Last week I mentioned that while the New York Knicks have started out great, it still would be a big surprise to see them make it out of the East and into the Finals. However, the Knicks have been very fun to watch, and look to be much better than anticipated. More and more pundits are jumping on the bandwagon and believe New York is a legitimate title contender. I still hesitate do this.
The reason I can't imagine the Knicks in the Finals is pretty simple: New York's three best players have all been playing at an unexpectedly superior level. I doubt this is sustainable.
I don't think most fans realize how much better Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd are playing compared to their normal solid production . Let us look at each one of these player's career season highs in PER and WS/48, and then compare it to this year so far, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com:
Player Career High Season PER 2012-13 PER
Carmelo Anthony 22.2 26.1
Tyson Chandler 18.7 22.8
Jason Kidd 22.5 20.2
Player Career High Season WS/48 2012-13 WS/48
Carmelo Anthony .160 .209
Tyson Chandler .220 .276
Jason Kidd .188 .245
In of itself this chart pretty much shows you why the Knicks have been so good, and it also helps indicate why it is unlikely the Knicks can win it all in June. This season all three players are pretty much blowing their career high numbers away in those categories. That's crazy, and it's unlikely to continue.
The Knicks' stars have all been playing much better than they ever have before (well, except maybe for Kidd, who is simply playing better than he has in the last decade.) Not just better - much better. The incredible start for Anthony, Chandler and Kidd will almost inevitably tamper off. Those numbers are just way too high compared to the normal production they have supplied over their careers.
Analyzing the increased individual dominance of the three, Anthony's hot start is probably the least surprising. He's one of the few Knicks who is actually supposed to be in his prime. Nonetheless, whether he can continue being this dominant is pretty questionable.
Chandler, meanwhile, has played at a borderline All-Star level before, but this year he has been significantly better than that. He is fifth in the league in Win Shares, and is playing the center position as well as anyone. It is hard to see him being able to sustain this pace, especially given how prone he is to injury.
Kidd, though, is obviously the biggest surprise of the three. While not the amazingly dynamic player he once was, you could argue he has never been as brutally efficient as he has been this season. It's been a pleasure to watch.
Kidd's perimeter play on both ends of the court has been otherworldly in its intelligence. He simply looks to be the smartest player on the court at all times, and has seemingly perfected how to get the absolute maximum out of his greatly diminished skill-set.
The fact of the matter, of course, is Kidd is 39 years old! What he is doing right now is pretty much unprecedented. His PER the last two years was 14.4 and 13.1. Nobody - nobody - could have seen this coming. But it seems unsustainable. The question is if he can be even marginally this good the rest of the season. If he can, the Knicks will be very successful.
So the Knicks are, in my mind, still unlikely to beat Miami. However, come the playoffs, if their three best players can play as well as they have so far, everything is fair game. That would be a sight to see.