The New York Liberty are a good team. The New York Knicks are a terrible one. The former plays in the lesser-known and much-less watched WNBA, while the other is a nightly punching bag because of its status in the NBA.
This season, the Liberty are 8-5, a half-game back of the Chicago Sky for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is 5-2 at Madison Square Garden, defending its home turf with the kind of tenacity the Knicks once showed in the 1990’s with Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason and John Starks. On the road, the Liberty are 3-3, showcasing an ability to take their game elsewhere.
The WNBA only plays a 34-game regular season, putting the Liberty on pace for a 21-13 record. The NBA plays an 82-game regular season, and the Knicks won 17 games. This somehow while playing in a division that had one team with a winning record. Additionally, New York was trying to make the playoffs. This wasn’t a typical season for an NBA franchise looking to tank. No, this was Jim Dolan’s team attempting to make the playoffs after signing Carmelo Anthony to a five-year, $124 million deal in the offseason.
So, the question looms. If the 2014-15 Knicks and 2015 Liberty met at Madison Square Garden today for a game, could the NBA team topple the WNBA team?
Looking at the statistics, the Knicks are off to a rough start. Even assuming Carmelo Anthony is healthy, he doesn’t have much help around him. In 40 games last season, Anthony averaged 24.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Unquestionably, he is the best player on the court.
However, the Liberty then dominate with a collection of talent which dwarfs the Knicks. Phil Jackson put together a group consisting of Langston Galloway, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jason Smith, Andrea Bargnani, Shane Larkin and Jose Calderon. It was incredibly ugly throughout the campaign, with Knicks fans such watching this group get blown out by halftime on most nights.
Meanwhile, the Liberty are a terrific defensive team, ranking second-best in the entire league behind the Minnesota Lynx and tops in the East with 72.6 points allowed per game. Offensively, the Liberty have a potent trio in Tina Charles, Epiphanny Prince and Sugar Rodgers. Charles is leading the way with 16.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, while Prince is totaling 13.0 points (in three games). Rodgers checks in third on the club with 10.2 points per game.
The Liberty also has a solid bench, with veteran Swin Cash coming off the pine to provide valuable minutes. The team uses a 10-woman rotation to keep everyone fresh, showing off the depth that the Knicks could only dream of. One would imaging that by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Liberty would have a distinct advantage.
Ultimately, the Liberty would be able to finish off the Knicks by playing with a smaller lineup. Centers Carolyn Swords and Kiah Stokes are 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-3, respectively, and could sit for the final stanza to allow the Liberty to attack inside. Charles is 6-foot-4, giving adequate size on the wing, while the speedy duo of Prince and Rodgers, both 5-fot-9, would befuddle Calderon and Larkin.
It stands to reason Anthony might be able to cancel out Charles’ production, but the Knicks are sunk after that. Swords and Stokes would be able to overwhelm Smith and Bargnani, both known for spotty defensive play at best. Knicks head coach Derek Fisher does not have enough talent to put up against the Liberty, who would be able to wear his group down with athleticism and power, two things Fisher’s group knows nothing of.
Final score: Liberty 92, Knicks 79