Knicks have just five games remaining in their 2012-13 regular season campaign. Where the other 77 games went, we have no idea. Currently, the Knicks sit in second place in the East right now, having won 51 games, and they just locked up the Atlantic Division for the first time since the ’93-’94 season. With the playoffs right around the corner, a lot of different storylines are hanging over the Knicks’ collective heads.
To discuss this exciting time and the surely exciting weeks ahead, The Knicks Wall team sat down and answered some questions.
1.) The Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics are all jockeying for seeds 5-7 in the East. Who do the Knicks have the best chance against and why?
Scott Davis (@WScottDavis): I want no part of the Chicago Bulls in the first round, whatsoever. Though they’re a slightly bruised bunch as well, they’ve shown utter disregard at playing short-handed. Furthermore, they’re a step closer to sweeping the season series with the Knicks (and those first three wins came pretty handily). The thought of knocking out the Celtics gets my blood rushing, but they remain (cliche coming) a veteran team with experience. And I don’t trust Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to not pull a Tonya Harding on ‘Melo’s knee before Game 1. It seems that the best option is to hope to get the Hawks – a good team, but a team I feel confident the Knicks could be four times in seven games.
Jonah Kaner (@TheKnicksWall): While it would be awesome to defeat, better-yet, sweep, the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, I think the Knicks have the best chance against the Atlanta Hawks. Simply put, the Hawks don’t really have a go-to guy that they can rely on down the stretch of crucial games.
Steve Meza (@ecualibrium): Nothing would bring me joy more than eliminating Boston in a playoff series for undisputed supremacy over the Atlantic Division. The sweet glory of Carmelo Anthony performing a 40-point-per-game series-style exorcism, assisted by JR Smith and his catch-and-shoot holy water, on the green clad demon neighbors would be an ecstasy beyond belief. Alas, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and the bottomless wisdom pit that is Doc Rivers’ brain scare me enough to look elsewhere. Even lacking their granite faced star, the Bulls flaunt a defense so ferociously zany, it would serve the Knicks better to hope Nate the Great and company soften up the Heat for 6 games before the ECF. So, kinda by default: the Atlanta Hawks.
David Vertsberger (@_Verts): It’s got to be the Atlanta Hawks. The Chicago Bulls’ defense has stifled the Knicks to no end, enough so to keep New York from taking a win in the season series thus far. The Boston Celtics are still the Boston Celtics, and although they are a more depleted version of them, they still play with tremendous enough effort that no series they’re involved in will be an easy get-by. The Knicks have had an edge against the Atlanta Hawks all year, not surrendering a single game to them and matching up with them quite well. Tyson Chandler has done a terrific job defending Al Horford, and there’s no player on Atlanta that can hope to contain Carmelo.
Rami Levi (@RamiofTeaneck): Like many Knicks fans, I’m hoping the Knicks hold onto that 2 seed and the Hotlanta Hawks drop to 7. It has become blatantly obvious in the past couple of seasons that teams need a superstar in the playoffs. We have ours. The Hawks? While the Knicks have made Kyle Korver look like Larry Bird, and I’ll concede that Josh Smith is an above average player, the Hawks have nobody who can seize the collective hearts of Knicks Nation and eat them. Paul Pierce can do that. Without Rose, the Bulls don’t necessarily have a superstar, but they do play a brand of bruising basketball that tends to result in a barrage of Knicks Ts, not 3s. I am also scarred by soul crushing series losses of years past to the Bulls and Celtics. Give me the Hawks!
Tony Arnoldine (@tonyarnoldine): The Knicks have fared worst against the Bulls this year, going 0-3 vs. Chicago ahead of their Thursday night clash. The Bulls give the Knicks fits because they have a strong interior presence. The best matchup is probably Boston, thanks to Rajon Rondo’s injury and Kevin Garnett also being banged up.
Matt Clark (jmatthewclark): As much as I’d love to eliminate Boston from the playoffs in the first round there is only one team on that list I want to see: the Hawks. The Bulls are a well-coached, defensive juggernaut with some versatile scorers, and are possibly one healthy Derrick Rose away from being the 2-seed in the East. I can say the same about Boston. And Paul Pierce would probably still find a way to kill us! So, that leaves the Hawks and while Larry Drew has done a good job with that roster, they are still not a very good basketball team.
Bryan Gibberman (@Gibberman10): Out of the Bulls, Hawks, and Celtics, the team I am most comfortable with the Knicks facing in the first round is the Hawks. Despite the fact Atlanta has advanced to the second round in three out of the last five years, I don’t trust them in a playoff series. New York is 4-1 against Atlanta over the past two seasons.
Steve Scafidi (@Steve_Scafidi): All three teams would present a great test early in the playoffs. Boston, however, is not the Boston of years past. The momentum coming off a tough-fought series win beating the former rulers of the Atlantic Division could probably carry us all the way through the second round. Boston’s bench is pretty thin, and young, which will end up in more minutes on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The speed of the Knicks will probably be too much to handle in a seven-game series.
Matthew Bove (@RAYROBERT9): I would most want the Knicks to play Atlanta. I think the Knicks would beat Atlanta or Boston easily in around five games. The Knicks have beaten the Hawks twice this year and Melo scored 40 in both games, so clearly they have nobody to guard him. The only thing about the Hawks that scares you is that Jeff Teague is a quick point guard who can give the Knicks issues.
Eduardo Guerrero (@DannyG_NYC): Based on the regular season, I’d have to say the Hawks. Bulls have handled the Knicks pretty well while all three wins vs the Celtics came against battered Celtics squad (no Rondo for first win, no Rondo & KG in last two wins). It did take a fantastic game from Melo to beat the Hawks in MSG earlier this season, but the Knicks then took them apart in Atlanta. As long as Tyson and K-Mart are healthy come playoff time to hold down Al Horford, I don’t see the Hawks being much of a challenge to the Knicks.
2.) What is essential for the Knicks’ success going forward into the playoffs?
SD: I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. Carmelo Anthony’s right hand hot enough to fry an egg, the Knicks executing with machine-like precision, injuries slowly dwindling the ranks…. Things are kinda really great and really bad at the same time. Going forward, getting a player taller than 6’10″ back on the court (and healthy, too) is really important, as is the Knicks’ ability to drain three-pointers at a laughably insane rate. I’m scared to see what happens if the Knicks go through an ill-timed shooting slump. And don’t get me started with an injury to ‘Melo….
JK: Ball movement. This season, we’ve seen two completely different Knicks teams. One moves the ball around, the other doesn’t. The former gets pooped on, while the latter poops on opponents — It’s that simple.
SM: Health. The Knicks’ front line has been unmercifully ravaged by the injury bug. It’s been more like a locust-infested injury plague. On the flip side, the Knicks have been remarkably adept with the small ball lineups. The crisper ball movement and the reemergence of the 3-point weapon could motivate Woodson to throw Chris Copeland more minutes. That, and the fact that he really has no other choice at this point.
DV: It’s a multitude of things: stay healthy, don’t lose composure in physical contests, don’t iso-Melo your way through the offense, don’t try out any new lineups, play the ones that work well, like dual point guards and ‘Melo at the four. If a successful playoffs for the Knicks is getting out of the first round, then you don’t have to do all of these things. But if the standards are much higher, which I hope they are, all aforementioned keys are pivotal to having a great playoffs run.
RL: Obviously health is a critical factor when it comes to the Knicks’ playoff success. And yes, the belabored point of “they need to keep knocking down shots” holds true. But I firmly believe it comes down to composure. As we’ve seen throughout this streak, the Knicks are at their best during a blowout. The best player on the Knicks is their confidence. This does not happen in the playoffs. With exception of the occasional blowout, you gotta slog through a seven game series. Throughout the season, the Knicks have struggled in grind-em’-out-games…they lose their composure. If they can stay strong mentally, they can move on in the playoffs.
TA: The key to Knicks’ playoff success is their health and the continued high-level play of Carmelo Anthony. Melo is playing like an MVP and providing defense and rebounding along with his usual high-octane scoring. If opposing teams key in on Melo and slow down his offense, he can still make everyone around him better with great passing and drawing double teams. It will then be up to the perimeter scorers to hit shots.
MC: Health, of course, but the real key is going to be ball movement and the ability to catch and make three-pointers. I don’t need to revisit how deadly this team was in the first 25 games of this season or how good they are right now; but it all comes down to the ability to knock down open threes. In order for Melo to be truly devastating we have to always pose the threat that if you double him or collapse on him in the post, our shooters will make you pay. This gives Melo more one-on-one opportunities, and I’d argue with anyone about there being a better player in the league in that scenario.
BG: For the Knicks to have success in the playoffs it will be following the same pattern they did in the regular season – a highly efficient offense and an average defense. This blueprint got the Phoenix Suns to the Western Conference Finals in 2009-2010 and it can do the same for the Knicks this season.
SS: That has to be JR Smith. We all pretty much are assured Anthony will be locked and loaded when the playoffs get rolling—if Smith can maintain his efficiency and rebounding, it will be tough for opposing defenses to try and keep tabs on both Anthony and Smith.
MB: The Knicks need to be healthy first and foremost. Their last two postseasons have been derailed by injuries and it cannot happen again. They need to do whatever they can to get Chandler and Martin healthy. Secondly, they need to hit their threes, as they attempt the most in the NBA and hit on 37.7% of them. The majority of them have come in the flow of the offense this year and if playoff teams are taking them away they cannot force them. The offense is what has gotten the Knicks this far and will determine how far they go.
EG: Health. It’s seemed like everyone on the team has had to deal with injuries this season. Now that Tyson is banged up and with K-Mart hurting his ankle, the team needs to get as healthy as possible for the playoff. The pieces are in place for a deep run. They just need to stay healthy.
3.) How far is this Knicks team capable of going into the playoffs?
SD: It always depends on a number of variables: ‘Melo’s jumper, the health of the big men, efficiency of the offense, and obviously, the opponents. I feel fairly confident the Knicks could get past anyone in the first round. Assuming they play the Pacers in the second round… it could get scary. But the Knicks have generally persevered through injuries, and at their worst, they played slightly better than .500 ball. With a few lucky rolls, I could see this team making it to the Conference Finals. After a decade in basketball doldrums, that’s a successful season to me.
JK: Assuming the team is playing solid basketball (ball movement, knocking down threes, defense, etc), I see no reason for them to not get to the conference finals, setting up an interesting series with the Miami Heat. Should they get that far, I see the Knicks v. Heat series going 7 games, with the Knicks winning. As a Knicks enthusiast, Knicks in 6 over the Clippers.
SM: If the universe feels like blessing New York with a reversed 1999 Finals run campaign, when it seemed like the Knicks lost a player to injury in every round (seriously, the Knicks started CHRIS DUDLEY at center against The Admiral), the Knicks can bully their way to the ECF and potentially beyond. If Kenyon Martin, Tyson Chandler, and either Rasheed Wallace or Marcus Camby can return healthy and provide some staunch paint defense, I’m sure (or, I hope) Carmelo Anthony will oblige by putting on a net-splashing parade on the other end. Here’s to hoping.
DV: The peak is likely the Eastern Conference Finals. The Knicks can take on any team that isn’t in Miami, and if they maintain the second seed, they won’t have to up until round three. Once they get there, well, the season’s probably over. It’ll be a tight series – Miami won’t walk away easily like last year – but they will once again be victors.
RL: I’m having too much fun to let my overwhelming skepticism put a limit on this team. I have reason to believe they don’t even make it out of the first round. But you know what? 16 wins, and you call yourself a champion. The ‘Bockers are riding a 13-game winning streak right now – who’s to say they can’t do it in the playoffs? Nobody wants it more than a ring-less ‘Melo right now, and just maybe the basketball gods will smile on NY once more.
TD: If the Knicks are the No. 2 seed in the East, they should make it to the Conference Finals. Although the Pacers – the likely No. 3 seed – would give them headaches in the second round, the Knicks should be able to take them in a seven game series if they continue to play at the level they have been. All of this, of course, is dependent on everyone staying healthy.
MC: If K-Mart, Camby, and ‘Sheed can return from injuries and contribute, then we can beat the Heat. Grunwald and company built this team to beat Miami, and I believe that the big men are the crucial piece there. The Bulls showed the entire league how to beat Miami when they snapped their 27-game winning streak, and that is to be be bigger, tougher and more physical. If you can force their role players to make plays, you can beat the Heat.
BG: I think the Knicks’ ceiling is the Eastern Conference Finals. I do think the Knicks will put up a fight against the Heat, but in the end will fall short. New York matches up pretty well against Miami compared to others teams across the league because their offense has the ability to exploit Miami’s defense. In the end, going up against LeBron James will be too much to overcome.
SS: A realistic expectation would be the Eastern Conference finals if the Knicks stay on the level they’re on now. Indiana will most likely face New York in the second round – a team that has given them trouble all year. Our big men will need to be healthy for a deep run. Having our big men available at the same time would supply an endless amount of options for Woodson to use matching up against a big Indiana team, and eventually, Miami.
MB: The Knicks are capable of making the Eastern Conference Finals if they are healthy. If the Knicks were to lose in the first round, it would be a disaster, and a loss in the second round would be disappointing as well. If they make the Eastern Conference Finals, anything after that would be gravy. Is it impossible that they could beat the Heat? No, but obviously it’s not likely. The Knicks have played the Heat well this year; however, if Lebron James plays at the level that he has this season, there really is no beating them.
EG: Being that I think they’ll get the 2nd seed, I don’t see how the Knicks don’t get out of the first round. I don’t see the Bulls falling to 7th, so it’ll either be the Hawks or Celtics in the first round, and I believe the Knicks will beat either of them. As for the 2nd round, I can see the Knicks getting past either Indy or Chicago, but I can also see the other two advancing as well. The one advantage I do believe the Knicks have in their favor against Indy or Chicago is having Melo. The other two don’t have that guy who can get them a basket whenever they need on. To answer the question simply, I can see the Knicks getting to the Conference Finals….or losing in the second round.
“They may reach the promise land, but, for now, as the Knicks slump towards Portland, it seems they have lost their way and the wheels have fallen off the wagon.”
I wrote my last post huddled by the limited candlelight that barely illuminates “Knicks Fan Hell”. You know, that place you crawl into when the Knicks (and their limbs) are free falling, settling right into their usual bottom seeded position. While I wasted away with the season in Knicks Fan Hell, I wrote an entire column likening the Knicks’ season-ending west coast trip to a cholera-filled trek on the Oregon Trail.
The wheels, I concluded, had fallen off the bandwagon (along with many fair weather fans whose stomachs had endured one too many punches over the past ten years).
Cue Montage With Newspaper Clippings, Highlights, J.R. Smith giving Steve Novak bunny ears on the team bus, Mike Woodson laughing in the mirror as Shumpert, holding a camera, catches Coach shaping his goatee, all as The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do You Believe In Magic” blares…
12 games, 12 wins and 8,043 Carmelo Points later, the Knicks are on the verge of winning the Atlantic Division Title for the first time since 1994.
I’m not hear to tell you how it happened-Someone else can offer a much deeper analysis complete with numbers and highlights with arrows and circles and all that crap. Because honestly, I have no idea how it happened. I’m just here to react to the seemingly unbelievable fact that after 19 years, the Celtics, Nets, Sixers, (and whoever else is in our division-no but seriously-who?) will once again be looking up at our shiny behinds when it’s all said and 82 done.
It’s great, glorious, and WILDLY CONFUSING.
You see, Knicks fans use one particular classic sports cliché like they invented it: Nothing matters until the playoffs.
Every season, it’s Championship or Bust. This is Madison Square Garden we’re talking about. New York, the Mecca of basketball. Basketball is in our DNA. We are a great franchise with a history of success. These are things we tell ourselves. A division title, is “not why they play game”, as we say.
But last Friday Night’s Ceremony honoring the 1973 squad was a backhanded reminder at a very sad reality. In the scheme of “Championship or Bust”, The New York Knickerbockers have busted for 40 years in a row.
Knicks fans know this. They know its been forty years since a 7 footer went down The Canyon of Hero’s . They know the most recent basketball-related banner hanging in the rafters belongs to the New York Liberty (yep, right in the groin). They know that everyone is nostalgic for ONE season, a season MSG Network has dedicated hours of programming to, A SEASON THEY DIDN’T EVEN WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP.
So, I’m going to use this platform to tell all my fellow Knicks fans something they need to hear:
A division title is not a championship. Not even close. No one really remembers them unless, like in the Knicks case, it’s been nearly 20 years since you won one. You dont even get a trophy. But at the very least, a division title is tangible validation for Knicks fans who have been looking for a glimmer of hope to rise from a darkness rivaled only by that of Woody’s Goatee. An Atlantic Division title is shaky proof, that no, the Knicks don’t suck. In fact they’re pretty good. Objectively-better -than-8-teams-in-the-league, good. And maybe. JUUUUUST maybe, when push comes to shove…they’ll make it out of the first round.
So, you can puff up your chest and get all Stephen A. “Ill wait to the playoffs” on me… but for the Knicks fans just looking for permission to enjoy this relatively non-noteworthy feat, consider it granted.
 Having said that, I would like to add that Pablo Pirgioni is just NOT getting enough credit here. I don’t know what it is about the former Gaucho (not confirmed, but highly suggested), but holy hell has he made a difference. The streak has everything to do with Melo, JR and of course the addition of Kmart, but lets take a second and applaud the little ball thief. 12-0 as a starter. He doesn’t speak much English, but that record speaks for itself.
Yesterday, we witnessed a feat that has not been touched in 13 years. The last time the Knicks hit the 50 win mark was that long ago. America was at the turn of the millennium. Maybe many Knicks fans blame Y2K for 13 years of mediocre basketball in New York, or even the curse of Patrick Ewing (for the record, the Knicks are 11-0 since Pat joined the post-game crew on MSG). Whatever the case, this is enjoyable. It has me giddy about the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
1999 was a turbulent year in the big bad city; New York was coming off a trip to the Finals, and looking to repeat their success at the turn of the millennium. Not sure that anyone back then would of thought 2000 would bring horrific luck to the Knicks, through numerous questionable moves and unwanted drama. 13 years that really took their toll on the team and us, the fans. I probably would have been laughed at too if I were to tell fans back then too that Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby would still be holding their own among big men 13 years later.
The Knicks were a stalwart defensive presence in the league under Jeff Van Gundy, finishing in the top 10 in defensive rating in the NBA. Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell were the new faces of the franchise and looked as if they were going to carry the team for the next 10 years. Though, this duo was not as offensively gifted at the group of Knicks we are watching today, this was made up for on the defensive side of the ball. Marcus Camby actually has a higher rebounding percentage now (18.8%), than he did in 2000 (17.7%).
New York easily swept Toronto back when a first round series only consisted of five games, and made way into Miami for their heated rivalries of the late 90’s. It was a classic seven-game series with a five point average deciding each game. New York won game seven behind Latrell Sprewell’s controversial timeout call that helped the Knicks advance to the Eastern Conference Finals to face Indiana. The Knicks were no match for prime time Reggie Miller who torched the Knicks in six games. Little did Knicks fans know this was the last time we would see a playoff run for an extended amount of time.
I managed to find the intro of game seven against the heat on YouTube. Sadly, people back then weren’t too into making season mixes and highlight tapes on the complex internet scene.
13 years later and we finally have something to talk about again. How the times have changed since the last time there has been a 50 win season in New York and given us something to cheer for. Just a bit of a walk down memory lane, go Knicks.
Stats used are from www.Basketball-Reference.com
As the Knicks roll into a big time match-up with the Oklahoma City Thunder on an 11 game winning streak, there are lots of things going right for New York. Carmelo Anthony is red hot, scoring 40+ points in three consecutive games, making New York fans hoarse from cheering at their TVs as he’s embarrassed opposing defenses; JR Smith has scored 30+ points coming off the bench four times during the streak; Iman Shumpert hit 17 three-pointers in the first nine games of the streak; Kenyon Martin has resurrected his career in glorious fashion and Raymond Felton is playing some of his best basketball of the season; Even Pablo Prigioni has gotten in on the action, breaking into the starting lineup and helping stabilize the back court with his solid play.
Yet, the Knicks have been a solid offensive team all season, averaging over 99 points a game, making over 800 threes and having the third highest offensive rating in the league. The problem the Knicks have experienced during various points in the season where they have struggled is with their defense or the lack of it. The Knicks’ defensive rating ranks 16th in the NBA.
The biggest key to the streak has been a re-invigorated defense. Over the 11 game span, the Knicks have given up 89.7 points a game. To put that into perspective, the Memphis Grizzlies, which lead the league in fewest points allowed this season, give up 89.8 points per game. No team has hit more than 50% from the field against New York during the streak and twice they’ve held opponents to 38% shooting. Five times, New York has held their opponent to 85 points or less and the most they’ve given up is 102 (ironically to the basketball challenged Bobcats).
This defensive renaissance has been somewhat surprising, given that, for most of the streak, the Knicks have been without their defensive backbone, current Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler, who’s been nursing a sore neck. Not only did the Knicks’ defense not collapse in his absence, it prospered.
Perhaps the biggest reason has been the play of Kenyon Martin. A few weeks ago this would have been like saying the biggest reason Star Wars is a good series of movies is the character of Jar Jar Binks. Martin was a man without a team, seemingly too old and too diminished for a team to take a chance on him. Then with Chandler going and joining New York’s long list of injured big men, Martin was asked to be their starting center. Well undersized in the middle at 6’9”, Martin was expected to shake off the rust and hold his own against centers that were younger and bigger.
He’s done more than hold his own. It’s not a coincidence that this winning streak and in particular this streak of good defense has coincided with Martin getting big minutes for New York. In the 14 games where Martin has played 20 minutes or more the Knicks are 11-3. New York has given up more than 105 points in those games only once. His Defensive Rating is 104, the same as Chandler, and Jason Kidd is the only rotation player on the team with a better one: 103. His defensive numbers per 36 minutes are solid: 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks, but this hardly tells the full story. His physical style of play seems to inspire the whole team to greater effort while at the same time making the other team think twice about coming into the paint. His 5.2 fouls per 36 minutes lead the team and he somehow makes it seem like a virtue. His fouls, though plentiful, are usually well timed and seem to have a positive effect on the team’s defensive intensity.
This streak is very reminiscent defensively of the beginning of the season. New York started the season 8-1, allowing more than 100 points only once. At that point, many were hailing the Knicks as an elite defensive team. Yet after starting the season strong, New York’s defense slid into mediocrity and so did their results, as they followed their 8-1 start with a 30-25 record. The entire season the one constant has been offence. Both of their streaks of sustained excellence have been highlighted by superior defense. Hopefully having both a healthy Chandler and Martin available at the same time will only help and New York will be able to carry their new found defensive vigor and excellence into the postseason. Of course when we’re talking about the Knicks, sometimes having players stay healthy seems like a lot to ask.
Here’s a track from a new mix-tape, The New York Renaissance, as well as from “Bastards of the Party.” Download here.
Following a stretch of three games where Carmelo Anthony has lit up the Knicks’ opponents for a combined 131 points and a Knicks record (tied) three straight 40+ point performances, all anybody can talk about, in regards to him, is his scoring. While I’ve been loving the sky-high scoring numbers, (43.6 PPG, 64.1% FG) what I’ve been more excited about is the wins – 11 sweet ones in a row. Anthony did face very few double teams and often found himself facing off against the likes of Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and Ersan Ilyasova, so the high totals are nice, but they aren’t enough to blow me away.
One thing that was brought to my attention was that combined in the first two games, Melo had only one single turnover. He did have five last night, a very bad number, but the aforementioned figure enlightened me. Carmelo doesn’t turn the ball over nearly as much as a player with his offensive duties would. He’s averaging 2.7 turnovers a game, nothing extraordinarily low. However, when compared to other qualified small forwards in the league (ESPN lists him as a small forward, no idea why), under an advanced turnover statistic, Turnover Ratio (TO), Anthony ranks just outside of the top-20, pedestrian at first glance. What you have to realize is that no player ahead of him is coming within 10% of his league-leading Usage Percentage (estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor), and only one player (Thaddeus Young) is coming within 5 minutes of Anthony’s 37.2 of game time a night.
Melo’s ball security as a primary ball handler and offensive juggernaut for the Knicks this season is actually historic, believe it or not. As of yesterday (before the evening games), Anthony’s USG%, per Basketball-Reference, is at a 35% mark and his TO% is at a 9.6% mark. Using this threshold, I searched for players with a matching criteria. USG% of 35% and over and TO% of 10% and under, with the inclusion of a 1,000 minutes played boundary, in order to knock away any small sample sizes. What came about all but solidified my understanding of Anthony’s ball security.
Only five players, since the dawn of the NBA, managed these numbers, with Anthony primed to be the sixth, should he continue his level of offensive output and ball security. Here are the names on that list:
- George Gervin – 1982 season
- Michael Jordan – 1987 & 2002 seasons
- Dominique Wilkins – 1988 season
- Tracy McGrady – 2003 season
- Kobe Bryant – 2006 season
Correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems like some decent company. Now, one rebuttal can be, “but David, Melo doesn’t pass!” Well, when checking up on each player’s AST% (percentage of a player’s possessions ending in an assist) during those seasons, Carmelo ranks fifth among the seven seasons, behind Jordan’s two, McGrady, and Bryant. Sure he’s not the most pass-heavy, but he certainly isn’t the biggest ball-hog, either. (A side note, Melo’s eFG% ranks him third among this same group.)
Speaking of passing, Carmelo Anthony is really good at it. Definitely way above average for a player of his athletic build and scoring ability. I say this right at the people criticizing this portion of Melo’s game, because it’s a flawed and inaccurate criticism. Passing is not where the majority of Anthony’s turnovers come from, he may do it more sporadically than many of us would like, but he’s a gifted distributor. Nbawowy.com has in-depth turnover breakdowns, and when looking at Anthony’s, you’ll see that 12.2% of his giveaways are under the “bad pass” category. About a tenth of every turnover he commits is the fault of an off pass.
The majority of his turnovers? Offensive fouls make up 20.7% of them, and the whopping number one cause is a “steal,” at 45.1%. Not much info lies here, so I took to Synergy Sports to further break down where Anthony has turned the ball over this season. According to Synergy’s play sorting data, Anthony turns the ball over the most on unclassified plays and on post-up tries.
Looking through (each and every one of em’) the unclassified plays, the majority were off-ball offensive fouls. The few turnovers when Anthony had the ball in his hands often came when he attempted to pass the ball within a second of him catching it: rushed passes.
The latter makes a ton of sense, with Anthony often being doubled when working in the low-post, and if it comes down hard enough a double can be ridiculously tough to get the ball out of. Post-up plays account for 20% of Anthony’s offense, only behind isolation attempts. Here is where we’ll find the meat and potatoes of Melo’s turnovers. I dug through each instance of Carmelo turning it over from the low post, and here are the only important points needed to be focused on:
- The leading cause was offensive fouls (30% of the turnovers), Melo hooking his arm to swing by an opponent or just bulldozing his way through them. This is where Anthony needs to get smarter.
- 25% of his turnovers came when Anthony was doubled and was either stripped of the ball or lost it himself. A key indicator of a turnover coming is when you see Melo keeping his head down trying to maintain control of the ball. That’s a no-no.
- Bad passes made up merely 10% of Carmelo’s turnovers out of the post, all of which occurred when he was doubled.
The next step in Anthony’s progression as an efficient controller of the basketball is to overcome his over-aggressiveness and learn how to manage being double teamed. Everyone will travel, step out of bounds or lose the ball accidentally once in a blue moon, it’s basketball, it happens. But there lies two serious trends in Anthony’s forays into the paint in which he lowers his shoulder, or pulls away defenders with his off-ball arm. Both are illegal tactics, both rarely ever go unnoticed by referees, in Melo’s case. Anthony’s court vision seems to limit itself when he backs down, as he’s often unable to see a second defender coming who applies immediate pressure, enough so to cause a turnover. Where fellow superstars LeBron and James and Kobe Bryant excel is seeing the double coming and passing out to an open shooter quickly, before the second man can get there. Anthony must develop this skill to cut down on his turnovers.
This article is about Melo’s undeniably strong ball security, but it can always improve. Look at Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Both were superstars two years ago, yet they continually worked on their games, (see: LeBron’s post game and Durant’s distributing/rebounding) elevating them to new levels. Levels where they can compete for the MVP award, at the same time being right in the hunt for an NBA championship. Anthony’s far from a perfect player, and honing one of his most impressive skills can be just as important as developing a new one.
Anthony was not always a savvy player when it comes to protecting the ball, honing a TO% of above 10% in each of his first 8 seasons in the league, before dipping under that threshold in two of his previous three years. Credit is due to his maturation as a player, and his taking upon a much steadier approach to the offensive side of the basketball. Even now though he sometimes finds himself out of control, either rushing or panicking his way into a giveaway.
Nevertheless, he’s still wholesomely remarkable at keeping the ball away from the opposition, and it’s carried over to his teammates. The Knicks are first in the league in lowest TO%, which has been a terrific team effort, but can also be in part due to Anthony’s leadership in this aspect. Leadership, the one quality Knicks fans have been praying for out of Anthony since he’s arrived. Here we see the quality in action, the one that will lead Carmelo and the Knicks to new heights.
Carmelo Anthony played like a legend in front of legends tonight, scoring 41 points on 17-28 shooting to lead the Knicks to a 101-83 victory. The Knicks responded to a sluggish first half by scoring an incredible 42 points in the 3rd quarter, including eight threes. JR Smith also dropped 30 points, including four of the eight threes in the third. The Knicks honored the 1973 Knicks championship team in style tonight.
An ugly both quarters from both teams resulted in a 19-19 tie. The Bucks shot a miserable 33% and the Knicks were no better at 36%. Carmelo Anthony was the only Knicks player who did anything on offense, as he had 10 points on 4-8 shooting. Nobody else on the Knicks had more than three points in the quarter. Meanwhile, the Bucks had little direction on offense and Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis took multiple poor shots. Jennings had four points on 2-6 shooting and Ellis had four points on 1-5 shooting. Probably the best moment for the Knicks in the quarter was Tyson Chandler’s hard alley-oop jam, where his neck certainly looked ok. The Knicks missed numerous open shots and were only 1-9 from three-point land in the quarter.
More of the same in the second quarter, only the Bucks got hot from behind the three-point line and took a 45-36 lead going into halftime. The Knicks allowed J.J. Reddick to hit four three-pointers, which was much better offense for the Bucks than long contested two-pointers from Ellis and Jennings. You would think that with the celebration of the 1973 championship the Knicks would have good energy, but that was certainly not the case. The Knicks shot even worse this quarter than they did last quarter, shooting 29%. They were 1-12 from three for the half and had more turnover (6) than free throws attempted (5). A sequence that perfectly summed up the half for the Knicks was when Iman Shumpert and Chandler both air balled layups and the Knicks had a shot clock violation. Anthony had 12 points and an impressive nine rebounds at the half, and JR Smith scored 13 points and took the ball strong to the basket again, as only four of those points were outside of the paint.
Jason Kidd put a bow on what was perhaps the best Knicks quarter of the season by banking in a beyond half court shot to put the Knicks up 78-66. Felton did a great job of denying Jennings the ball, forcing Mike Dunleavy to put up a bad three and Kidd go the rebounded and hoisted up a 60 footer that banked in. They scored an incredible 42 points in the quarter and hit eight three-pointers after hitting only one in the whole first half. Anthony was ridiculous in the quarter, scoring 18 points on 8-10 shooting, and he hit his first eight shots from the field. The Knicks went on a 7-2 run to begin the quarter to cut the lead to 47-45 before Jennings got hot. He scored seven consecutive points to put the Bucks up nine again, including a four point possession, where after making the first free throw he missed the second, got his own rebound, and put the shot up all in one motion and got an and-one. From that point on, the Knicks went on an insane 25-2 run to go up 73-59. Anthony scored the first eight points of that run, including two and-one three-point plays. Six out of the next seven Knicks baskets were three-pointers, including four from Smith, one from Anthony and one from Raymond Felton. The final three-pointer from Smith was a contested one that went in, out, and then in again and it summed up just how hot the Knicks were. Smith scored 12 points in the quarter and Felton had nine.
Anthony finished off a special night at MSG, by scoring eight consecutive points down the stretch to finish off the Bucks. He scored 41 points, tying his idol Bernard King’s Knicks record for most consecutive 40 point games with three and the Knicks won 101-83. Chandler started the quarter off with two dunks, including one off a beautiful pick-and-roll with Kidd. The Bucks managed to make it a game again when J.J. Reddick nailed a three-pointer to cut the Knicks lead to 87-81 with 4:39 remaining. That is when Anthony hit four consecutive mid-range jumpers from around the left elbow to put the game away. He was serenaded with MVP chants down the stretch of the game.
- A very special night at MSG. Hopefully it’s not the last one this season.
- Tyson Chandler looked much improved. Probably the most important development tonight. Grabbed 10 rebounds and was moving much better.
- What can you say about Melo at this point? Watching a scorer of his ability do this for three straight games is just such a joy.
- The best things about this run from Melo is that very few of his points have been forced. He has still been making quick decisions and the correct passes out of double teams. Everything in rhythm.
- Melo is the first player in 28 years to score at least 40 points while shooting over 60% in three games.
- Jr Smith and Carmelo Anthony 71 points. Bucks 83
- Those two were also monsters on the boards, combining for 24 rebounds.
- Can we just skip the rest of the regular season already? That atmosphere in the second half with the legends on hand got me pumped for the playoffs!
- With that being said Sunday at Oklahoma City should be a lot of fun too.