Oct 9, 2013; Providence, RI, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard Iman Shumpert (21) dribbles the ball against the Boston Celtics during the second half at Dunkin Donuts Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks: Are Knicks legitimate contenders?

Oct 25, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire

This upcoming season for the New York Knicks is one of high expectations and a very important one.

The Knicks are coming off their best season in a decade by far. They finally advanced out of the first round and got 50 wins. This offseason they improved, but so did the rest of the Eastern Conference. They will have to get better this season or face the scrutiny of the media and fans.

Carmelo Anthony’s decision on whether he will stay in the Big Apple as a Knick or bolt somewhere else should also be impacted by the Knicks performance this season. There is one way to ensure Carmelo stays (most likely) and to please the tough New York media – win a championship.

It won’t be easy, but it will be very possible if the pieces fall into place.

First off, Melo will have to have another MVP like season, just like the one he had last year. He will have to score a lot, as well as continue to rebound well and improve his defense.

Next up, J.R. Smith will have to stop making stupid decisions on and off the court. If he can stop that, he could improve even more from his best season yet he had last year.

Iman Shumpert has lots of potential to grow as a scorer, and his lockdown defense is already there. If he plays like he did in the preseason, he will be extremely valuable as a dual threat player.

Tyson Chandler also has to continue to be a presence in the paint and be a monster on the boards. He also began developing a mid-range shot in the preseason. If he can get that down, his offense will be much improved.

Amar’e Stoudemire, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Metta World Peace/Andrea Bargnani (whoever is on the bench) will have to form a deadly trio off the bench along with Smith.

If their bench can be dangerous, then the Knicks will be much better. If Bargnani can put up nice numbers, it will be a major upgrade compared to last season’s three point specialist in Steve Novak.

The Knicks played great against the Miami Heat last season taking the season series 3-1, and split the season series with the Brooklyn Nets so if they can surpass those teams it will be a major asset since they will most likely have to play one of the two in the playoffs if they wanna get to the finals.

They must improve against Indiana and Chicago, though.

If, and only if they can do all those things, and that’s a major if, then they have a shot at making the NBA Finals.

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Tags: Carmelo Anthony Iman Shumpert J.R. Smith NBA Offseason New York Knicks

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