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Suddenly Feeling All-In With the 2012 New York Knicks

As recently as early January of this year I was extremely critical of the 2012 New York Knicks for blowing apart the promising young nucleus that made the playoffs last year. The reason I was so disappointed was because as recently as January the Knicks didn’t look like a professional basketball team. They looked like two professionals, Amare and Carmelo, awkwardly trying to coexist with a shoddy supporting cast.

Since then things have changed. The most important of those changes was the extremely unexpected emergence of a real point guard in Jeremy Lin, but I am not really interested in talking about him specifically since his story has been heavily covered in the media and is still unfolding. The more recent story that I personally think might push these Knicks into the threshold of being a great team is the acquisition of JR Smith. During the lockout Smith signed an ill-advised contract to play in the Chinese Basketball Association that did not allow him to come back to the NBA immediately after the lockout ended.

As such, he has been playing in China since the NBA season began and was only recently allowed to take contract offers from NBA teams. In his first game in a NYK jersey earlier today he scored 15 points off the bench in a big win over the defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks.

Earlier I wrote about the hideousness of the Knicks Management’s decisions and although the roster now looks infinitely better, I don’t think the Management can be credited with the turn around. Lin was a complete fluke (Knicks’ Management admitted to being ready to cut him right before he exploded) and signing JR Smith was mostly due to them being able to offer him more than the Clippers could.

So by the time the playoffs come around, assuming the Knicks make the playoffs, their 8 man rotation is probably going to look something like:

Jeremy Lin, Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, JR Smith, Jarred Jefferies, and Baron Davis.

This is assuming that Baron gets back into the swing of things and fits well into the system, otherwise you can insert Landry Fields into that spot.

When I look at this line up I feel pretty good about it for two very important reasons. 1) It fits into the formula for Bill Simmons’ alpha dog theory and 2) it bodes well for the golden rule for winning the NBA Championship, EXPERIENCE MATTERS.

Below are my reasons for having faith in this new Knicks roster:

The Formula:

I may be botching this slightly, but if I remember correctly from Simmons’ book he laid out the formula that winning NBA teams need to emulate. The formula looked something like this:

Winning in the NBA = (an alpha dog superstar) + (all-star #2 who knows his role as #2) + (a good point guard) + (a good center who can defend the rim) + (an irrational-confidence-guy who can come in and make big shots) + (a bench of veterans and role players)

Surprisingly the Knicks looks like they have all the pieces.

– Alpha dog superstar: Carmelo Anthony. Arguably the best pure scorer in the league and he has won before (NCAA Championship).
– All-Star #2: Amare Stoudemire: Well, lets hope he knows that he is #2, because if he thinks he is #1 he is not only delusional, but he will screw up this whole formula.
– Good Point Guard: Jeremy Lin
– Good Center: Tyson Chandler
– Irrational-Confidence-Guy: I don’t know if anyone in the league fits the bill better than JR Smith. I remember watching a Nuggets blowout playoff win a few years ago where JR Smith kept shooting (and making) long distance 3’s until he forced coach George Karl to pull him off the court after missing a shot from nearly out of bounds at the scorers desk.
– Bench of Veterans and Role Players: Baron Davis, Landry Fields, Jared Jeffries, Steve Novak, Bill Walker*

*I am purposely leaving Mike Bibby off this list.

Experience Wins Championships:

It has been fairly well discussed and proven that youth and inexperience does not win the NBA. No matter how skilled and explosive the OKC Thunder were last year they had very little playoff experience and lost to a much, much older Dallas Mavericks team.

When you take a quick look back at the last ten winners of the NBA Championship (Dallas, Lakers, Lakers, Boston, Spurs, Heat, Spurs, Detroit, Spurs, Lakers), all of those teams were chalked full of veterans. The one team that jumps out on that list that seems kind of young is the 2006 Heat and even though they were led by a young Dwayne Wade, their roster was rich with veterans like Shaq, Gary Payton, and Alonzo Mourning.

(Quick side note, this may inadvertently be the best defense for Lebron’s lack of a championship. By the time he has left the Cavs he was only in his seventh year and he played with pretty shaky/inexperienced rosters. Last year with the Heat, they just didn’t win. But based on the last ten years precedence alone, you wouldn’t really expect a team led by a relatively young Lebron to win anything. This is exactly what has happened so far in history.)

Ok, so how does this apply to this years Knicks team? Last years Dallas Mavericks roster was full of playoff vets. Before last seasons playoffs the Mavs 6 man rotation had a ton of playoff experience under their belts with Dirk (103 playoff games), Jason Terry (62 playoff games), Shawn Marion (71 playoff games), Jason Kidd (121 playoff games), Tyson Chandler (32 playoff games),and JJ Barea (19 playoff games).

That is an average of 68 playoff games per player.

When we compare that to the current six man rotation for the Knicks this year (not including Baron) it looks something like : Amare (56 playoff games), Carmelo (49 playoff games), Tyson Chandler (53 playoff games), Jeremy Lin (0 playoff games), JR Smith (35 playoff games), and Landry Fields (4 playoff games).

So with the current six man rotation they average 33 playoff games per player. Baron Davis has 46 playoff games so if you add him into the mix instead Landry Fields, that bumps it up to 40 playoff games per player. It isn’t the ridiculous 68 playoff games per player like the Mavs last year, but that seems like an anomaly.

The really interesting thing that I would like to see would be the playoff game experience per player of the last ten NBA champions, but I really don’t have the patience to go through all the stats right now. If anyone wants to break that down be my guest.

So in recap, the Knicks really fit into what I think NBA teams need to be successful. The alpha dog personnel formula and playoff experience.

As I am a massive NBA fan that lives no where near an NBA city I don’t really have a team to cheer for, other than the Raps who are awful, so I am officially taking the plunge onto the Knicks bandwagon. In comparison to the other East power house teams, the arguments against the Bulls would be that the Knicks now have a roster with much more playoff experience and against the Heat the Knicks have a much deeper roster that includes a quality point guard and center. Despite having three all-stars, the Heat don’t have a center to shake a stick at.

In the same way that everyone is saying “Jeremy Lin came out of no where, but now that he is here we should have seen him coming” I think that we are going to be saying the same thing about Knicks at the end of the season.

It is also worth mentioning that the last time the Knicks made the NBA Finals was during the last lockout-shortened season…

Follow Matt on Twitter: @Matt FOTB


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