Where do the Knicks stand?
Life as a New York Knicks fan can be a struggle.
As we get closer to the start of the NBA season, I felt that it was finally time to step back and look at the outlook for the Knicks this upcoming season and beyond.
Last season went about as wrong as it could for the Knicks. After exceeding expectations to start the season, with Kristaps Porzingis looking like a budding star, the entire thing came crashing down in one play.
It started off beautifully, with Kyle O’Quinn dropping a beautiful bounce pass to a cutting KP. Porzingis would finish off the pass with a dunk on Giannis Antetokounmpo, but landed awkwardly, grasping his knee.
In the most Knicks fashion ever, Porzingis tore his ACL.
Boom season over. 2018-19 season in jeopardy.
Why can’t we have nice things as Knicks fans?
With Porzingis out, the 2018-19 outlook looks bleak.
Should the “Unicorn” return this season, it most likely won’t be until after the All-Star break.
The Knicks putrid record without Porzingis (7-27), led to Jeff Hornacek’s firing and the Knicks ended up with the 9th pick in the draft.
The Knicks hired a new head coach in David Fizdale, who is widely regarded around the league as a defensive minded, players’ coach.
I love the Fizdale hiring, as I think the Knicks need to become a more defensive oriented team, especially considering the fact that they do not have a proven scorer (outside of Porzingis) on the roster.
Following a similar path to what Fizdale accomplished in Memphis or what Quin Snyder is doing with the Jazz, would better suit the Knicks for playoff contention.
The biggest move of the Knicks offseason came when they drafted former University of Kentucky forward Kevin Knox.
Knox lit up the NBA Summer League, averaging 21.3 points per game to go with 6.5 rebounds. He finished second behind Lakers second-year guard Josh Hart in scoring among players who played in at least three games, and led all rookies in the category.
Knox has the makings of an elite scorer. He’s 6’9 with nearly a seven-foot wingspan and can score in so many ways.
His game reminds me a lot of Celtics forward Jayson Tatum who not only had a monster rookie year, but looked to really come into his own during the playoffs.
This season will be key for Knox, as with the Knicks lack of scoring talent, he should be leaned on to be a key contributor in the team’s offense.
The Knicks also got solid summer leagues from second-round pick Mitchell Robinson, who led the summer league averaging four blocks per game and Allonzo Trier.
Robinson figures to play a role behind Enes Kanter, as the Knicks lost O’Quinn to Indiana in free agency.
Trier, the former Arizona guard, will compete for minutes at point guard along with Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Burke and last season’s first round pick Frank Ntilikina.
The additions and subtractions from last year’s team to this year looked like this:
Noah Vonleh (Free Agency)
Mario Hezonja (Free Agency)
Kevin Knox (Draft)
Mitchell Robinson (Draft)
Allonzo Trier (Undrafted Free Agent)
Kyle O’Quinn (Signed with Pacers)
Jarrett Jack (Free Agent)
Michael Beasley (Signed with Lakers)
The loss of O’Quinn hurts, as he was the defensive anchor in the second unit, but it opens up playing time for Robinson.
The Knicks aren’t going to be contending this year, so getting Knox and Robinson, along with Ntilikina as much playing time as possible will be key.
New York also has some big financial decisions to make in the coming season.
General Manager Scott Perry will have to decide what he plans on doing with Joakim Noah and his massive contract. The team has said that they plan to use the NBA’s stretch provision to waive Noah and stretch his contract over the next five seasons so it counts less against the cap.
However, the longer New York waits to do that, the more money they can save for future seasons.
The Knicks could also work on a buyout with Noah, which would force them to pay him the remainder of his deal, but it is possible that they could have him forfeit some money should he find another team that would like his services.
This is key in the Knicks attempt to open at least one, if not two max-contract slots next offseason.
With Kyrie Irving the team’s number one priority, and Irving himself expressing interest, it is key that the Knicks move some contracts to at least give themselves as chance to bring Irving aboard.
The Knicks could also trade Courtney Lee, who has two years remaining on the 4-year $48 million dollar deal he signed in 2016.
Lee’s contract is much more palatable to teams, especially a contender who is looking for a solid “three and D” guy.
Trading Lee or Tim Hardaway Jr. would free up the space for the Knicks to sign one max player in the offseason, especially if they renounce their rights to Enes Kanter, who will become a free agent next June.
New York also has to decide whether or not they want to offer a max extension to Porzingis.
Perry has been adamant that the team plans to wait to see how the star big man does in his recovery, but if the Knicks lose Porzingis because they fail to offer him the max, the franchise would be right back to square one.
The extension would be in the neighborhood of 5-years $157 million, a hefty price for a player coming off a major knee injury.
Regardless, the Knicks have some decisions making to do in the coming season.
With the chances of them contending being extremely slim, it is likely that at least Lee and possibly Kanter as well will be gone by the trade deadline.
The Knicks need to showcase their young talent this season before turning their focus to building a contender in the summer of 2019.