In light of the hot start for this season's edition of Knickerbockers basketball, I thought it would be interesting to compare the team with our most recent championship-caliber team: the 93-94 Knicks. I am not counting the strike-shortened 98-99 team that was obliterated in the Finals by the Spurs. The 93-94 Knicks were legitimate contenders before, during, and right up until the end of the season.
In this fanpost, I will make my case for why the current team is similar to and in many ways better than that gritty Knicks team.
Let's start with the roster for the 93-94 Knicks - here is the depth chart:
PG: Derek Harper (acquired mid-season to replace injured Doc Rivers), Greg Anthony
SG: John Starks, Hubert Davis, Rolando Blackman
SF: Charles Smith, Anthony Bonner
PF: Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason
C: Patrick Ewing, Herb Williams
Now for the rotation details: Pat Riley's Knicks went with a short rotation, as most veteran teams on the brink of a championship tend to do. Typically, 8-9 guys saw action (Harper/Anthony/Starks/Davis/Blackman at the Guard spots, Smith/Oakley/Mason at Forward, and Ewing at Center). Oakley and Smith typically shared Center duties when Ewing needed a breather.
Here are the pertinent Team stats for the '93-94 edition:
Record: 57-25 (#1-Eastern Conference)
Off. Pts/Game: 98.5 (21st) Def. Pts/Game: 91.5 (1st)
Pace: 92.8 (24th -- LOOK FAMILIAR?)
Offensive Rating: 105.7 (16th)
Defensive Rating: 98.2 (1st)
Rebounding: 4th best (for) and 3rd best (against)
And here are the current 4-game stats for the '12-13 Knicks:
Record: 4-0 (#1 NBA)
Off. Pts/Game: 104.5 (3rd)
Def. Pts/Game: 87.5 (1st)
Pace: 91.4 (25th)
Offensive Rating: 114.3 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: 95.7 (1st)
Rebounding: 18th best (for) and 28th best (against)
Obviously defense and rebounding was the '93-94 Knicks' strength - with Oakley, Mason, and Ewing up front, teams just were not going to push the Knicks around in the paint. Conversely, the Knicks really didn't have much of an outside shooting game. Starks, who many considered to be their most lethal outside shooter at that time, only shot 42% from the field and a horrendous 33% from downtown. Hubert Davis, the dark-skinned version of Steve Novak, shot 47% from the field, and 40% from behind the arc.
So here are the reasons why the current Knicks team is better:
1) Offensive Balance - The 93-94 Knicks were tough to watch on offense. Against this current Knicks team, this team would really struggle to score 80. The biggest problem was the lack of a consistent outside shot. Oakley was good from 15-18 feet, Charles Smith was typically ok from 12-15, but neither was a threat behind the arc. That Knicks team did not have a single Forward/Center make more than eight (8) threes all season! By comparison, the current squad already has three Forwards that have hit more than six threes (Melo, Novak, Brewer).
2) Bench Production - As mentioned, the 93-94 Knicks didn't rely on the their bench much. In fact, 3 Knicks starters from that team averaged 35+ minutes game (Ewing, Oakley, Starks). Only Melo is averaging 35+ minutes for this squad. Mason, Greg Anthony, and Davis represented the bulk of the bench minutes, and Mason/Anthony were used mainly for defense, and Davis was a shooter that could not create for himself (again, very Novak-esque). The current Knicks boast perhaps the best 6th man in J.R. Smith, who is averaging 17.5 pts, 5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.3 steals per game (with only 1 turnover per game)! Add Novak's reliable outside shooting and solid front-line play by Sheed, Camby, and Kurt Thomas and you have yourself a solid bench that will only get better when Shump and Amar'e return.
3) "Clutch" Factor - This is the hardest one to explain, but anyone who was fortunate to watch the Knicks back in the 80's and 90's will understand. The Knicks were NOT a clutch team. Ewing's biggest knock was that he missed the big shot when given the chance (memories of the finger roll gone bad against Indiana in the 94-95 playoffs). We all know about Starks' atrocious game 7 shooting (2-18, 0-11 from 3 pt range), and Charles Smith's block party (against) vs. the Bulls. The current team has one of the most clutch (statistically) players of our time, in Carmelo Anthony. We haven't played enough games to see the clutch play of the newer Knicks, but J.R. Smith has made some big shots in his short time with the team.
In closing, as someone who watched both teams intently, the current team posesses more weapons without sacrificing defense, which is huge. The return of Shump will definitely add to this while the return of Stat has the ability to improve the offense, but his impact on the team defense is everyone's biggest concern.
What say you, Posting & Toasting? If you had to pick the better team, who would it be? Cast your votes and let us know!