Can the New York Knicks Compete with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference?

The New York Knicks hot start to the 2012-2013 NBA season has continued past the first couple of games.

As Thanksgiving approaches, the team still has the best record in the league at 8-1. They lead the Brooklyn Nets by two games in the Atlantic Division.

There has been a lot of debate about how good the Knicks actually are. Since they traded for Carmelo Anthony two seasons ago, they’ve only been an average team.

Not only do the Knicks have the league’s best record, but they’ve done so against the most difficult schedule in the NBA. With the way they have played over the first few weeks of the season, it’s hard to debate that they are legitimate contenders in the East.

Are the Knicks good enough to make a run to the NBA Finals?

It would be a pretty big leap for New York to compete for a championship. In the past 12 years, the Knicks have won just one playoff game. It’s not often that teams make the leap from winning one postseason game to suddenly competing for a title.

It’d be hard to argue that the Knicks aren’t a good team, but the argument can be made that they’ve been fortunate to start the season off so well. New York has avoided making mistakes at a historic rate. Their 10.3 turnovers per game are three better than the next best team in basketball. New York is committing so few turnovers, that it’s almost impossible to expect them to keep up this pace.

The Knicks have improved over last year, without adding much to the core of their team. Sure, they added some good pieces like Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, who have made a big impact, but their “Big Three” of Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire remains the same.

Stoudemire has yet to play this season with a knee injury. He is set to return sometime in the next couple of weeks, and he and Anthony haven’t proven that they can both succeed together. Anthony has thrived at power forward, the position Stoudemire will play when he comes back.

Even if the Knicks aren’t the best team in basketball, as their record might indicate, they have a chance to be one of the best teams in the East. No team has shown any indication that they can compete with the defending champion Miami Heat. The Knicks still have a lot to prove, but they did beat the Heat by 20 points in their only meeting.

When Mike Woodson took over for Mike D’Antoni as the team’s head coach last season, the Knicks went 18-6 to close out the regular season. After losing to Miami in five games in the first round of the postseason, New York is back to playing lights out. Maybe Woodson’s philosophy is all the Knicks need to put everything together.

Known as a defensive guru, Woodson hasn’t disappointed in the Big Apple. Even without their best on-ball defender Iman Shumpert, the Knicks are first in the league, allowing 88.9 points per game.

New York’s defense hasn’t just helped them win games, it has made them dominant. Seven of their wins have come by double-digits, with their other victory coming on the road against the San Antonio Spurs.

With 71 games left on the schedule, it might be premature to call the Knicks championship contenders. A lot can change after a few games, as evidenced by the Los Angeles Lakers turnaround, after starting the year at 1-4.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are still the class of the NBA. However, New York has at least shown that they have as good a chance as anybody, to give the Heat trouble, on their way to the NBA Finals.

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