Hey friends! All the SB Nation NBA blogs are doing these form team playoff previews, much like the pre-season previews we all do. Here's mine. You can find the rest of 'em (updating throughout the day) over at Straight Outta Vancouver.
Team Record: 36-30
First round opponent: Miami Heat
How would you describe the Knicks in the regular season?
Well, there have been quite a few different groups of guys that were called "the Knicks" this season, but on the whole, they've been a very good defensive team anchored by Tyson Chandler. Their offense, meanwhile, has improved gradually throughout the season. Now, with Jeremy Lin out, it's a very isolation-heavy offense that runs through Carmelo Anthony's hands, and them hands have been hot. Since Mike Woodson became coach, the Knicks have been impressively resilient (no consecutive losses) and have found a way to win important, fate-deciding games.
What are [your team's] strengths? Are there any areas that concern you?
Defense. Tyson Chandler is a man-beast on the interior, Iman Shumpert can be a menace on the wings, and Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and the rest of 'em have all improved their effort on that end. They protect the basket and they force a ton of turnovers. Obviously, Amar'e Stoudemire isn't the sharpest of defenders, but those around him have been terrific. The offense is more concerning: it gets cripplingly stagnant at times, and has been prone to turnovers all season long (which could be baaaaad against the Heat). Also, the Knicks occasionally give up tons of offensive rebounds. They've lost quite a few games by simply allowing the other team many more shots.
What is your likely playoff rotation? Who is likely to see their
minutes increase? Who might fall out of the rotation completely?
The likely starting five: Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. Mike Bibby is the first and only point guard off the bench. J.R. Smith and Landry Fields are the two other bench guards, and will typically either replace Shumpert or shift him down to point guard and play alongside him. Steve Novak comes in and drillz tha threez. The big uncertainty is in the frontcourt: Jared Jeffries might not be healthy enough to contribute much, and it's unclear who will assume his minutes. Dan Gadzuric is the recently-signed veteran, while Josh Harrellson is probably more talented at this point, but is a rookie and has experienced some apparent jitters before. He's dirt strong, though, so I think he'll end up being the first big off the bench. Jerome Jordan's there, too, but I can't really envision him getting minutes, as much as I'd love that. New York will often go small with Melo at the four and/or Amar'e at the five, though.
Who is most likely to step up their level of play? Do you have a
potential "breakout" performer this postseason?
Well, Carmelo Anthony's been at the top of his game throughout April, so we're more looking for him to "keep up" than to "step up". If Amar'e Stoudemire morphs from "kinda-still-worried-about-his-back-so-we-get-weirdly-excited-when-he-dunks-Amar'e" into "playoff beast Amar'e" or even just "Amar'e that rebounds and defends a little", that'd be a huge deal. Also, a breakout defensive performance from Shumpert or a scoring explosion from Smith could tilt the whole series.
How far can you realistically see the Knicks advancing in the playoffs?
Championship. Wait, define "realistic".