Opening Tip: Are the Knicks elite?

November, 12, 2012
11/12/12
7:00
AM ET
Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.

Today's Burning Question: The Knicks have looked nearly flawless in their first four games. Based on what you've seen, are the Knicks one of the NBA's elite teams?

It may be too early to ask this question, but it's a fun one to debate.

I'd argue this: if the Knicks can continue to play defense and move the ball the way they have in the first four games, they have a good chance to end up as one of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. (That assumes that they can also stay healthy for the entire regular season).

Here's why: Indiana is banged up (no Danny Granger), Philly doesn't have Andrew Bynum and it will take Brooklyn several weeks to develop the chemistry necessary to string together wins. There's no Derrick Rose in Chicago and no one outside of Miami scares you in the Southeast Division.

So if things break right for the Knicks, they could break into one of the top spots in the East.

Of course, it's a big leap to assume that the Knicks will remain healthy over 82 games. They have five players at age 35 or older, so injuries are always a concern.

But they may be able to withstand one or two injuries to rotation thanks to the expected return of Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert. Shumpert should be back by late January. Stoudemire expects to be back in mid December.

Regarding the here and now, the Knicks lead the league in point differential (+17), are second in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) at 112 and tied for first in defensive efficiency (93 points per 100 possessions).

They lead the league in turnover ratio (the percentage of possessions that result in a turnover) at 19.6 and are 9th in assist ratio (15.8 percent of their possessions end in an assist). They're second in 3-point FG percentage (43.6) and 9th in overall FG percentage (45.3). More importantly, they're allowing a league-low 87.5 points per game; opponents are shooting an NBA-low 40.7 percent against New York.

Can it last? That depends on the factors discussed above. But the Knicks will be in for a big test this week when they take on San Antonio and Memphis, which beat Miami on Sunday, in a back-to-back on the road Thursday and Friday. So we'll find out more about this team later in the week.

Which brings us to our question:

What do you think? Can the Knicks be one of the elite teams in the NBA? Where can they finish in the Eastern Conference?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Ian Begley

ESPN New York Writer

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
24.1 3.1 0.9 35.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsA. Stoude... 7.0
AssistsJ. Calderon 4.6
StealsS. Larkin 1.3
BlocksL. Amundson 1.9