2017-18 Preview: New York Knicks

By Josh Eberley #41

The New York Knicks have scrubbed the books and a fresh start is suddenly very much in view. Well, it’s the Knicks and you’ve heard this before but things might be different this time. The team has low expectations but almost no immediate drama plaguing them from the inside. Team president Phil Jackson is gone and with him the mind games, shadow articles and indefensible front office-player feuds. Carmelo Anthony is gone and with him a clear commitment to a new era of basketball. Love him or hate him, Anthony’s tenure was the most exciting part of a lackluster chapter of Knicks basketball. A chapter that produced very few meaningful or intriguing moments of actual basketball. That’s not all on Anthony, but this divorce was overdue. Hopefully the Knicks re-evaluate giving a middling star a max contract with a no-trade clause in the future. It’s not all doom and gloom, Knick faithful. TheKnicks replaced Anthony with a talent who believes himself on par with LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Welcome to New York, Michael Beasley.

Knicks 2017-18 Ballhandlers Wings Bigs
Returners Ron Baker Lance Thomas, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Courtney Lee Kyle O’Quinn, Joakim Noah, Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez
Newcomers Frank Ntilikina, Ramon Sessions, Jarrett Jack Doug McDermott, Tim Hardaway Jr., Michael Beasley, Damyean Dotson Enes Kanter
Gone Derrick Rose, Chasson Randle Carmelo Anthony, Justin Holiday, Maurice Ndour, Marshall Plumlee
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Offense: The Knicks cut ties with their president but not before he got one more crack at the draft. After Dennis Smith Jr.’s explosive summer league showing, many Knicks fans are lamenting Jackson’s choice to pass on Smith Jr. but New York should give Frank Ntilikina a chance. Ntilikina has impressive length, a good outside shot and has already played amongst men overseas. He’s a capable combo guard who should be able to play on and off ball at the NBA level.

Next to Ntilikina is both a fellow newcomer and an old acquaintance Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway’s first time in Gotahm didn’t go so well but he grew some as an Atlanta Hawk and apparently warranted a huge raise and homecoming to the team that drafted him 24th overall in 2013. Hardaway is talented but brings some of that dreaded mamba mentality with him. He wants the ball and he’s not worried about his shooting splits. When the Knicks parted from Anthony and Rose it opened the door to a more team-friendly play style; blending Hardaway into that mentality will be major key. Enes Kanter (who came in the Anthony deal with OKC) is a proven and dependable scorer. The Knicks have options at the 3 spot vacated by Carmelo—Beasley, Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas all have arguments for major run. The 18th ranked offense may see a platoon approach in replacing the minutes Anthony once commanded.

Kristaps Porzingis was the people’s pick as the player to be featured on the team and now he’s going to get that chance. Porzingis’ unique combination of size, three-point range and post moves are worth getting excited about. The unicorn worked out with Dirk Nowitzki this offseason and shined brightly for Latvia at Eurobasket this summer. His 23.6 PPG ranked third in the tournament and he did it efficiently on over 53 percent shooting. Opposite of Porzingis, the Knicks have a decision at center. Joakim Noah has been a major disappointment to date, hell, he’s been a garbage disposal for team funds but the buzz out of camp has been positive. If Noah is healthy and anywhere near the player he was three to four years ago, the Knicks would benefit immensely. Ntilikina isn’t a great playmaker at this point and Noah used to be one of the best passing big men. Even in a reduced role, the Knicks could really use another quality ball mover to ferry the offense between Hardaway and Porzingis.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Defense: The Knicks had the 26th ranked defense last season, a pitiful mark that can be attributed to a million factors that are all equally depressing. Noah, a former defensive player of the year was supposed to help clean that all up but injuries, suspensions and front office incompetence never gave the Knicks a chance.

This year, the Knicks are hoping Noah gives them some life but if he doesn’t come through, they could look at moving Porzingis to the center position. Porzingis might not have the body type to bang with other big men but he’s their best rim protector and his defensive impact grows immensely the closer he is to the rim. Willy Hernangomez is a capable offensive frontcourt mate for Porzingis but it’s unclear whether he’s a positive defensively. Only one of the five three-man lineups containing both Hernangomez and Porzingis had a positive net rating. (Minimum 200 minutes played.) While the Knicks could use Kanter’s offense, he’ll saddle the team with his poor defense on the other end.

Thomas and Ntilikina should both be positives defensively but how the Knicks improve upon last year’s defensive woes is a mystery. Even their coach isn’t optimistic. Jeff Hornacek was fairly adamant both last year and this year that they do not have enough quality defensive players.

Upside: There were times last year where basketball took a backseat to in-house drama. Anthony and Jackson were at odds and Jackson did everything in his power to look insane in the handling of that situation. Porzingis rebelled and Rose went MIA. It was a cluster of nausea to the outside world and the elimination of all that garbage speaks to some sort of improvement.

Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Durability: With the internal chaos subsiding, the next big worry is the healthy of Porzingis. He missed 10 games his rookie season and 16 games last year. He’s already dinged his hip up in preseason and his durability is a major concern. If Porzingis can’t stay healthy and out on the floor this season is a write off. If he and Noah are both healthy for 70 plus games, we might get an actual look at what this team is capable of.

Synergy: The Knicks have had major turnover. Hardaway’s homecoming for sure but add in a rookie guard and veterans with bigger personalities than they are likely to have roles (Beasley and  Kanter) and you can see how this is all up in the air. The Knicks need to find their feet fast. Even in a weak Eastern Conference, a 31-win team that lost their most prominent player can’t afford to fall behind early.

Experience: Noah got on an MVP ballot once. It’s a comical story that we will all look back on with wonder years from now but part of that validation was due to his motor and leadership in Chicago. Porzingis is the star but Noah knows what it takes to win in this league and if he’s checked in this year it’d go a long way in shaping the new direction Knicks.

Win frame: 29-34 wins

2017-18 HOOP Season Preview

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