Remove the fact they play in New York which comes with the weight of heavy expectations, and the Knicks had a pretty successful 2012-13 season. They won 54 games. They finished as the No. 2 seed in the East. And they won a playoff series.
None of that amounted to a championship or even an Eastern Conference finals appearance, so it wasn't good enough since again, they're the Knicks, but still, considering their recent past, it was a solid season.
“We were the top two seed last year,'' Anthony said. “I think nobody expected that. This year we expect to do the same thing. I actually see this team be better than last year's team. I won't get into all the details [why]. But we feel that. We feel we have improved as a unit.”
The Knicks haven't made wholesale changes, but have brought in a few significant players like Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. and Beno Udrih. Out goes Jason Kidd, Steve Novak and Marcus Camby. In terms of comparing the additions to the losses, the Knicks probably have indeed improved.
But the Knicks had a specific identity last season. They chucked. They led the league in 3-pointers attempted and 3-pointers made, while also being one of the heaviest isolation teams in the league. Their offense was solid enough (111.1 points per 100 possessions, third overall) but in the postseason it didn't translate. The Pacers ate up the lack of ball movement as the Knicks became stagnant.
What will really improve the Knicks is if they can reinvent their offensive identity a bit around Carmelo's well-rounded offensive game while implementing a bit more sharing. Use Melo as a post-forward, a la LeBron, and have him distribute to the Knick shooters that way. Run more pick-and-roll with Raymond Felton, use transition more effectively, and don't let J.R. Smith dominate the ball. Bargnani isn't a great player, but his issues have mostly been as a defender and rebounder. As a pure offensive player, he has chops and can add to the Knicks off their bench as a stretch 4. Maybe with Tyson Chandler covering for him inside, he can get away with some of that other stuff.
Part of the problem the Knicks will face is that the East is as deep as its been in years. The Pacers are rising. The Bulls will bounce back with Derrick Rose. The Nets have been extremely aggressive in adding. And then there's the Heat.
The Knicks might be better this season. They might be a lot better. But that doesn't really matter, though. Because the question is, are they better than the Heat? And that answer still appears to be an emphatic no.