NBA Off-Season Preview: New York Knicks
Record (32-50) Madison Square Garden has had a handful of tough years to deal with when it comes to New York Knicks basketball, although this season showed hopes of that coming to an end. There were of course numerous players who were inconsistent when it came to their shot, as well as players who were injured for chunks of the season; this alone does not explain finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs again. Part of that falls on Phil Jackson firing Derek Fisher and putting in interim coach Kurt Rambis, who did not get Jackson the wins he coveted. Part of that is Carmelo Anthony needs help (which he sort of got with that Kristaps guy). But in reality, it’s mostly due to the Knicks not really building a team built for today’s NBA. To start out with the positives, first let’s start with the two most exciting words Knicks fans are (now) saying: Kristaps Porzingis. The Rookie of the Year runner-up was booed and frankly written off by many (including yours truly) as a team grasping for that next great European basketball player. While it’s still up for discussion as to whether he’ll be another Dirk Nowitzki or Arvydas Sabonis, the Latvian big man put up unexpected numbers and gave Carmelo Anthony a much-needed second scorer. While it’s likely that he’ll need to bulk up a bit to hang in the blocks with the elite big men like Cousins and Drummond, he provides excitement and hope for the future. That future, however, requires some help for the Knicks’ dynamic duo. The first thing that should help the Knicks is new coach Jeff Hornacek. The former Phoenix Suns head coach should be able to better execute an offense that did very poorly when it came to fast-breaks this past season. Hornacek will first need to figure out how Jackson still wants to implement his notorious triangle offense, while at the same time utilizing the strengths of the pieces the team has. The first step may be to switch who starts at point guard. Hornacek has stated starting a younger point guard may be in the plans, and the best way to address that would be to simply switch Calderon to the back-up point guard, and make Jerian Grant the starter. Their stats were quite similar this year, and Grant was consistently able to drive to the hoop, which would definitely help create opportunities for himself and his teammates. Another way to help the Knicks push the pace would be to better allocate minutes between Afflalo, Galloway, and Vujacic; this would help to keep fresher legs, and provide rest for Afflalo while Galloway and Vujacic could potentially see more playing time and improve their shot. Finally, as far as the current personnel goes, it would be wise to create a Porzingis-Robin Lopez-Kyle O’Quinn rotation at the 4/5 position, as this would make the line-up smaller, and would provide more rest for Porzingis, who undoubtedly would need it as the season wears on and he is starting most games. Shifting Derrick Williams and Lance Thomas to the 4 spot could also help a smaller line-up happen. Lastly, the Knicks have no draft picks in this year’s draft unless they make some Draft Day deals; they’ve traded them all away in previous seasons. The best move that the Knicks can look for is to unload Lou Amundson and Kevin Seraphin, and hope to get a guard that can stretch the floor and provide support on both ends of the court; perhaps Leandro Barbosa, Norris Cole, or Aaron Brooks would fit.
NBA Off-Season Previews
Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics – Brooklyn Nets – New York Knicks – Philadelphia 76ers – Toronto Raptors Central Division: Chicago Bulls – Cleveland Cavaliers – Detroit Pistons – Indiana Pacers – Milwaukee Bucks Southeast Division: Atlanta Hawks – Charlotte Hornets – Miami Heat – Orlando Magic – Washington Wizards Southwest Division: Dallas Mavericks – Houston Rockets – Memphis Grizzlies – New Orleans Pelicans – San Antonio Spurs Northwest Division: Denver Nuggets – Minnesota Timberwolves – Oklahoma City Thunder – Portland Trail Blazers – Utah Jazz Pacific Division: Golden State Warriors – Los Angeles Clippers – Los Angeles Lakers – Phoenix Suns – Sacramento Kings