A Sweet and Sour Look at the New York Knicks
Last season the New York Knicks finished 32-50, a 15 win improvement from the previous season. That improvement was good for just the 24th best record out of the 30 teams in the association. By default the Knicks should improve given how horrid they have been in recent years and the positive moves made this summer. The question is how much better will the 2016-17 Knicks be than their predecessors?
The Optimistic Outlook:
The Knicks look poised for a strong season. Despite not having any draft picks, the team made up for it through trades and free agent signings. The two biggest acquisitions are former Bulls stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. It’s not every offseason that a team is able to acquire a former MVP and a former Defensive Player of the Year, but the Knicks did just that. Rose might not be his MVP level self, but he should continue to improve as he puts more time between him and his most recent knee injury. Rose has never had more to play for than this season, his make it or break it campaign on the largest stage in the country. Rose, playing on an expiring contract, should be more motivated than ever to excel this season. Towards the end of last season Rose showed more flashes of his explosion and his shooting improved once he was able to play without a protective mask. Noah should be the perfect fit next to Kristaps Porzingis and can still function as one of the best defensive anchors in the league. In addition he is an excellent passer. Porzingis should only be better in his 2nd season with more experience and some added muscle he put on during the summer. Carmelo Anthony is already in midseason form after a terrific run with the USA Olympic team. Anthony is still one of the premier scorers in the NBA and showed while winning his 3rd Olympic gold medal that he is capable of leading a championship team. Add in a do it all shooting guard in Courtney Lee, the potential top backup point guard in the NBA in Brandon Jennings, an underrated glue guy in Lance Thomas, and two foreign imports that excelled in Rio in Willy Hernangomez and Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and the Knicks have all the pieces to compete. If things go right there is no reason the Knicks can't finish as the second best team in the East behind the Cavs.
The Pessimistic Outlook:
While it’s fathomable for the Knicks to finish 2nd in the East, they could just as easily miss the postseason for a 4th straight season. The Knicks have so many question marks throughout the roster that it’s hard to imagine everything going their way. And of course, this is the Knicks we are talking about, a team that has consistently had nothing go their way since the turn of the century. Rather than trade Melo and build around Porzingis, the Knicks made a desperate attempt to be competitive now. Anthony, now 32, has become more and more injury prone as he ages and will soon start to decline. This doesn’t mean that Anthony will all of a sudden drop from an All-Star to a bench warmer, but it is very possible (and likely) that we have already seen peak Melo. Not to take a quote out of proportion, but to read that your top player would be content retiring without winning a championship isn’t exactly inspiring. Rose will certainly be motivated to prove that he still belongs amongst the game's elite, but does he still have it in him. So much of Rose’s game was based off his explosion and athleticism that simply isn’t at the same level it used to be. After years of watching Rose play, practice, and rehab, one would have to figure that the Bulls know more about Derrick than anyone, and they wanted nothing to do with him. At least Rose won't have to do too much to be an improvement over last year’s point guard play. Noah is yet another player the Knicks got at the wrong part of his career. Noah is a near lock to miss at least 10 games a season and his effectiveness when he does play has regressed. Rather than signing a safe point guard to backup the injury prone Rose, the Knicks went out and signed another boom or bust point guard in Jennings. Jennings is still recovering from a torn Achilles, and he looked very rusty in his brief return last season. Similar to Rose, it is unclear of Jennings has the same explosion he had pre-injury. Porzingis seems like a near lock to have a successful career, but as of today it is easy to argue that he is overrated. Porzingis still doesn’t have the muscle to deal with many bigger opponents in the post (on both ends of the floor), seems to tire out easily, and commits too many careless fouls. Porzingis should correct these issues as he gains more experience, but who knows if that will be this season.
In the end,I think the Knicks fall somewhere in between these two outlooks. It’s hard to imagine everything going right for the Knicks, but it’s also hard to imagine everything going wrong. The Knicks should be a very fun team to watch and I expect them to make the playoffs, but probably as one of the lower seeds. Teams like the Celtics and Raptors are probably safer picks, but the Cavs are the only team in the Eastern Conference that I can definitively say are better than the Knicks. New York fans usually demand more than competency, but given recent history a competitive team the city can be proud of would be a step in the right direction.