2016-17 Knicks Season Review
It was yet another woeful season from top to bottom for the Knicks. On the court, they were mediocre. The additions of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah did not do much to help the team, which went 31-51. While Rose showed some flashes of his old self, Noah’s body is obviously breaking down. He played just 46 games before going down with some significant injuries.
Carmelo Anthony also had his moments, but at 32 he’s no longer able to consistently deliver at a high level. Meanwhile, their one bright spot—Kristaps Porzingis—was limited to just 66 games due to injuries. He still had a fine season as he averaged 18 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks, but the Latvian didn’t quite make the same leap to stardom that fellow second-year players Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic managed.
Rookies Willy Hernangomez, Ron Baker, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas all made positive contributions, although they figure to be more rotational pieces as opposed to star-caliber players.
As bad as things were on the court, they were even more disastrous off it. There was Rose’s surprise disappearance. Phil Jackson continued meddling in team matters and maintained his crusade to run Melo out of town. There was also the ugly James Dolan-Charles Oakley beef. And, let’s not forget about Porzingis skipping on the team’s exit interviews. The Knicks well and truly earned the right to keep their title of most dysfunctional franchise in the league.
As long as Jackson is in charge—and he figures to be for the foreseeable future—the outlook for the Knicks continues to be bleak, both in this offseason and beyond.
Quick Offseason Breakdown
Potential Free Agents: Ron Baker (Restricted), Justin Holiday (Unrestricted), Derrick Rose (Unrestricted), Sasha Vujacic (Unrestricted)
Partial/Non-Guaranteed Contracts: Maurice N’dour, Marshall Plumlee, Chasson Randle
2017 Draft Picks (3): #8, #44, #58
Cap Space Range: ~$15 million
The Knicks spent a lot of money on the Noah and Courtney Lee signings last offseason, and they are currently well over the cap. However, they can instantly open up around $15 million in space if they renounce Rose’s $30 million cap hold.
In terms of picks, they fell one spot to No. 8 after the lottery, but they should still be in a good position to get a very good player in this deep draft. They’ll also have a couple of second-rounders to work with.
Biggest Offseason Priorities
Resolve the Carmelo Anthony situation
The Knicks’ offseason should be considered a rousing success if they somehow find a way to resolve the Anthony dilemma. And, to be clear, “resolve” means he finally leaves New York since Jackson’s likely not going anywhere. The franchise simply won’t get to move forward while he’s on the team. To be fair, it still might not be any good as long as James Dolan and Jackson are in charge, but this feels like the most feasible solution for both parties.
Whether it comes through a trade, a buyout or even an outright release, the Knicks just have to cut their losses with Melo. They simply can’t afford to go through another season dealing with the feud between the team president and their most high-profile player, not only because of all the dysfunction it will cause to the entire franchise, but because it’ll only alienate their prized asset, Kristaps Porzingis, even more.
One way or another, the Melo saga needs to end this summer.
2. Pick the point guard of the future
Losing Melo would obviously open up a huge void in the frontcourt, but for now the Knicks’ most pressing roster need is at point guard. There’s still a chance the Knicks bring back Rose because Jackson is an incompetent executive, and it’ll be a huge mistake if that does happen. Giving Rose a long-term deal would be just as bad as the Noah signing. Rose just doesn’t have a ton of upside at this stage of his career, and he would keep the Knicks locked into their current cycle of mediocrity.
Luckily for the Knicks, they have the No. 8 pick in a draft that is chock full of promising point guard prospects. They obviously won’t sniff the top-tier talents like Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, or even De’Andre Fox, but NC State’s Dennis Smith and Frank Ntilikina from France figure to be right in their draft range. Both are young, possess a lot of upside, and would be well worth the pick given the Knicks’ pressing need at the position.
3. Get better shooters
You’d think a team with a 7-foot-3 unicorn like Porzingis would be a pretty deadly 3-point shooting team, but the Knicks were anything but last season. They finished tied for 23rd in 3-pointers made per game at 8.6, and 21st in 3-point percentage at 35 percent. Melo and Courtney Lee were good shooting the 3, but it was a steep drop off thereafter.
Some improvement from Kuzminskas would help after he shot a rather disappointing 33 percent in his rookie year. But, they could still stand to add a lot more shooting on their bench, and that means finding upgrades to the likes of Vujacic and Holiday, who are both free agents.
The Knicks won’t have a ton of room to go after the top-caliber shooters in the market, but they could maybe offer veterans like Nick Young and Bojan Bogdanovic more money on short-term deals.