Going into this NBA season, experts and fans alike thought that the New York Knicks would be a playoff team in the weak Eastern Conference. But now at the end of the regular season, the Knicks will be staying home. Many fans are angry that this team of washed-up vets was assembled in the first place. They would’ve preferred for the Knicks to build around “Unicorn” Kristaps Porzingis, and get some key pieces to help him. The blame can be split between Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony, but the majority of the fan base is choosing to berate the former.
So, just how bad is the Knicks’ situation? I have the answer.
The Mistakes Made
In order to find a solution to the madness, we first need to address the most recent mistakes this team has made. The first roadblock was trading for Derrick Rose. As of right now, Rose is injured with a torn meniscus. He will most likely not be re-signed by the team, especially if he is expecting a max contract, which he certainly doesn’t deserve. He showed some great flashes but failed to reach even the 20 points per game mark, and his atrocious defense didn’t make up for it. Additionally, in that trade the Knicks had to give up a quality center in Robin Lopez, whose contract is proving to be inexpensive compared with the guy that replaced him, Joakim Noah.
The second mistake was signing Brandon Jennings, who was a wasted trial and didn’t do anything significant except for trash talking the Knicks after joining his new team, the Washington Wizards. And the last, but certainly not least mistake, was signing Joakim Noah. GM Phil Jackson signed Noah to an awful 4-year, $72 million contract. Noah did not live up to that deal in the slightest. He played horribly, got injured, and was suspended for 20 games for using a substance that was banned by the NBA. I’m assuming that’s not what Jackson had in mind when he handed Noah a deal worth $18 million a year. The only mistake that the Knicks avoided was trying to win this season. They ended up tanking so they didn’t lose out on getting a good pick in the draft, and now have a chance of getting rid of all the players that didn’t perform (except for Noah, because no other team wants to take on that contract.)
There are some positives to this season, as the Knicks will receive a good pick in a stacked draft. The Knicks have the right young personnel for the bench, and found quality starters like Courtney Lee, and a possible starter in Guillermo Hernangomez. Ron Baker, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and Hernangomez came out of nowhere and proved they could be quality players for this team in the future. Kyle O’Quinn also had a great season. The best thing that came out of this season though is that everyone found out “the triangle” isn’t going to work. Hopefully Phil realized too.
So, Now What?
Phil Jackson is great at finding talent, so in order to win he needs to stick to that approach but not force coaches to play the triangle. He also needs to guarantee next season’s coach is defensive-minded, because lately the Knicks have completely ignored that aspect of the game.
Jackson also needs to sit down with Melo and tell him that the organization is not planning a future with him. It would be best for both parties if Melo would decline his no-trade clause. They shouldn’t ask for too much for Melo; a solid starter and a good bench player would suffice. By doing this, the Knicks will get that depth that not a lot of teams in the league have, and they already have some really good, young promising talent on the bench so another assist there would be a huge plus. The starter they get can’t be old, becuase we are looking towards the future.
In the draft this year, the Knicks should look for prospects: Dennis Smith, De’Aaron Fox, and Jonathan Isaac. (Preferably Fox because his game complements Porzingis’ very well.) The Knicks have a great potential superstar inn Porzingis, and a superb young bench that could use one or two additions. They could use a better center with better defense and rebounding to make it easier for Porzingis. All in all the Knicks are in a position where it’s hard to mess this up. Then again, Phil might just screw it up by re-signing Rose and not trading Melo. Great things could come from this team if Jackson avoids some obvious mistakes.
Carmelo Anthony’s season stats: 22.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.9 apg.
Carmelo Anthony continues to put up super numbers, and is arguably still an all star. Teams would love Carmelo if they’re looking to win now, as he is a top 25 player in the NBA. But his days with the Knicks should be limited. They are going to try and go young, and with Anthony holding up the offense, it will be difficult to develop others. Getting rid of that contract would also be a huge plus.
Derrick Rose’s season stats: 18 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.4 apg.
Rose ended up getting injured, is getting older, and didn’t play any defense. Given the amount of money that he is seeking in free agency, it would be wise for the Knicks to move on.
Kristaps Porzingis’ season stats: 18.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.5 apg.
Not bad at all for KP’s sophomore season. The Knicks absolutely have to build around him. His potential as a superstar shooting big is clear, and Porzingis should be their top priority in the future.
Courtney Lee’s season stats: 10.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.3 apg.
Courtney Lee didn’t stand out much this season, but I think he is definitely a piece to keep on the team. He is not signed to a crazy contract, compared to the ones being handed out now. He is a pretty reliable shooter, and also a great defender. The good thing about Lee is that he doesn’t affect player development at all, which is important if Porzingis is the long-term guy. Lee never holds the ball for too long, and is there to do his job, and that’s it.
Willy Hernangómez’s season stats: 7.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.2 apg.
He is a solid center. Hernangómez could definitely fit into a new young roster, and play alongside Porzingis. He just has to prove that he will put in the work and turn into a great rebounder and defensive player. One spot in the frontcourt is already set with Porzingis on the team. But having someone that could pitch in with 12-15 points and do the dirty work for Porzingis would be great to have.
I’m not going to put every single player’s stats down, but the bench has really impressed me this season. At times they have looked better than the starters! (Which isn’t saying much given how bad the starters have been this year.) Ron Baker can be a good backup point guard for the Knicks if he keeps up the hard work. Kuzminskas has shown that he is a really athletic player, and is tough to defend when his shots are falling. Kyle O’Quinn could be a starter on most teams. Luckily for the Knicks he fits their style of play perfectly. Maurice Ndour has been really energetic, and his hustle and defense could definitely cause problems for opposing benches around the NBA. Most teams do not have a lot of good talent or scorers on the bench. Incorporate a guy like Ndour in the mix, and all of a sudden the Knicks could find their bench bailing them out of games. As for Noah, releasing him might be the best option, because getting rid of that contract is important, and cutting him seems to be the only way to do it.
Who Should the Knicks Sign in Free Agency?
The New York Knicks should go after some of the following players in the coming offseason:
- Tim Hardaway Jr.
- Gordon Hayward
- TJ Warren
- Nikola Mirotic
- Mason Plumlee
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
- Otto Porter Jr.
Tim Hardaway Jr. could be utilized as a great off the bench scorer for the Knicks. He is an upgrade over Justin Holiday, and could aid the Knicks reserves as a scoring option. If they can’t get him, Caldwell-Pope is also a great option. He could even start for the Knicks. Pope is young, known for defense, and scores even more then Lee. Otto Porter Jr and Gordon Hayward are great small forwards that could start for the Knicks next season and the seasons to come as they are young, up-and-coming players. Either player would be a good replacement for Carmelo and if they could land one of them, they should make it a top priority. Hayward is less likely, as he is the far superior player, so the Knicks would probably have to settle for Porter. Nikola Mirotic is an above-average shooter and scorer. If the Knicks could bag him they would be giving up the defense and hustle of Ndour, but they would be getting an exquisite scorer to backup someone like Porzingis. TJ Warren, and Mason Plumlee are alternative signings that the Knicks could make if management doesn’t believe in the prospects of Hernangomez and Kuzminskas as everyday players.
So, if the Knicks ditch the triangle, focus on building around Porzingis, draft well, sign well, and make the right trades, (it’s a lot to ask for I know, so fans, don’t get your hopes up) maybe just maybe, the Knicks will be able to make a playoff, or even championship run in the coming seasons.