The New York Knicks are arguably one of the most popular teams among those in the NBA and have one of the largest followings. They’ve had quite a few prominent lineups and players throughout their history, however recently, they having been performing well enough to compare with their popularity. The last time the Knicks had success was in the 2012-13 season, when they made it to the second round of the playoffs and lost to the Indiana Pacers. The Knicks are currently projected to have 26-30 wins this season, which is abysmal. What caused this demise of the Knicks organization? And more importantly, what can be done to fix the Knicks and bring them back to their previous form?
The Knicks have a long history in the NBA. They were one of the original teams in the NBA alongside teams such as the Boston Celtics. The Knicks team of 1970-71 which included legends such as Willis Reed and Walt Frazier is known as one of the top 10 NBA teams of all time. That organization won two NBA championships in the 1970s. In more recent history, they had a very competitive team through the 90s with NBA legends such as Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston. However, this success diminished over time. The last time the Knicks made headlines was in 2011 with the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony and again in 2012 with the rise of “Linsanity”, where Jeremy Lin singlehandedly brought the Knicks to the Playoffs. Ever since then, The Knicks have been on a downward spiral, especially since the hiring of Phil Jackson.
However, changes were made during the offseason. On draft night, the Knicks had the 8th pick in the first round and with it they selected a 19 year old out of France named Frank Ntilikina. The Dallas Mavericks selected Dennis Smith Jr. out of North Carolina State University. Many claim him to be the steal of the draft and the Knicks made a mistake in not picking him, but it is much too early to tell. In free agency, the major pick up made by the Knicks was Tim Hardaway Jr. who last season was a starter at the small forward position for the Hawks. He came at a hefty price with a 4 year, $71 million contract. This locks in the starting small forward position for hopefully the next few seasons. As for the biggest move for the Knicks this offseason, Carmelo Anthony was moved to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a blockbuster trade for center Enes Kanter, forward Doug Mcdermott, and the Chicago Bulls 2018 2nd round pick. Carmelo has been the primary scorer and leader for the Knicks for the past few seasons and without him, someone new has to fill both roles; most fitting would be the 22 year old Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis.
So heading into this season, the Knicks should not have any other plans than to tank and develop their young players. The roster is full of young talents such as 23 year old center Willy Hernangomez, who put up a promising 8.2 points and 7 rebounds last season in 72 played games. Along with him is 26 year old Enes Kanter who has a very well developed post up play style, but also lacks a defensive edge in the paint. Let’s not forget the staple of this front court and this team, the Latvian Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis, who gains great comparisons to Former League MVP and future Hall of Famer, Dirk Nowitzki. Porzingis is a 7’3 player who can shoots 3s, Post up in the paint, defend positions 3 through 5, and will be blocking shots all game. He also surprisingly has a nasty crossover for a player of his size. The only place where he needs to improve is his weight. He is very skinny and light for a big man and easily gets boxed out by any decent rebounder. As for the point guard, Frank Ntilikina, he’s not much to talk about. He can shoot the ball from 3, but not too well. The most to hope from him is about 10 points and 6 assists a game.
Knicks fans seem to have high hopes for their team. They all unanimously believe that Kristaps Porzingis is “the best Knicks player for the foreseeable future” and even “MVP material”. They also threw out names such as Enes Kanter and Courtney Lee as underrated players who have been pivotal for the Knicks success. There was a disagreement as to how the Knicks should carry on running the organization. One super fan, Gabe Allen Cummings, believes that the Knicks are now playoff bound with this roster and ultimately, Kristaps Porzingis is good enough to lead them there. However, the others believe that the Knicks are good, but to become championship material, they’ll need another all star during free agency or they’ll have to pick up a 5 Star prospect out of the draft.
Written by Matthew Bassi
Photo Courtesy of NBA.com