After having a tremendous run in last year’s playoffs, the New York Knicks eventually fell short losing in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals to the Indiana Pacers 4-2. Things may be different this season since the Knicks have made so many positive changes to the roster. With that being said, here is a breakdown of the two teams if they faced each other:
Jun 3, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) reacts against the Miami Heat in the fourth quarter during game 7 of the 2013 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell- USA TODAY Sports
A player like George Hill is capable of doing almost anything on the offensive end of the court, and that is what makes him so tough to guard. Hill has the 3-point shooting ability that a lot of point guards these days do not have. Then, throw in an impressive amount of ball control and dribbling which helps him blow past defenders for floater and/or lay-up. In the playoffs last season, overall Hill owned New York in the series. Hill scored 26 points in Game 4, before complaining about chronic headaches and being diagnosed with a concussion causing him to miss Game 5. Hill averages 14.2 ppg, 4.7 apg, and 1.1 spg which for a point guard his assits have to be up a bit higher especially on a team that has the talents of Roy Hibbert and Paul George.
Felton is no slouch either because he has the ability on both sides of the court to make an impact. The thing that helps Felton be so productive is his ability to find the best shot selection. The only issue with Felton is he shows spurts of inconsistency and that comes back to bite the Knicks in the behind come playoff time. It seems as if early on the season Felton looks like he will have a great season which also makes the Knicks look even more tough to beat, but as the season progresses he then begins to fade. He has the potential he just needs to stay focused and stay in shape. Felton averages 13.9 ppg, 5.5 apg, and 1.4 spg.
As for the shooting guards, Shumpert is one of the top up-and-coming players in the league. After only playing in 45 games last season, he had a very rough year only averaging 6.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, and 1.1 spg. Last season, he just did not find his rhythm all season long and this season coming off of his ACL injury, he hopes to find his game early on and continue it throughout the course of the season.
One of the biggest rising stars in this league is Indiana Pacers star Paul George who officially emerged on the scene as a superstar last season. This off-seas0n George received a 5-year extension with the Pacers worth up to $90 million. That huge contract shows exactly how good he truly is. Last season George averaged 17.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, and 4.1 apg. Although he seemed to have broke out more earlier in the season and then fell off a bit, he brought back his talents in the post-season. He is now considered the official franchise player now for the Pacers and will be for years to come now since his new deal is now official. The Pacers having Paul George and George Hill in the backcourt is really tough to guard for any team in the league. Both players are really emerging and are one of the best backcourts in all of basketball.
Advantage: Indiana Pacers
To be completely honest here, we could count on one hand how many players that rank higher than Carmelo Anthony at the small forward position. Being arguably one of if not the best scorers in the entire NBA, automatically puts him in the top of the ranks. He became the scoring champion last season with 28.7 ppg after second place scorer and three-time reigning scoring champion Kevin Durant decided to sit out his last regular season game against the Milwaukee Bucks, ending his season with an average of 28.1 ppg. The thing that is most impressive about Melo is that he noticeably improves every season and that is the scary part. As his defense improves and awareness, it will only make him harder to scout against and even harder to slow down. It is getting to the point where his jump shot is so consistent, that all the defense can hope for is for a missed basket. Melo is now one of the top MVP candidates and hopefully can capture one this season.
In the 2012-2013 season, Granger only played 5 games due to patellar tendinous. Ever since his breakout year in the 2008-09 season where he averaged 25.8 ppg, his stats have dropped tremendously. So far, his career has been marked by injuries and it is depressing to say the least. It is depressing only because we all know as basketball fans how good he has the potential to be, but injuries keep him from doing so. Even a healthy Granger, at this point it his hard to top the reigning NBA scoring champion.
The Bargnani trade gave the Knicks a versatile big man who can spread the floor very well and has a very nice jump shot to go along on his game. In 35 games last season with Toronto, Bargnani averaged 12.7 ppg. He had a very down-hill battle last season with all kinds of injuries and finally was put out of his misery of a long season. This may end up working in the Knicks favor if he can fit into this lineup. He will obviously knock down the open shots, but can he stay healthy is the question?
David West is one of the most powerful post-up big men in the entire NBA. At a solid 6’9 and 250 pounds of solid muscle he is a missmatch for a lot of teams because of how strong he is. To go alongside his strength, comes his impressive athleticism as a big man. West is currently a 10-year veteran who has played the last two seasons with the Pacers, averaging 15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds in 139 games. West is improving season by season and he will be a huge part of this team’s success for years to come now with his new contract with the club. Since we all already know what the Pacers will get out of West and since Bargnani has yet to prove anything with the Knicks as of yet, the decision is simple.
Probably, the biggest battle between these two teams would be the centers going head to head. Last season, Chandler finished with 10.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg, and 1.1 bpg. A center that averages a double-double is always a good thing. Being so one-sided may cause him to fall short of the talents of Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert.
Roy Hibbert last season emerged onto the scene as one of the best big men in the game. First of all Roy Hibbert is huge at 7’2” and 265. He uses his frame well, he grabs those hard rebounds scores down low easily on other centers. He has a very high IQ on the court,he uses a huge array of moves in the post to get the easiest basket. He shoots well from the foul line which is a plus because he will be seeing it alot especially being a big man. His jumper is coming along so he can spread the D and open the lane. Last season, Hibbert not only showed us a new and improved dominant post game, but finished the season with 11.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, and lead the league with 2.3 bpg.
To wrap up the front-court battles, it could quite possibly go either way but it should go to New York, mainly because of the huge margin between Melo and Granger at the small forward spot. With Granger getting injured so much over the course of his career, and West being 33 and not being to certain when he will start to decline, without question it should clearly go to New York.
Advantage: New York Knicks
Like any other contending team with championship aspirations, the New York Knicks are going to have to rely on more than just the initial starting five they set out on the floor. It is very well known that the Knicks’ top player off the bench is clearly J.R. Smith. His new-found attack-the-basket mentality has greatly complemented his ability to create his own jump shot, as he has had the best season of his career and won the honor of Sixth Man of the Year. Talents like Kenyon Martin, Amare’ Stoudemire, and Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih, and their highly anticipated rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. will all be the key bench players to see some playing time this season. A good balanced bench will be key in order for the Knicks to advance further in the playoffs.
Compared to the Knicks bench, the Pacers bench does not appear to be as balanced. The Pacers do have Chris Copeland who played for the Knicks last season there are high expectations for him. Luis Scola, Lance Stephenson, and C.J. Watson will be the key bench players on this team. With such a low-profile named bench, the Pacers’ starting lineup will have to step it up for sure this season especially if they want to make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals at the very least. The Knicks bench is much more balanced and has players who we all know can produce at a high enough level to compete.
Advantage: New York Knicks
Mike Woodson has been under fire since the New York Knicks’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics. To follow-up that disappointing end to the Knicks season, he took the Knicks to the Eastern Conf. Semifinals and they went 6-6 in the playoffs with a .500 winning percentage.
Frank Vogel has his perimeter defenders forcing the action toward the hulking Roy Hibbert in the lane. That strategy has made Hibbert one of the most lauded stars of the postseason, but plenty of the credit for the big man’s emergence as a dominant force belongs to Vogel.
During the year, the Knicks made about 38 percent of their 29 three-point field-goal attempts per game. In their semifinal series against the Pacers, they’ve made only 33 percent and have attempted about six fewer long-range shots per game. Not only has Vogel enjoyed success by funneling isolation players like Anthony toward Hibbert, but he’s also got his guards running the Knicks off of their beloved three-point line at every opportunity. The result has been a marked decrease in New York’s triples, which has cut the legs out from one of the NBA’s best regular-season offenses.
So Vogel’s defense hasn’t just limited the number of three-point shots the Knicks are getting, it has also decreased the accuracy of those attempts by a significant margin. Vogel has arguably emerged as one of the top coaches in the NBA and this Pacers team will be good for many years down the line.
Advantage: Indiana Pacers