There’s no question that Miami is the odds-on favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Similarly, either Oklahoma City or Memphis is generally expected to survive the Western Conference playoffs.
Even so, there are a pair of dark horses in each conference race that must be considered: the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers.
Indeed, both of these teams have legitimate shots to turn the chalk bets into ashes.
WHY THE KNICKS CAN REACH THE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND
Their main hope to pull an upset is the brilliance of Carmelo Anthony, who is simply the most versatile scorer in the NBA. This is true because while LeBron James is a more accomplished passer and powerhouse driver, Anthony’s post-up and pull-up capabilities are much better.
Credit the presence of Jason Kidd for making Melo more unselfish and for expanding his court vision. Indeed, Kidd’s profound influence on Melo (and the rest of his teammates) cannot be underestimated – nor can his stubborn defense and 3-point shooting.
Raymond Felton is more of a scorer than facilitator, a surprisingly powerful lane-penetrator and a slump-prone yet dependable shooter when presented with a high pick. Felton’s shortcomings as a passer are compensated for by Kidd’s omnipotent ball distribution.
Ronnie Brewer is the designated wing defender who always plays hard and can drop an occasional jumper.
Tyson Chandler is the backbone of New York’s defense. He’s quick to the ball, rarely blows a rotation and has the length, skills and willpower to battle opposing centers for every inch of prime real estate. Moreover, Chandler moves without the ball better than any other big in the league – hence his penchant for turning lob passes into resounding dunks after making timely dive-cuts.
When his mojo is working, the quick-release, step-back jumpers that J.R. Smith brings off the bench are unstoppable. And Steve Novak’s on-target long-distance dialing is another ultimate weapon.
The Knicks showcase an outstanding pick-and-roll offense that features optimal spacing and the 3-point shooting of Anthony, Kidd, Smith and Novak. And Melo is crafty in his utilization of staggered picks and misdirectional cuts to get the ball in spots where he can do the most damage.
The forthcoming addition of Amar’e Stoudemire will either be a curse or a blessing.