Through the first week of the 2012-2013 NBA season, the New York Knicks have played as well as any team in basketball.
At 3-0, the Knicks are one of four undefeated teams, including the Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks, who have just two wins apiece. New York defeated the defending champion Miami Heat in the opener, followed by two victories against the Philadelphia 76ers.
It isn’t just the Knicks first 3-0 record in 13 years that’s impressive -- it’s the way they’ve been winning. Every one of the Knicks games has been a blowout. Their victories have come by an average of 19.3 points, and they’ve yet to trail after the first quarter.
In recent seasons, New York’s biggest problem has been its ability to stop opposing offenses. This year, the Knicks defense has been their strength.
Head coach Mike Woodson seems to have made a great impact on his team, which leads the NBA, allowing 85.3 points per game. The Knicks gave up 84 points to the Heat. In Miami’s other three contests, they have scored at least 119 points in each one.
Carmelo Anthony has often been criticized for being a one-dimensional player, unwilling to give a strong effort on the defensive end. In the beginning of the season, he’s played very good defense, limiting LeBron James and Thaddeus Young.
If Anthony can continue to be a good two-way player, he could give the Knicks the caliber of star player that they haven’t had since Patrick Ewing. He’s currently third in scoring at 26 points per game.
Surrounding Anthony, the Knicks may have their best supporting cast in years. Tyson Chandler and Steve Novak have picked up where they were left off last season, playing excellent defense and hitting three-point shots, respectively.
New York’s offseason acquisitions complement the rest of the players very well. Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd make up an experienced backcourt that seems to have developed some chemistry in the short time they’ve played together. Kidd, once a quick point guard with not much shooting ability, has transformed into a good spot-up shooter in his later years.
Having two point guards on the floor has helped facilitate excellent ball movement, leading to wide open shots. Anthony has taken a lot of shots, but hasn’t been the “ball stopper” that he is often accused of being.
The Knicks are playing so well that they might not want to make any changes to their roster, but they should be getting a few additions in the coming weeks. Amare Stoudemire is set to recover from his injury in mid-December, and Iman Shumpert could be back on the court in early 2013.
Shumpert will be a welcomed sight for New York. In his rookie season, the guard was one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the league. He tore his ACL in the playoffs, and is targeting January or February for his return.
Stoudemire might be a different story. He excelled when he first joined the Knicks in 2010, but hasn’t had the same success, since the team traded for Anthony. Some have speculated that injuries have held him back, but others feel that the two can’t play well together.
Anthony and Stoudemire are very good scorers, but aren’t known for making their teammates a lot better. It’s possible that the two will never be able to put it together, while playing at the same time.
In Stoudemire’s absence, Anthony has played a lot at power forward. With Stoudemire in the lineup, Anthony will be forced to go back to small forward, where he hasn’t been as effective in New York. Through the season’s first week, Anthony has been one of the league’s best players. Once Stoudemire returns, that could change.
It might be too early to start calling the Knicks one of the league’s best teams. Two of their three wins have come against a 76ers team that was without their best player in Andrew Bynum. Miami has been great all year, and may have just had an off night when they visited New York.
Three games aren’t enough to make a determination on the Knicks. They haven’t finished higher than seventh in the Eastern Conference in 12 years, and have a lot to prove.
Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder have struggled this season. Just as they will likely be fine, the Knicks can still have trouble the rest of the way.
Even with several questions surrounding New York, it would be difficult to deny the fact that they are a good team. They have a superstar in Anthony, and have the potential to be a top team in the East.
The Knicks still have 79 regular season games left on their schedule. The Knicks are a good team, but exactly how good remains to be seen.