- Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Staff Writer
At this point, even Clyde Frazier has to be running out of rhyming superlatives. The New York Knicks have been dishing and swishing, wheeling and dealing, bounding and astounding, and, most importantly, winning and grinning. After Thursday's rousing comeback at San Antonio, everyone aside from Charles Barkley has to agree that New York's start is indeed prodigious.
Coming into the season, we at Basketball Prospectus were pretty high on the Knicks' veteran roster for this season, but not so much beyond that. The reasoning was simple. Even if New York improved to the 48-50 win level at which we had it forecast, that still left the Knicks on a tier well below that of the Miami Heat. And, given the age of the roster and the lack of financial flexibility to improve it, this season is as good as it's going to get for this version of the Knicks. If a championship is the end goal, New York was not on a path to get there.
Now, who knows? A 6-0 start doesn't guarantee anything, but it sure doesn't hurt. The Hawks have had two 6-0 starts in recent seasons, and the Hornets had one, as well; none of those teams reached 48 wins. However, those teams didn't match New York's dominance. Just 19 teams have won their first six games and matched the Knicks' overall point differential of plus-82. Seven of those teams won championships, and the average eventual win total for the fast-starters was 57.1. There is no other way to paint the Knicks' start as anything but universally positive.
New York has been so dominant that it's hard to zero in on one end of the floor. The Knicks lead the NBA in offensive efficiency and rank second on the defensive end. The latter has gotten the most attention because, with Mike Woodson relying on a small lineup, it would seem to leave the Knicks vulnerable in the paint, as we've seen happen in Miami so far.
That hasn't happened. With Carmelo Anthony playing more power forward than ever and Ronnie Brewer playing an undersized small forward, the Knicks have been airtight on defense. Let's look at why they've been so good, and speculate as to whether they can sustain it.