What the Signing of Veterans Means for the New York Knicks
Losing has been a staple of the New York Knicks' existence in the NBA the past couple of years. The team has won 37 or fewer games each of the last four seasons including a 17-win campaign in 2014-15 that ranks as the franchise's least successful season in history.
Unfortunately for Knicks fans, the team may need to lose more before becoming a winner.
New York has a solid core of young players with the potential to grow together. Kristaps Porzingis looks like a perennial All-Star in waiting. Willy Hernangomez looks like the team's defensive anchor in the post. Frank Ntilikina, who has yet to play a minute of NBA action, has intriguing attributes. He could potentially be the solution to the Knicks' decade-long search for an answer at the point guard spot.
With all of these players being under 25, it appears the Knicks plan on going through some growing pains. Carmelo Anthony is around, but it is unknown how long that will be the case. New York is facing the prospect of sinking while affording their young guns the chance to keep the team of floating.
That being said, maybe the team knows something we don't. Perhaps the Knicks plan on winning some games this season.
That is one way to explain why the team signed Ramon Sessions and Michael Beasley to deals this offseason.
Sessions and Beasley had their best years when Porzingis and Ntilikina were still teenagers (Ntilikina actually still is one). Why did New York bring these two vets aboard for what figures to be a losing effort this season?
For starters, maybe New York doesn't plan on losing. The team does have a frontcourt of Anthony, Porzingis and Hernangomez. That trio has the rebounding and shot-making prowess to keep the team afloat. Tim Hardaway Jr. was also brought back into the fold after having a career year in Atlanta last season. Hardaway Jr. was given a contract worth $71 million over four years to continue his improvement and become a viable piece for New York.
Perhaps he will be. If he does, that makes New York viable at four out of five spots in the starting lineup. With Ntilikina being so young and inexperienced after playing in just the French league last season, Sessions was brought on board to (presumably) be the starting floor general as Ntilikina adjusts to the pace of the NBA.
On the flip side, if New York knows it may not field a competitive roster, Sessions is there to mentor the rookie before eventually ceding his starting role. Sessions has never been an All-Star caliber player and is going to have a tough time staying in front of the league's elite point guards. In reality, Sessions is a placeholder.
Beasley on the other hand is a wildcard. B-Easy has always been an offensive dynamo, though he has been susceptible to errant shot attempts. Confidence has never been a problem for him, even if efficiency sometimes has been.
Beasley's addition could be explained a few different ways. First, the team might have brought him aboard as a hedge against Anthony being traded. A Melo trade would not likely yield any big-time offensive threats in return, instead more likely bringing future assets and salary dumps.
If that is the case, Porzingis would have a target on his back as the only shot creator on offense. With defenses able to focus just on him, Porzingis would have an ever tougher time establishing himself as one of the league's premiere face-up and back-to-the-basket threats.
Beasley is Anthony insurance. In the scenario that Anthony stays, however, he becomes a spark plug off the bench. Beasley's ability to score in isolation situations puts him in the same role as a Jamal Crawford or Lou Williams type of role. The nine year vet would serve as the top option off of the bench for a Knicks team that is looking to remain competitive in the present.
The Knicks did well to bring in Sessions and Beasley. Both came at the cost of a minimum contract and should be able to provide insurance for their youth. If the team is competitive out of the gate, the two will serve as veteran compliments to Anthony and Porzingis. If New York struggles, they will be low-risk fliers that can help their young guys grow. The two signings are win-wins for the Knicks.