After the 20 point blow out of the defending NBA Champions, the Miami Heat on their home court, it's finally time to ask the question. Can the New York Knicks win the Atlantic Division? It wasn't long ago the Knicks fan base could only dream about making the playoffs let alone what seed the team might be. After a decade of disappointment even a one-and-done sounds pretty good. Well those days are over. The Knicks have assembled a veteran-laden squad with a window to win it all. Could you imagine a Knicks' parade down the Canyon of Heros? Well, first things first. Gaining home court advantage would go a long way towards the Knicks eventually reaching their ultimate goal of a Championship. Is this the kind of roster the Knicks can win the Atlantic Division with?
The Atlantic Division is one of three divisions that form the Eastern Conference of the National Basketball Association. The division consists of five teams — the Boston Celtics, the Brooklyn Nets, the New York Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors. None of those teams should be disrespected. They could all be players in the Atlantic Division race, even the Raptors.
Back in mid-October Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com reported that Carmelo Anthony had his eyes on the division title.
Carmelo Anthony hasn't made any guarantees before the season starts. During a recent sit-down interview with ESPNNewYork.com, the Knicks forward said he expected the parity of the Atlantic Division to match the Pacific Divison when he played for the Nuggets.
“(The Atlantic) is wide open,” he said. “I’ve been in the Western Conference for seven and a half years, and every year that’s how it was. Two games separate everybody. You lose one, you fall back, so it keeps you on edge. Now in the East, it seems like that’s the new trend. As long as we do what we have to do, we’ll be fine.”
Lets face it, the Boston Celtics are not the Celtics of old. They are more like the old Celtics, if you catch my drift, but they can still compete. The loss of Ray Allen was a big one but so was the addition of Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Leandro Barbosa and the return of Jeff Green. However, Boston's success will still fall upon the shoulders of their veterans. To make noise in the East they will have to rely on Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to play a large factor in their success. They will also need Avery Bradley to recover well from his injuries.
The Brooklyn Nets are as new as you get. While the Nets have been around for a while they are only our of New Jersey for their first season. However, the front office has done a wonderful job of putting together a top notch coaching staff, assembling an All-Star backcourt and filling the roster with some serious depth. They should not be taken lightly.
With Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez as their main weapons they are a powerful team. They should be fine offensively but have plenty to prove defensively. Thus far Lopez is having the best season of his career which bodes well for them but it still remains to be seen if their depth can hold up and if they need more than just this season to gain the chemistry needed for younger players to rely on one another.
The Philadelphia 76ers tried to take a step forward but seemingly took a huge one backwards. They should have a strong interior game with the acquisition of Andrew Bynum but his knee has not allowed him to suit up for them yet. They have a strong group of young perimeter players but can't compete with the lack of big men they currently can put on the floor.
That doesn't mean they don't have talent. Jrue Holiday is a talented point guard, Nick Young and Jason Richardson were nice additions. However, the loss of Andre Iguodala, Louis Williams, Jodie Meeks and Elton Brand combined with the lack of development of Evan Turner and the failing health of Bynum will likely be too much for the 76ers to overcome.
The Toronto Raptors are the least threatening of all the teams in the division. They’re a pretty young team but they do have some talent. Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Jose Calderon Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, Linas Kleiza and John Lucas III can all play but just don't have what it takes to truly compete for the division. That being said, they have enough skill to give better teams key losses and shape the race for the division title.
At this point, the main competition in the division seems to be the Celtics and Nets. The Knicks currently stand at 14-4, while the Nets are in second place with an 11-6 record and the Celtics finds itself tied with the 76ers with a 10-8 record. When they eventually get healthy Boston will pull away from Philadelphia.
The Knicks and Nets match up well against each other. What the boys from Madison Square Garden have over the Barclays Center squad is their veteran knowledge. They are focused. Most of the Knicks don't have much time left in their careers to be impact players for a contender. However, combined they can bring a Championship back to Manhattan. Brooklyn still has to prove they can gel in their first year together while lacking veteran leadership.
The Celtics are another beast all together. While they don't seem quite as talented overall as the Nets they are winners and are filled with veterans. There is a very good possibility that they will stand in the way of the Knicks and Nets fighting it out for the division. At the end it wouldn't be surprising to see the Knicks in first, the Celtics in second and the Nets in third.
That's the division. There doesn't seem to be a reason why the Knicks can't take it. Perhaps the question should be if they can be the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They currently lead in the standings with the Miami Heat, whom the Knicks have now beaten twice this season, with a 12-5 record.
Most assumed that Miami would finish in first and that any road to a title would go through Miami. While it's early, that might not be the case. Miami will be hard to defeat in a seven game series and anyone hoping to do so will want to meet them in the Eastern Conference Championship series. However, it would be a much easier task if New York had home court advantage and they had to bring their talents to Madison Square Garden.
Can the Knicks win the Atlantic Division? Yes, and they'll need to in order to secure the proper seed to make sure they don't have to face someone like Miami in the first round. If they take care of business there is no reason why their goals can't go well beyond a division title.
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