In the next two weeks, the Armchair crew will be taking on the NBA Regular Season preview. We will be taking on each team individually and looking into what to expect from each.
Last Season: 17-65
Key Additions: Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant, Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams, the Matt Barnes vs. Derek Fisher blood feud.
Key Losses: Tim Hardaway Jr., Shane Larkin, Jason Smith, Cole Aldrich, Andrea Ba— who are we kidding here, really.
“Well, at least it can’t get any worse.” – Knicks fans every year. Probably.
This must be what misery feels like, because the Knicks were just that awful last year. For the most part, New York has been borderline terrible for a long time now. Ever since they either traded away a bunch of assets for a superstar who they failed to build around, or the unfortunate injury to Amar’e, or even overpaying Eddy Curry (although I still like the theory they paid him per pound).
Realistically, this team did not improve significantly on paper, but this is the east. This is such a den of unredeemable misery where a healthy Melo and a slightly improved roster should net you 30 wins and contention for the bottom seeds of the playoffs. It’s sort of like a participation trophy, except you still get to lose to the Cavs in the end.
I am not sure how much credit we should be giving Phil Jackson, who did in fact inherit what appears to be a flaming pile of garbage and very little foundation, but the excuse “doing the best he can” would not hold long for GMs with less of a legacy. Except his legacy is in coaching. Which is ironic given that Derek Fisher is either asleep, clueless, day-dreaming of Matt Barnes’ ex-wife, or a robot… He could also be a combination of the four. What I’m trying to get here is that Fish is a terrible coach and on top of that he doesn’t even have the players to run the system that he— Phil, wants to run.
There are a few key elements here that will play into the Knicks season and two major ones are Melo and Kristaps Porzingis. With Melo, we know what we get, and if healthy, he’s worth 25 wins in the East alone. Fitting him into the triangle will be tricky, and I think he should be best utilized as a stretch four for most of the line-ups, spreading out the floor and operating against slower guys. He is still a prolific scorer and even though he isn’t an exceptional passer, who is he going to pass to if he was? With Porzingis there is more mystery. How fast will he develop? Will he handle NBA schemes and more importantly NBA defences? Can he start regular season weighing in at more than 10lbs? These are all important questions, but the skill set is there. For Kristaps to get run, he will do so at the 4, cramping my Melo-Stretch Four plan and possibly limiting Knicks to less efficient line-ups with Melo at the three.
Kyle O’Quinn and Robin Lopez should shore up the post, giving Melo offensive rebounders and the whole team rim protectors when they inevitably get beat on the wing. Lopez will be a nice fit both next to Melo and in the triangle and is probably the best bet to trot out next to Kristaps while the youngster gets mauled learning the NBA game. Neither of the big men bring much offensively however. Derrick Williams is in the same boat, and he is pretty much a bust now. He is not as athletic as he used to be and his basketball IQ still hovers somewhere around “basketballs are orange and round.” He should at least bring some speed and movement to this offence as he seems to have found his niche as an average slasher.
I am not particularly high on Afflalo, and at that age he is a questionable signing for a team that should be looking to rebuild. Still, he will be the team’s best defender by default and should provide some non-Melo shooting when it comes to spacing the floor. Jerian Grant is a nice addition, but then again this is the Knicks so he’ll probably end up terrible until leaving somewhere else and becoming half decent at basketball again.
This team will still be bad defensively and stagnant offensively. They are trying to run a read and pass spacing offence with a ball dominant scorer and no passing guard on the horizon. Anywhere. Without a liable option at point guard the Knicks are kind of relegated to giving Melo even more touches on the ball, which in the Knicks case is probably their best bet anyways.
Plausible best-case scenario: Everyone over indexes on the expectations scale. Kristaps proves more NBA ready than previously thought and plays well with Melo. Derek Fisher is removed from duties (most likely by Matt Barnes) and the team starts to run a semblance of plays that may even be basketball ones. Melo stays healthy and pushes them into 7th/8th seed.
Plausible worst-case scenario: Melo has another injury and the team is once again forced to put up without their best [read: only] offensive option. Porzingis is not nearly NBA ready and gets moved off the block every time a slight draft passes through MSG on defence. Derek Fisher is removed from duties (most likely by Matt Barnes) and the team falls apart without any semblance of a system. They sign Bargnani back.