#4 The New York Knicks

Yaaaayyyyyy! What did I call this site? Your one-stop-shop for BIASED basketball coverage. If I’m being completely honest with myself and the New York Knicks were in a slug-it-out sorrow fest with the Jazz in Utah and the Thunder-Clippers game was about to start on TNT, I might change the channel. Other than that, for all the duds listed higher on this list, I’m stickin’ with the Knicks.

Look, we’re all ready to get away from last season’s stink fest. And there are plenty of reasons to be (guardedly) optimistic. Carmelo Anthony is back. Jerkin’ us around for awhile and taking a pretty insignificant “discount” to once again don #7 in New York City. And I’m glad to have him here.

While scrolling down a list of the 25 best players heading into training camp, I started thinking, yes, as a general manager I would take a Russell Westbrook maybe over Carmelo because he’s younger and still has yet to hit his ceiling. But if I’m really trying to win a championship? Like right now or maaybe next year? I’m taking Melo. In fact, I’m taking Melo over a number of guys, including most point guards, Dwight Howard or Dirk and pretty much anyone not named Lebron James or Kevin Durant. Comment below if you think one individual player can better swing an entire team.

Bill Simmons at Grantland wrote a very interesting article about playing to Melo’s strengths from the standpoint of a team architect and surrounding him with talent in the way Dallas did with Dirk Nowitzki. Both are tremendous scorers inside and out, and if backed by other knock-down shooters and players to shore up their defensive shortcomings, they are cornerstone, franchise players. Over the last few seasons, Anthony has exhibited a will-your-way-to-the-basket grittiness that allowed him to steal the scoring ring from Kevin Durant (once) and keep averaging higher and higher rebounding numbers. I could see there being a little complacency hangover from signing his new contract, but I hope not. I think this guys is ready to buy in.

Is the rest of the team? Or, more accurately, what is the rest of this team? With the Knicks it’s a little tough to say. JR Smith is back for one. Take that however you want. Amare Stoudemire has talked about wishing to return to the All-Star game in a comment that was either very encouraging or totally delusional. And Iman Shumpert. Shump, I love you. Please get better. Please be good.

And then there’s the new guys. Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher and that classic three sided offense. Installing a new scheme always takes time, and may be particularly difficult considering the egos on this team and the last several years of isolation-stopping hero ball, but it’s a fresh start. Its something new to get behind. Its not Mike Woodson and his iron-wall goatee that sighed at press conferences and said things along the lines of “we’ve gotta be better. collectively, as a team, we’ve gotta get better.” Change is good.

Time to temper the enthusiasm with a little bit of reality. The Knicks were quite bad last year. Could not contain PGs on defense and gave up a TON of 3-pointers and free-throws, a basketball team’s bread-and-butter. The offense resembled a slower, sadder version of 2012’s Melo ball. There were highlights, sure. Maybe that Texas roadtrip or that horrible triple-overtime “victory” over the Milwaukee Bucks in that quest for the 8th seed. But mostly this was just a team that lost a bunch of games. A lot of analysts have predicted the Knicks as very similar in terms of record this year, finishing in 9th/10th in the conference or possibly contending for the final playoff spot.

I say they do it. I’m saying the Knicks are making the playoffs this year in a season that will be up and down but will prove this team has some heart left and a willingness to commit. They seriously underperformed last year, and I think this will be a bounceback season.

X-Factor= Tim Hardaway Jr.

I would’ve loved to put Shumpert here, and it may be possible that he does make that leap this year, but it is also certain that Timmy is beloved by the Knicks staff and will be cutting into Shump’s minutes in a big way. With his shooting behind the arc, Hardaway could provide a real scoring punch if he learns the movement of the triangle and how to cut off the ball. Look for a lot of 3 guard basketball.

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