The New York Knicks struggled with a below average roster last season finishing the season (32-50). Although the team had the morale boost of a young phenom strutting his stuff, Head Coach Derek Fisher was fired 54 games into the season with a (23-31) record. He was replaced by Phil Jackson favorite, Kurt Rambis. Kurt did his job re-implementing the triangle offense, but unfortunately the young phenom, Kristaps Porzingis, struggled towards the end of the season, as did the Knicks.
The offseason started with the signing of Jeff Hornacek to be their new Head Coach. Hornacek promises to run the triangle offense, but has already publicly stated how players don’t like to run the offense. Next, they traded Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon, and Jerian Grant for Derrick Rose, which made Melo happy, which should make us all happy. Phil Jackson rounded out the roster by signing Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Brandon Jennings, Willy Hernangomez, and Marshall Plumlee.
Noah was brought in to replace Robin Lopez. He was a triple double threat in Chicago when Rose went down, but that was some time ago. Noah has struggled to stay on the floor the last couple years. Along with D-Rose, he gives the team some upside, but could easily get hurt. Courtney Lee gives the Knicks a starting caliber shooting guard willing to take a step back, hit open threes, rotate the ball without hesitation, and play solid perimeter defense. Brandon Jennings brings some Rose insurance, plus gives their bench a go to scorer. The young center prospects will likely battle for the backup center minutes. Phil Jackson did his best to add talent to this year’s roster, but the playoffs may be tough to reach.
Starting Lineup: PG-Derrick Rose, SG-Courtney Lee, SF-Carmelo Anthony, PF-Kristaps Porzingis, C-Joakim Noah
The Knicks starting lineup should play well into Hornacek’s balanced approach between running the floor for easy buckets and setting up into the triangle offense in half court situations. They have some capable shooters, but none of them really thrive from the three point line. Statistically Courtney Lee is their best three point shooter with a career 38% rate, but Melo is still the team’s best open shot taker. His percentages are really damaged by the contested shots he’s been forced to take over the years. Porzingis is the biggest x-factor, as the young 7’3” power forward is the only player in the starting lineup that can really improve at this point in their career. The team’s future hope mostly lies with Porzingis.
When matching up against Milwaukee this season, the Knicks have a slight talent edge. I feel the Bucks can play even with the Knicks at every position except shooting guard where Khris Middleton’s injury has us starting Rashad Vaughn. Courtney Lee is a crafty veteran, and as we know Vaughn hasn’t shown us much in his young career. The Bucks would probably be forced to put Giannis on Porzingis, too big of a height differential for Jabari, but Melo has just as good of a chance at putting up points on him.
The Knicks will probably take some time to gel together as a team, but by the time the Knicks and Bucks finally play in January they should have it figured out. Milwaukee will need to make the Knicks use their old legs to utilize our biggest strength, younger legs.
Key Reserves: Who are their best bench players?
As much as Phil Jackson did to the roster over the summer, the bench is still lacking talent. They’re best scorer off the bench is Brandon Jennings, and as we know he can put some points up, so that’s fine, but they’re only other scorer off the bench is Lance Thomas. If Marshall Plumlee or Hernagomez can provide the bench with a low post threat, their bench becomes much more dangerous. Sasha Vujecic will help spread the floor at the shooting guard spot and is aware of the triangle offense’s ins and outs. As it stands, Milwaukee should be able to win the reserves match up playing through the combination of Michael Carter-Williams Tony Snell and Greg Monroe. We just have more talent off the bench.
Once the Knicks get used to playing together, they should be one of the more balanced teams in the league. They can get to the rim by running the floor, move the ball around and find an open shot, and play some iso ball through Melo and Rose at times. In the team’s best case scenario, they have the star power to compete with the better teams in the East, excluding Cleveland. Just having Melo, Rose, Lee, and Noah is a big plus to the team. Having players who know how to win games will get you to a certain level of respectability in this league.
The Knicks have one of the more creative coaching staffs in the league, Hornacek loved playing two point guards together when coaching the Phoenix Suns. I would expect to see some line ups with Rose and Jennings sharing the back court duties at times this season, which will play in to their opportunistic fast break offense transitioning to the triangle offense in the half court. Both players can run the fast break, and help each other avoid dangerous situations in the triangle offense.
The Knicks may find that they aren’t a very good shooting team. Derrick Rose has never been able to consistently hit shots from three, Noah has one of the more unique shot in the league, and Melo takes a lot of difficult shots. Porzingis showed that he had three point range last season shooting 33%. The Knicks need him to improve from deep to help reach the team’s potential.
Without a strong bench, I think Hornacek will be forced to play his top 6 players a lot of minutes. Opposing teams need to make them run as much as the game allows. The quicker Hornacek has to go to his bench because his players are already injury prone, the more backed up into the ropes the Knicks will be this season. They’re in a tough position to play their style of basketball in the fast break heavy three point shooting NBA.
I suspect the Knicks to finish the season 10th in the Eastern Conference, winning somewhere between 35 and 40 games. If things go perfectly this season, they mold together, D-Rose and Noah play 82, Porzingis improves across the board, I think they can be a playoff team. But at this time, it’s just too optimistic to think they’re a real contender in a deep Eastern Conference. Melo was happy this offseason though, and that’s something, Phil.