Written by: Mike Ryan
Twitter: @wingspansports (click the name and give us a follow, we follow back.)
A look ahead to the New York Knicks season can be described as painful to most who root for the Knicks. The Knicks have a loyal fan base but have been let down so many times before, it’s hard to get hyped up for an upcoming year.
The New York Knicks are coming off a 31-51 season which led to them with a 12th place finish in the eastern conference standings a year ago. It was another failed season of the Phil Jackson era. An era which was better known for the off court circus that surrounded the franchise rather than solid production on the basketball court.
Gone now is Phil Jackson. His replacement Scott Perry will have the task of rebuilding the franchise and rebuilding the brand of the New York Knicks. Perry needs to make Madison Square Garden an attractive free agent destination again. A place where NBA stars would consider when they make the move to depart their former team.
The Phil Jackson three year tenure was not a complete failure as most would consider it to be. Jackson signed Joakim Noah to a 4 year $72 million contract last offseason. A move that may be consider the worst contract in the NBA (Chandler Parsons deal with the Memphis Grizzlies may be more franchise damning than Noah’s).
Jackson then traded for Derrick Rose and Rose lasted only one season in New York as Rose was never able to shake past injuries and return to his former self. Rose was not a willing enough passer to fit with the ball dominant Carmelo Anthony and with emerging star Kristaps Porzingis. Rose’s style of play just interfered with the Knicks bests players. The Knicks decided to let Rose walk and Rose agreed to a one year veteran minimum deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, the Rose deal was not a complete disaster for the Knicks.
The Knicks have always been a franchise decimated with draft picks since early management moved the picks in awful deals. Jackson emphasized acquiring draft picks and was able to pick up 2017 second rounder in the Rose trade from the Bulls. The pick was used on 23 year old shooting guard Daymean Dotson from the University of Houston. Dotson profiles as a three and D wing in the NBA and has the size and shooting ability to develop into role.
This offseason saw the Knicks lose 5 players to free agency. Derrick Rose, Justin Hoilday (Bulls), Marshall Plumlee (Clippers), Sasha Vujavic (Italy) and Maurice N’Dour (free agent) have all departed the team.
The Knicks replaced those five players with Frank Ntlilikina (8th overall pick), Tim Hardaway Jr., Michael Beasley, Ramon Sessions and Daymean Dotson (44th overall pick).
Just by comparing the players added to the one’s that departed, it is clear the Knicks are a better team heading into the 2017-2018 season. Here’s what each player can add heading into next season:
Frank Ntilikina- The 8th overall pick will likely start the season as the backup point guard. Ntilikina has long arms and great size at his position. He is also further along in his development that his age would suggest. People forget, Ntilikina was the youngest player in the draft. His has a solid shooting range and is used to playing in a free flowing offensive set. His defense will be his biggest asset in year one.
Tim Hardaway Jr. – Hardaway was brought back from the Atlanta Hawks on a 4 year $70 million deal. For everyone saying this is another Joakim Noah contract, that is simply illogical. Hardaway is 25 years old, just entering his prime and is coming off the best season of his career. Hardaway scored 14.5 points per game on 35.7% shooting from three in 27.3 minutes of action. Having Hardaway and Lee both at the 2 spot ensures the Knicks will be strong at the shooting guard position for 48 minutes every night.
Michael Beasley – Beasley can still score the basketball and will be the Knicks go to offensive option off the bench if Hardaway moves to the starting lineup. Beasley will move right in as the backup 4 being an immediate offensive threat. Beasley will allow the Knicks to go small and allow the Knicks to play Porzingis at the 5 more often. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 9.4 points per game on 53.3% shooting from the field and 41.9% from three. That type of production will go along way on the Knicks bench.
Ramon Sessions – Sessions is a veteran point guard who will be tasked with mentoring Ntlikina and Ron Baker. Sessions will not see a majority of the minutes but will likely open the season as the starter. Sessions knows his role and will be able to get the ball to Anthony and Porzingis.
Damyean Dotson – touched up on him above.
These five players will be more valuable to the Knicks current roster than the five they had let go of before. The addition of these 5 guys should improve the Knicks 31 win mark from a year ago.
Add the continued development of Porzingis (all star potential this season?), Willy Henrangomez (will start as the team’s center.. Double – Double guy in year 2?), Ron Baker (shooitng percentages need to improve but was the best defender at PG last year) and the Knicks already have a solid young core in place.
Carmelo Anthony has still yet to be moved and it’s looking like he’ll be a Knick next year. Courtney Lee should be a lot better in a sixth man role. He’ll be able to provide solid floor spacing and defense to the second unit. Kyle O’Quinn showed growth last year and is a solid option as the first big off the bench.
This all leads to the Knicks current depth chart being:
PG: Ramon Sessions
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Kristaps Porzingis
C: Willy Hernangomez
PG: Frank Ntlikina
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Lance Thomas
PF: Michael Beasley
C: Kyle O’Quinn
PG: Ron Baker
SG: Damyean Dotson
SF: Mindaguas Kuzminskas
PF: Nigel Hayes (two way contract)
C: Joakim Noah
Looking at the roster, is it far fetched to believe the Knicks may actually be a sleeper playoff team? It’s certainly not a bad roster and is much improved from a year ago. The eastern conference became significantly weaker this off-season.
The Cavs, Celtics, Wizards, Raptors, Bucks seem to be locks for the playoffs. The Heat are on that way as well. The Pacers, Hawks, Bulls, Nets are virtually eliminated prior to the season starting. That leaves the Knicks, 76ers, Pistons, Magic, Hornets battling it for the final two spots. It’s not hard to imagine the Knicks being in the playoffs if everything goes correctly this season.
Jeff Hornacek has a lot on the line in year two as head coach but the Knicks are in a better position for success this season. It’s a fair expectation to believe the team may battle for playoff position. Time will tell, but count me as one of those people who believe the Knicks had a good off-season.
*All statistics used from Basketballreference.com