How this year’s Knicks compares to the 2012-13 team that fell in the second round
For the first time in a decade, the New York Knickerbockers are marching triumphantly into the second round of the NBA playoffs, with eyes toward further glory. While the time between appearances may have dulled some memories of that last hopeful run, there are lessons to take from that team, as this year’s Knicks share much in common with — and have some key advantages over — the team that fell in six games to the Pacers in 2013.
For a start, both teams had just broken a long playoff series winless streak of 10+ years entering a series against a team that they should — and are favored to by sportsbooks — beat with reasonable expectations of putting up a fight in the Eastern Conference Finals.
That 2012-13 season, the ‘Bockers took three out of four matchups against the powerhouse Miami Heat led by LeBron James just like this year’s team took three from the top-rated team left in the conference the Boston Celtics. Now, a pesky team led by a star wing — Jimmy Butler and the Heat — that is well-coached and plays phenomenal defense stands in the way of reaching the Conference finals just as one did a decade ago.
However, the differences on the court between the two could be what propels this year’s team where the previous fell short.
This Knicks team features many things that Mike Woodson’s did in 2012-13. An elite scoring wing averaging north of 25 points per game, a sixth-man of the year candidate, an anchor in the middle and a defensive stopper on the perimeter.
Carmelo Anthony’s 28.7 points per game earned him the scoring title in 2012-13, while Julius Randle’s 25.1 average ranked No. 13 in the NBA this season. J.R. Smith was the robin to Anthony’s batman on the offensive side of the floor as he earned Sixth Man of the Year honors whereas Quickley fell just short of the award with his career season putting up 14.9 points per game.
Mitchell Robinson just had the series of his life against the Cleveland Cavaliers and was the leagues leading offensive rebounder this season, just as Tyson Chandler was in 2012-13 with the same type of ferocious interior defense. And when there’s a tough player to guard on the perimeter, pick your poison between Josh Hart and Quentin Grimes as the defensive stopper where Woodson’s squad called on Iman Shumpert for their toughest assignments.
But where this Knicks team can tap into that the other couldn’t is having access to another star. Jalen Brunson is a second elite scorer who averaged 24 a game this season that Anthony simply did not have. The plan was for Amar’e Stoudemire to be that guy, however, an injury-riddled season that began his decline as an NBA star led him to spend most of the series against Indiana on the bench playing 33 total minutes.
It was essentially Anthony iso ball versus the world on offense, something this team shouldn’t have to worry about with two go-to options — should Randle be healthy from re-aggravating his ankle injury — and potentially a third emerging as RJ Barrett has scored 21 and 26 points in the last two games of the first round after getting off to a rough start.
Perhaps the most stark difference between the two is the overall youth with the supporting cast. The Knicks were the oldest team in the NBA 10 years ago as veterans such as Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Pablo Prigioni all were above the age of 34. They were each effective in their roles as Martin’s defense off the bench and Kidd’s IQ and effectiveness from the three-point line at times — 35% from downtown — were crucial to the Knicks’ success.
They did have some younger players mixed in such as Shumpert — who was 22 at the time — with Chandler (30), Anthony and Raymond Felton in the primes of their career at 28-years-old
However, this supporting cast is built on a young foundation with Robinson, Barrett, Quickley, Grimes, Obi Toppin and Miles McBride all 25-years-old or younger. Randle (28), Brunson (26) and Hart (27) are the ones on the ‘older’ end of the spectrum.
The ‘Bockers were the No. 2 seed in 2012-13 and experienced a ton of regular-season succes.s However, this Knicks’ team may just be a slightly upgraded version built to advance further into the playoffs than the last time they were in this position.