The New York Knicks have improved tremendously from 2014-15 to 2015-16. Nevertheless, analysts are uncomfortable with the idea that New York will see as significant an improvement in the win column.
Exhibit A: FiveThirtyEight.com used the CARMELO player projection system to project a mere 27 wins for the 2015-16 Knicks.
Carmelo Anthony‘s return from injury has bred optimism in New York’s faithful, which makes the 27-win projection a difficult one to process. The front office hasn’t built the greatest of rosters, but the general feeling is that the Knicks aren’t as bad as they’re expected to be.
"“I think we will be better than people predict,’’ Anthony said. “If you’re predicting 27 wins, I laugh at that. We use that as kind of motivation. But it’s a good thing to be under the radar.’’"
FiveThirtyEight isn’t the only outlet snubbing the Knicks.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com recently released the annual general manager survey. In it, Anthony did not receive a single vote for MVP, nor was he given recognition as one of the league’s best small forwards.
Despite his eight All-Star Game appearances, Anthony did not.
This lack of recognition is, admittedly, to be expected from a team coming off of a 17-win season. The same can be said for Anthony, who played in 40 games before undergoing knee surgery.
If you ask Anthony if he cares about the personal snubs, however, the answer is a resounding, “No.”
"“I don’t care about that. It will be [a big year] — for sure it will be,’’ Anthony said. “I think they go off what they saw last. For me, I know where I stand in this league. For somebody else to say what I am or not, that’s way beyond me.’’"
Anthony went on to acknowledge that his individual success will mean nothing if the team isn’t winning.
"“Nobody cares what kind of year you had if you’re on a losing team,” Anthony said. “Regardless of if I average 30 [points] and we win 30-something games, it will still be a down year all the way around. Nobody cares about that. Everybody goes back to the 54-win season when we had a good team and were winning and everybody gets the pub and the shine. We’re going to be alright. I’m not concerned about myself at all.”"
The question is, can the Knicks actually piece together victories with the necessary consistency to make a run at the postseason?
In the starting lineup, New York expects to add full seasons from Anthony, Arron Afflalo, Jose Calderon, Robin Lopez and Kristaps Porzingis. For perspective, the likes of Quincy Acy, Andrea Bargnani, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Jason Smith and Lance Thomas all started at least 20 games in 2014-15.
The vast improvement in the starting lineup is reason enough to believe in New York’s ability to win a reasonably high number of games.
Along the second unit, New York has padded its roster with both length and versatility. Kyle O’Quinn, Kevin Seraphin and Derrick Williams are all big men who can play multiple positions and shoot with varying range, while Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant can work both guard spots.
For as much of an improvement as Phil Jackson has made personnel-wise, the key to it all will be Anthony’s health. He’s one of the NBA’s most dominant scorers, which is the foundation for the Knicks’ interpretation of the Triangle Offense.
If Anthony is healthy and productive, New York will have a realistic chance to exceed expectations and compete for a berth in the 2016 NBA Playoffs.
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