Welcome to Part 3 of my three-part Eastern Conference Preview.
In Part 1, I analyzed the ongoing debate between Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose – and two different styles of point guard they represent.
In Part 2, I picked apart two myths we are hearing everywhere that are based on flawed logic – namely, that the Indiana Pacers will be good and that old teams will have a harder team with the shortened schedule than other teams.
And now, in Part 3, I will discuss an Eastern Conference superstar who could be poised to make the leap to legend – Carmelo Anthony – and provide my prediction for which team will represent the East in this year’s Finals.
Carmelo Anthony: Current Star, Future Legend
You already know about LeBron. Nothing matters this year unless he wins a championship.
And oh yes, he has to play well during crunch time of that championship run.
Unfortunately for him, I don’t think that happens for him this year. Why? Because of Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks.
Image credit: AP via Business Insider
So let’s talk about Carmelo.
- How good is he?
- Will the Knicks actually be good this year?
- Do they stand a chance in the playoffs?
First of all, how good is Carmelo Anthony?
For some reason, basketball – more than any other sport – leads itself to having us rank players in some grand list. Even though you really can’t compare Carmelo to guys like Derrick Rose or Dwight Howard, we try to every year.
So what do we know about Carmelo Anthony? I think we know two things: he’s the best scorer in the league, and he’s one of the most clutch players in basketball.
As a scorer, he simply has no holes. If you put somebody small on him, he will post up and murder you. If you put somebody bigger and slower and him, he will get to the rim easily. He can shoot threes. He can shoot from the midrange. He can create his own shot. He can catch and shoot. He can get to the free throw line.
Basically, he’s LeBron James, only a 1/2 step slower, but with a jump shot that is 20x more consistent.
When it gets to crunch time, nobody has an answer for him. Not even LeBron James can guard Carmelo – he can just do too many things.
So where does that leave the Knicks?
Amare’ Stoudemire admitted yesterday that he feels like this is the third team he’s been a part of in his year and a half in New York.
It’s a good thing for him that it’s also the best team.
Now let’s not get carried away – the Knicks definitely have some holes. If Baron Davis isn’t good, they won’t have a PG. They have a DANGEROUS lack of depth.
However, they have, without a doubt, the best front line in the league. They also have the best scorer.
So then, do they stand a chance in the playoffs?
It completely depends upon who they play. Ironically, I think they match up REALLY well against the Heat and really poorly against the Bulls.
Let’s walk through five incredibly conceivable scenarios that would have to take place for New York to beat Miami:
- Let’s say the Heat grab the one-seed and New York ends up 4th or 5th (not inconceivable at all, right?).
- The Knicks could ABSOLUTELY beat the Heat in Round Two. Their biggest weakness (point guard) won’t matter at all against the Heat, because they share the same weakness. And actually, if Baron Davis returns to the old Davis at all, that could be a matchup that New York wins (the second part is somewhat inconceivable, but the first part is incredibly conceivable).
- Carmelo could definitely outplay, or at least outscore LeBron in a playoff series (very conceivable).
- The combination of Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire would destroy Bosh/Haslem/Joel Anthony (COMPLETELY conceivable).
- Basically, the series would come down to Dwyane Wade. And in the playoffs, when it’s harder and harder to get to the rim, if Wade shoots poorly, the Knicks could win in six games at MSG. (Semi-conceivable…right? I know…now I’m reaching.)
Unfortunately, the Knicks can’t really match up with the Bulls. They have no answer for Derrick Rose. Luol Deng would annoy Anthony to no end. They have the bigs to play with Amare and Chandler. And their depth would kill them.
So how does this year’s Eastern Conference shape up?
In round one, the Heat sweep the Hawks, the Bulls sweep the Magic, The Celtics beat the 76ers in five, and the Knicks beat the Pacers in five.
In round two, the Knicks STUN the Heat in six games, and the Celtics narrowly lose to the Derrick Rose-led Bulls in seven.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Rose has his way with the Knicks and averages 42 as they win in five, moving onto The Finals.
So yes, just like every other year in the 90s, I’m predicting the Knicks edge out the Pacers before beating the Heat in an awesomely competitive playoff series, before losing to the Bulls. Again.