Why Stephen A. Smith thinks New York is the second most dangerous team in the East

The New York Knicks’ biggest obstacle to a playoff run this season just might be… the New York Knicks. At 54-14, the Boston Celtics are head-and-shoulders the best team in the Eastern Conference, a full 10 games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks 44-24, currently the No. 2 seed in the East. New York, the fourth seed (and in the midst of a four-game winning streak), is 13 games behind at a still stellar 41-27. Appearing this morning on his essential ESPN show “First Take,” the inimitable Stephen A. Smith explained why he believed New York had a legitimate shot at taking down the best team in the East by record in the postseason.

“If the Knicks heal with OG [Anunoby] and Julius Randle, will they be the biggest threat to the Celtics?” Molly Qerim asked. Anunoby has a surgically repaired right elbow that appears to have re-aggravated over the weekend. After missing 18 games, he’s a bit of a blow. Randle, the team’s only other All-Star other than point guard Jalen Brunson, has been out with a separated shoulder for months.

“Let me tell you something: If the New York Knicks get healthy, I believe they will be the No. 1 threat to the Boston Celtics,” Smith said. “I think they’re going to the Conference Finals. Obviously there’s a lot to ask. Julius Randle, separated shoulder, I don’t know if he’ll ever be healthy [this season]… He can be at least 20 games over .500 if Julius Randle [ had never been hurt].”

“Don’t get me started on OG Anunoby and how efficient they were on defense,” Smith explained. “Mitchell Robinson, if I had that big body, a rebounder, a shot blocker, the defense is already elite without him. Imagine what they would have been with him. So I’m looking at it from that point of view. I love the pickup of [ Alec] Burks, [Precious] Achiuwa and obviously [Bojan] Bogdanovic. I’m watching the New York Knicks right now… If the New York Knicks get healthy, they’ll go to the Conference Finals.”