Commentary

How good are the Knicks now?

East's big four still standing in way, but don't count these 'Bockers out in the playoffs

Updated: February 23, 2011, 7:26 AM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks are giving up so much to get Carmelo Anthony, it's best to forget about this season. This is about building for the next four seasons, and they aren't getting past the Heat, Celtics, Hawks or Bulls.

Right?

Well, take a look at the NBA standings and try to make a strong case that the Knicks can't make it out of the first round now that they are on the verge of acquiring another 30-point-per-night scorer.

Go ahead, make your case. (And don't argue that Timofey Mozgov was going to make the difference. He wasn't.) The No. 3 seed is a toss-up, and if the Knicks go into the postseason as a No. 6 against the right team (like the Chicago Bulls), they can't be instantly written off.

In the bigger scheme of things, the Knicks' tentative deal to acquire Anthony means they are going to be relevant through the spring of 2015. They didn't just acquire him for this season. He's on board for the same amount of time LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be in Miami.

Whatever happens this season is gravy.

As it is, the Knicks are going to make the playoffs this season, and they'll likely be in the No. 6 or No. 7 seed when the real season begins. And with the Anthony trade looking like it'll be done Tuesday, what will the Knicks have left to compete with before they add the next major piece to their own rebuilding core?

[+] EnlargeAmar'e Stoudemire
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesAcquiring Carmelo Anthony means Amare Stoudemire's Knicks will remain relevant through the spring of 2015.

Position by position, let's look at it:

CENTER

Hope you like Ronny Turiaf and appreciate the fact that he plays so hard, even though he manages to get hurt just about every night. Coach Mike D'Antoni seems to have come to the realization that he can't win without a real center defending the low post, but Turiaf is a 20-minute-per-game player at best -- and that's when he's healthy. If Melvin Ely comes aboard in this deal, there are six more fouls to use in mid-April, but this remains Weak Spot No. 1.

POWER FORWARD

Anthony Randolph will be gone in this deal, which means the Knicks have no insurance policy behind Amare Stoudemire. Not that they needed one: If he goes down, down goes the ship. Shelden Williams is the type of player who will tell a good story and be a whiz on WNBA trivia, but not much more. Melo will spend time here.

SMALL FORWARD

Danilo Gallinari is going to be gone, so look for Carmelo to fill the 3-point void while being spelled by Bill Walker and Shawne Williams when they are not filling in at shooting guard along with Toney Douglas. The nice thing about this trade is you have to fill out only an eight-man rotation, which is what Mike D'Antoni will always go with. And Carmelo can slide over and play the 4, as he did for D'Antoni on Team USA, when the Knicks go without a traditional center or power forward.

SHOOTING GUARD

The victory in this trade was keeping Landry Fields, who could become the glue guy for the Knicks for this whole 4-year cycle. And they have Kelenna Azubuike (if he can recover from a torn knee tendon, as the Knicks claim he is doing) behind him, a 41 percent career 3-point shooter who is either an ace in the hole or merely an expiring contract whose salary will be used to go after that third max salary player (Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard) a year from now.

POINT GUARD

As well as Raymond Felton played, who do you want to trust in a key playoff game? That's where the Chauncey Billups acquisition comes into play, because the guy is a former champion who relishes the challenge that awaits him. He wanted no part of New Jersey, but he's on board with New York. He could win you not one, but two playoff games with clutch shots if the Knicks are fortunate enough to need a big bucket from the perimeter from someone other than Anthony.

The bottom line: I wouldn't pick the Knicks against any of the top four teams in the East.

Not yet, anyway.

But I wouldn't want to play them, either, if I was one of the top four teams in the East.

The last time the Knicks were set up to be this sneaky good heading into the postseason, they made it to the NBA Finals in 1999.

So let's see what the next couple months bring. The hard part appears to be almost over.

Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.

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