A Google search of the term “NBA analytics” results in a staggering 6 million hits. All the rage in today’s NBA, analytics is a system that compiles, processes and produces mounds of data seemingly on everything, from how a player performs on consecutive nights crossing two time zones to one’s efficiency on a Tuesday night in the third quarter if he chews Trident or Doublemint. You get the point.

Freshly minted New York Knicks President and General Manager Steve Mills has vowed to make analytics the central component of his player evaluation methodology. But as the Knicks opened their 2013-14 season last night (Wednesday) against the Milwaukee Bucks at the spectacularly redesigned Madison Square Garden, it doesn’t take someone with a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT to determine why it is highly likely the Knicks will not reach the 54-games win total they achieved last season.

While there is inarguably significant merit to utilizing analytics, a simple eye test from Mills and the rest of the Knicks honchos will reveal that the team must overachieve to replicate their second place finish in the Eastern Conference. There are many variables—injuries being the most prevalent—that could dramatically alter the conference’s balance of power. However, if all of the top contenders remain relatively healthy, the Knicks will face far better competition than they did a year ago.

Here are four keys to how the Knicks can shock the world and earn at worst a No. 3 seed heading into the postseason:

  1. Iman Shumpert must perform at an All-Star level
  2. Andrea Bargnani must channel his 2010-11 season, when he played like a No. 1 overall pick, in addition to adding three more rebounds per game to his career 4.8 averag
  3. The Knicks must be in the top half of the league in rebounding and assists, dramatically improving on their rankings of 26th and last respectively
  4. Carmelo Anthony must elevate the play of his teammates much like LeBron James, mastering the nuances that made Magic Johnson and Larry Bird all-time greats.

It’s a lot to ask, but it’s certainly doable.