The New Look Knicks
The New York Knicks suffered through a strange 2015-16 NBA season. They finished the year 32-50, fired their incompetent coach Derek Fisher who found himself in a love triangle with current NBA player Matt Barnes. In addition to that, they did not have their first-round pick thanks to the Andrea Bargnani trade in 2013--SERIOUSLY--so the Knicks knew they had to be aggressive this offseason. And without a 1st round pick, everyone expected a quiet draft week, but the Knicks wanted to make sure they did not stay out of the spotlight for too long.
The Knicks acquired Derrick Rose, Justin Holliday, and a 2017 2nd round pick for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon, and Jerian Grant. This is a move that everyone will have a negative opinion on but it breaks down to these questions, will Rose get back to his MVP form from 2010-2011 when he averaged 25 ppg and 7.7 apg? The answer to that is simple...NO.
*Photo via Getty Images
That part of Rose’s career is finished, but that’s ok as that is not who the Knicks traded for. The Knicks were trading for the Rose we saw after the All-Star break, 17.1 ppg and 4.3 apg while shooting 37% from three point range. Rose is an incredible upgrade over the Calderon/Grant combination which was the worst point guard combo in the NBA last year. This is a guard driven league, and even with Rose being an average player, he is still a major upgrade from what they were working with last season. Many pundits have been blasting the trade for Rose as a “classic Knicks move” of trading for a washed up superstar, but what value did the Knicks really give up? Yes, Lopez has great value on his current deal--especially compared to the great Timofey Mozgov in LA--but is he a fit in today’s NBA with his inability to defend on the perimeter and lack of an outside shot? Jerian Grant was a first round pick in 2015, but he’s going to be 24 years old before the season starts, and with his struggles last year, it seems as if the Knicks viewed him as nothing more than a backup.
The Knicks had to take the chance on Rose, best case scenario, he has a great year and they can sign him to an extension. Worst case? They can go to free agency in 2017 and hope to sign one of the many great free agent point guards on the market--those Russell Westbrook rumors are starting to circulate. It is not nearly as big of a risk as the media is leading it out to be.
The trade for Rose did have significance for the Knicks in terms of their big picture outlook, it meant that they were NOT going to view the 2016-17 season as a time to rebuild, they now moved into win now mode, and with glaring needs at shooting guard and center, the Knicks had to be aggressive. Every single team in the NBA had a big target in free agency, his name was Kevin Durant. However, with the Knicks lack of success these past few seasons, they could not even get a Hamptons meeting with KD--especially hurtful when it was right in the Knicks’ vicinity too.
*Photo via Healthaim.com
With KD not being a realistic target, the Knicks had their eyes set on a local kid, Joakim Noah. Noah signed for 4 years and 70 million--do not complain about the dollars when you see what Mozgov got--and he is an excellent fit next to Kristaps Porzingis, Noah can do all of the dirty work, is an excellent passer for a big man, does not care about scoring, and more than anything, Noah’s passion for the game will fit in perfectly at a rejuvenated Madison Square Garden. There are some questions about this signing, and the most glaring one is clear, can Noah play 70+ games? Noah has been decimated by injuries during his entire career, including major shoulder and knee surgeries. It was a risk the Knicks needed to take, and with the rising cap, that big contract will not be a major issue for this team.
The Knicks had a hole at shooting guard and they were able to lock in Courtney Lee at a reported 4 years and 50 million. This is a great signing, Lee fits the 3-and-D mold perfectly and does not need the ball to be successful, which is a great fit next to the ball dominant Anthony and Rose. Lee made 39% of his 3’s while in Charlotte and that will be massive in creating space for the Knicks’ offense. This signing is less flashy than Noah but may prove to have a greater impact on the team’s success next year as Melo and Rose are both not strong defenders.
The Knicks also had a few under the radar signings and re-signings to add some depth to the roster after the initial absurdity of free agency this year. The Knicks added Brandon Jennings on a one-year deal worth a reported 5 million dollars. Jennings has long been rumored to be on the Knicks wishlist but even after an injury riddled few years, getting Jennings for that price is a bargain, and with the injury risks of Rose, the Knicks needed to have another capable point guard.
The Knicks also re-signed Lance Thomas with a four-year contract.Thomas improved dramatically last season and even became one of the few bright spots on what was a disappointing season. Thomas is the quintessential 3-and-D needed in today’s NBA. Thomas shot 40% from 3 last year and will surely be an integral part to the team’s bench unit.
In addition to Thomas, the Knicks also brought in two European players with Willy Hernangomez and Mindaugas Kuzminskas. Hernangomez is much more heralded of the two as he was the Knicks 2nd round pick in 2015. He is a big body that has a soft-touch around the basket. He is going to be a project, but this Knicks team can always use more young talent and assets as they did spend on mostly older players this offseason. Kuzminskas is more of a mystery, he went undrafted all the way back in 2011 but has quietly been developing his game and averaged over 11 points a game in the Spanish league last season. A complete no-risk move for the team and if he develops and produces anything, it is a pleasant surprise.
Porzingis is the future, and it is a bright one as the Knicks unquestionably have one of the best young talents in the NBA. In New York, winning matters, and this team needs to find a way to develop their young talent while still competing. It’s up to Jeff Hornacek and Phil Jackson to get this team to win and compete with the upper echelon teams in the NBA while also developing their young stud. For now Knicks fans, take a breath, this team is good enough to make the playoffs, and for a team that has made the playoffs 3 times in the past 12 years, that’s enough.
Info and stats courtesy of b-ball reference and realgm