The New York Knicks enter the 2013-2014 NBA season with relatively low expectations from many who cover the league. Despite seemingly improving on a 54 win roster this off-season, many have pegged the Knicks as a 43-47 win type team who will fall behind the Brooklyn Nets in the Atlantic Division and struggle to even hold on to the #5 seed in the Eastern Conference. What is there to make of these expectations and what are reasonable hopes to carry for the Knicks heading into next week’s regular season opener?
It is hard to argue that the Knicks haven’t improved the talent and depth of their rotation from last season. You can question if many of their key parts can stay healthy but they dealt with injuries and multi game absences from Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Ray Felton and Amare Stoudemire (if you consider him a key part) last year. Beyond that, the Knicks will have continuity for the first time in a long time. Anthony, Chandler, Felton, Stoudemire, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, Kenyon Martin, and JR Smith all return for another year in Mike Woodson’s system. Theoretically this should help on both sides of the ball, as the increased familiarity should make ball movement and rotations on defense smoother.
Without question, the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets also improved this year. Just about everybody has penciled them in ahead of the Knicks in the standings. On paper, it is more than fair to say all three teams are better than the Knicks. Yet, people ignore the Nets likely chemistry issues or first time Head Coach, the Pacers needing Paul George and Roy Hibbert to play like they did in the post-season for a full regular season or the Bulls avoiding the injury bug that has frequently plagued them. There are valid questions and concerns about these teams as well, not just the Knicks.
The Knicks primary goal for the regular season should be securing a top three seed. You want to avoid playing one of the previously mentioned teams in the first round. You want to set yourself to play somebody from the Detroit, Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta, Milwaukee or Toronto mash-up that happens to make the playoffs. If the Knicks can get themselves into the second round as a reasonably healthy team, they have the horses to make a run at whoever they come across. They won’t be favorites most likely but they’ll be good enough to steal the series if things break right.
Considering the make up of this roster and recent history of this franchise, I’m not sure it is reasonable for a Knicks fan to expect much more than that as of right now.