New York State of Mind
Derrick Rose proclaimed that the New York Knicks would be a super team. Doubling down on that statement a month later. But this was all preseason hype. A new employee in a new city, looking to show how much he believed in his new team and teammates. As a Knick fan, I was excited to see that kind of boastfulness coming from a NY Knicks point-guard but I was also highly skeptical. So, after 20% of the season logged, where do the Knicks and Rose's prediction stand?
After a tough road loss to the Hornets on Saturday night and a tough loss at home to the Russell Westbrooks on Monday, the Knicks stand at 8-9 before heading into a home and home against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Currently, third in the Atlantic division, three games behind the first place Toronto Raptors and two games behind the Boston Celtics. And half a game out of 8th place in the Eastern Conference. This isn't a great start and no where near the other "super team" but there are some encouraging signs.
1) Derrick Rose is a huge upgrade at PG - Rose is averaging PPG 16.8, APG 4.9, RPG 4.4. These numbers are a bit below Rose's career stats, but way above any Knicks PG's averages since Ray Felton's first stint with the Knicks in 2011-2012. Knicks fans have seen a lot of older PG's come to MSG and play below their past levels. Rose has missed 255 games since 2011 but was relatively healthy last year, playing 66 games and averaging similar numbers to this year. And he has been healthy this season (fingers crossed!) and if he continues to play the way he has, the Knicks will be in good hands at the position. Rose has shown flashes of that explosiveness we all saw before his injuries and he has been able to consistently drive to the basket to either score, get fouled, or pass the ball to an open teammate. He has also shown that he is willing to take the last shot and knock it down. I do think that Rose needs to do a better job distributing the ball, especially with when he's on the floor with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. Potentially more pick and rolls with KP and Melo when he is at the four.
2) KP is playing at another level - I guess KP hasn't heard of a sophomore slump. KP is proving to be a legitimate all-star player and definitely the future of the Knicks. Averaging PPG 20.9, RPG 7.1, BLKPG 1.5, he has shown a consistency on a nightly basis that we didn't see last year. I think it would be best for his growth if he continues to defer to Melo on these team chemistry questions. We have seen multiple games where KP has taken over and Melo has differed. But Melo is still the leader and he should continue to be. KP has shown a progression of his game on the ball this year, taking big men off the dribble and playing good defense on the other end.
3) They are trying on defense - The stats don't bear this out as the Knicks are 24th in the league in points allowed. They're middle of the pack in other categories but this assessment is more of an eye test. Rose and Melo have never been known as defensive players but they are trying. They have picked up their intensity on the defensive end. Courtney Lee and Noah add some energy and decent defensive skills that add to the overall team D which can be contagious. There have been stretches during games where they feed off of each other's energy on the defensive end, which translates into positive offensive positions. They are playing with a sense of urgency that I haven't seen in awhile.
4) Brandon Jennings - Having a legit starting PG is crucial to being competitive in the NBA, but having a legit backup PG can lead to success into the playoffs. (Ask the Warriors). Brandon Jennings has been the heart of this team. Every time he comes off the bench the energy and flow of game changes immediately. Coach Hornacek needs to find better combinations of players to have on the floor with Jennings. He constantly wants to push the pace, which is a great change from the slow it down game that Melo and Rose want to play.
I'm excited to see what the Knicks can do this season as they continue to play together. I am excited to watch them play in competitive close games this year, which has not happened in a few years.