- Andrew Hughes
The Three Biggest Surprises of the New York Knicks' Season
With nine games played so far, the New York Knicks actually have a winning record. This was supposed to be a down year for the team following the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony out of New York. Instead, New York is thriving behind Kristaps Porzingis' play, which has been nothing short of spectacular. Through the Knicks' 5-4 start, Porzingis has averaged over 30 points. While many expected his usage, and therefore his points also, to go up, few could have expected such an emphatic uptick in the third-year forward's production. Porzingis excited the Garden on Friday against the Phoenix Suns with a 38 point outburst that left fans excited about the future. After all, the Suns are a bottom feeding team playing without its best player in Eric Bledsoe. Porzingis' 40-point career-high on Sunday against Indiana has fans excited for the present. Porzingis is the most pleasant surprise so far. Many expected him to play well, but few expected him to be able to lead a team that looks capable of contending for a playoff spot. Something no one could have predicted is the inspired play of veteran point guard Jarrett Jack. Ever since Jack was inserted into the starting lineup, the team has gone 5-1. Ramon Sessions, the team's starter for the first three games and the preseason, has all but fallen out of the rotation altogether since Jack has taken over. In his six starts, Jack has averaged five points, five assists and four rebounds. After Jack tore his ACL in early 2016, it seemed like a long-shot he would be effective in the NBA again. After flaming out last season in Atlanta, Jack was again seen as unlikely to latch on with the Knicks. Jack has since not only earned a roster spot, but has solidified himself as a difference maker in the starting lineup for New York. Finally, the surprise that may have fans actually trusting the Knicks' brain trust is French rookie Frank Ntilikina. Ntilikina has had his minutes restricted thus far due to injuries but when he has played, he has shown flashes of being a potential franchise cornerstone. His defense is something that immediately stands out. After having mostly turnstile defenders in Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon and Raymond Felton the past few years, it finally seems that the Knicks finally have someone capable of checking the league's elite ballhandlers. Ntilikina's five steal game against James Harden and the Houston Rockets is proof the 19-year-old can defend. Something the "French Prince" can also do is score timely buckets. Ntilikina's go-ahead 3-pointer in clutch time against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday was the rookie's "welcome to the league" moment. That shot changed momentum for the Knicks that game and for the outlook of this season. We are talking about a winning team in New York. While it isn't guaranteed to last, it is a sweet reality right now. If the surprises of Porzingis, Jack and Ntilikina keep delivering, maybe a Knicks playoff birth won't be all that surprising.