Carmelo Anthony has been under scrutiny his entire career for failing to win in the postseason, especially since becoming the franchise player for the New York Knicks. Yet in 2008-09 he led his Denver Nuggets to a 54-28 record and a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
The 2008-09 season might have been the only time Anthony advanced past the first round of the postseason, but that great run represents a blueprint for how a team can win with Anthony as the centerpiece. When one looks at the 2012-13 New York Knicks there are a strikingly high number of similarities.
In the frontcourt the 08-09 Denver Nuggets started Nene Hilario at center and Kenyon Martin at power forward. Compare these starters to the 12-13 New York Knicks and one will see the Knicks stack up favorably.
Nene Hilario averaged 14.6 points per game to go along with 7.8 rebounds. Tyson Chandler might not be as much of a scoring presence as Nene, but he is a superior rebounder and defender.
However, Chandler’s scoring deficiencies should be made up for by Amare Stoudemire’s ability to score. That year Martin only averaged 11.7 points per game, while Stoudemire has averaged more than 17 points per game for the past six seasons of his career. Injuries are a major concern for Stoudemire, and it will be crucial for the Knicks’ success that he comes back healthy enough to provide an alternative scoring threat alongside Anthony.
The X factor for the 08-09 Denver Nuggets' frontcourt was the high-energy play of Chris Anderson coming off the bench. That year Anderson blocked an astonishingly high 2.5 shots per game despite averaging only 20 minutes.
The Knicks hope that Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, and Rasheed Wallace can duplicate this type of defensive presence off the bench this season, as all three players, despite being past their prime, have been dominant defensive forces throughout their careers.
The 08-09 Denver Nuggets' backcourt featured Chauncey Billups and Dahntay Jones, with J.R. Smith serving as an offensive spark plug on the second unit. While the 12-13 New York Knicks combination of point guards in Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton will most likely not be able to equal the production of Chauncey Billups, the Knicks should hold an advantage at the shooting guard position.
The Knicks have two quality perimeter defenders in Imam Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer that are at least as good as Dahntay Jones was in 08-09. Both Shumpert and Brewer are not going to be offensive standouts, but they have both proven throughout their careers that they score at a higher rate than the 5.4 points per game that Jones posted that year.
The question mark in the backcourt will be J.R. Smith, who has seen his efficiency and scoring totals decline over the past four seasons. If Smith can re-establish himself as one of most explosive bench players in the entire NBA, the Knicks will be able to put up points on any team in the league.
When dissecting the Denver Nuggets success in 08-09, one fact that stands out was that the Nuggets did not rely on Carmelo Anthony to score at an absurdly high clip in order to win.
That year Anthony only averaged 22.8 points per game, which stands as the fourth lowest total of his entire career. This is a key lesson for the New York Knicks, as many experts are predicting the Knicks will need Anthony to play at an MVP type level for them to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. If the 08-09 season showed us anything, it is that the Knicks' success will most likely depend on the ability of the supporting cast to step up and take the pressure off of Anthony.
When comparing the 12-13 New York Knicks to the 08-09 Denver Nuggets, it is apparent that both teams are fairly similar and that in certain areas the Knicks hold an advantage. If the Knicks can build off of these advantages and follow the framework set forth by the 08-09 Nuggets, look for the Knicks to be a threat to advance deep into the Eastern Conference playoffs.