New York Knicks Preview
Things in New York have not been goink well of late.
The Knicks finished last season with a record of 31–51. In typical Knicks fashion they went 4–5 over their last nine games to ensure that they didn’t have better lottery odds than Philly or Minnesota (who lost 8 straight and 6 straight to close the year, respectively). This was a disastrous season for New York. Porzingis didn’t show a ton of improvement, partially due to the system (Derrick Rose) not allowing him to get a ton of touches. Phil Jackson had been flirting with trading Carmelo Anthony and Anthony had in turn done some flirting of his own. Team owner James Dolan had one of the biggest fan favorites in the history of the franchise ejected and dragged out of a game. And this is to say nothing of Derrick Rose going missing, Dolan calling fans alcoholics, or Phil Jackson recently trying to trade Kristpas Porzingis. But then, finally, out of this pile of rubble and refuse some people call a basketball team, a glimmer of hope.
Knicks fans are sure to be thrilled about the firing of Phil Jackson, but the timing of this move obviously could have been handled better. For one thing, owner James Dolan had just picked up Jackson’s two year option in April. With even an ounce of foresight, Dolan could’ve seen this coming and saved himself some money to screen print more JD & The Straight Shot shirts. Secondly, this is one of the most important couple of weeks of the year for NBA teams. The draft just happened, free agency starts Saturday, and trades and rumors are flying left and right. On the bright side, Phil was never actually the Knicks GM. Steve Mills is certainly capable of steering the Knicks for the short term, though one wonders if Dolan’s next move will be to bring in another higher profile GM. New York has long been interested in Masai Ujiri, and David Griffin was recently let go by Cleveland, so there are no shortage of options. But the bottom line is that Knicks fans should celebrate today on what is arguably the best day for the franchise this century.
Draft From The Past:
The Knicks had the 8th pick in this year’s draft and were able to select Frank Ntilikina out of France. Ntilikina is a point guard whose best assets are his length and passing vision. French Frank stands at 6’5” with a whopping wingspan of 7 feet. Finding a comparison for him is tough because of his unique measurables, but he’s in the mold of guys like Shawn Livingston, Dante Exum, and George Hill. Going way back into the time machine, Knick fans might sees echoes of Mark Jackson in Ntilikina when it comes to his defense and passing ability. Ntilikina is an extremely risky pick (ESPN’s metrics gave him both the highest chance of becoming an All-Star and the highest chance of becoming a bust out of all of the prospects in this year’s draft class) who was partially drafted due to how he would fit the triangle offense, but if he can approach his ceiling, Knick fans will turn into devout Frankophiles. If he can improve his jumper and his passing translates to the NBA, he could form a formidable pairing with Kristaps Porzingis going forward.
Free Agency Tinder Superlike
This sort of comes down to what the Knicks are hoping to do this upcoming season. Though they fired Phil, the roster is still riddled with questions. Do they want to trade or buy Carmelo Anthony out in the hopes of tanking for Luka Doncic or other young guys in the 2018 draft? Or do they want to try to compete for the playoffs with more veterans like they did this past season? If the Knicks want a veteran, Jeff Teague would be a good option given his outspoken desire to play in New York. The idea of trading Melo seemed to mostly be led by Jackson, but it was one of the few things he wanted to do that actually made sense. Getting a veteran might not be the best move for the Knicks, they probably aren’t advancing past the second round (which is shaky at best), no matter who they bring in. They should turn their attention towards younger players, and they could consider Tony Snell. Although he’s a restricted free agent, the Bucks probably can’t afford to keep him without going into the tax. Snell would help the Knicks space the floor (he shot over 40% from 3 last year, the Knicks were in the bottom third of the league in 3 point shooting) and provide them with a capable wing who’s young enough to still improve.
One Defining Stat:
According to Basketball Reference, in 2016–17 Kristaps Porzingis became the first player in NBA history to average at least 1.5 made threes per game and at least 1.9 blocks per game.
How Far Away Are They?
The Knicks still have a ways to go. They first need to find some stability at the top. Jackson’s penchant for shaking things up was well documented. Though he was only with the Knicks for three years, the team ran through a number of starting lineups. There were the Afflalo/Lopez/Calderon Knicks, and there were the Rose/Noah/Lee Knicks. Two complete overhauls to the team’s core in just three seasons. Many admittedly were ecstatic when Phil was brought in, but it quickly became clear that he no longer knew what he was talking about. His biggest success, drafting Kristaps Porzingis, probably would not have even happened if the Knicks had the 3rd pick instead of the 4th. Jackson loved Okafor for strange reasons, and had both been there, Jah would’ve been a Knick. Now that the Phil Jackson era is over, the Knicks can finally start building towards something.
The Up & Under:
The Up: Best case scenario, the Knicks keep Carmelo Anthony until the trade deadline and are able to get decent return (a first round pick and maybe a risky young player with high upside but a low floor). The team bottoms out in 2017–18 with a record of 23–59, but builds the offense around Porzingis, making him into the team’s number one option. The Knicks get a top 3 pick in next year’s draft and select Luka Doncic or Michael Porter to go with Ntilikina and Porzingis. New York then has a good young trio, draft picks, no Phil, and a ton of cap space heading into free agency of 2018.
The Under: Worst case scenario, this was all an elaborate publicity stunt by Dolan in order to get more buzz around him and The Straight Shot. Phil is not actually fired. The Knicks trade Porzingis to the Celtics for Marcus Smart and the rights to Jayson Tatum. They keep Melo for some reason and re-sign Derrick Rose. The team finishes 11th in the East at 33–49 and gets the 9th pick in the draft. Phil says he’s going to hold a press conference and everyone assumes he’s finally stepping down for real this time. Instead, he shares that he spent all of the time he was supposed to be scouting working on an elixir to give one person eternal life. He chugs the potion and then immediately signs a lifetime contract to stay on as the Knicks GM. He then brings his former teammate and Knicks color analyst Clyde Frazier up to the podium and rips off his leopard print suit. He cradles Clyde’s naked body in his arms and drinks the blood out of his neck as Clyde exclaims, “Jordan and Kobe used to admire, little did they know Phil was a vampire!” Clyde turns to look at a camera to punctuate his rhyme but all of the press have fled the scene as Phil has grown to 19 feet tall, blood dripping from his fangs. Phil’s reign continues until 3582 when Charles Oakley XXXVII finally slays him by tricking him into smoking a satanic strain of peyote. The Knicks go 21–61.