Culture of Hoops

2016-17 NBA Preview: New York Knicks

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Atlantic: Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | New York Knicks | Philadelphia 76ers | Toronto Raptors
Central: Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Detroit Pistons | Indiana Pacers | Milwaukee Bucks
Southeast: Atlanta Hawks | Charlotte Hornets | Miami Heat | Orlando Magic | Washington Wizards
Pacific: Golden State Warriors | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Phoenix Suns | Sacramento Kings
Northwest: Denver Nuggets | Minnesota Timberwolves | Oklahoma City Thunder | Portland Trail Blazers | Utah Jazz
Southwest: Dallas Mavericks | Houston Rockets | Memphis Grizzlies | New Orleans Pelicans | San Antonio Spurs

Presenting an NBA preview of the New York Knicks that looks at the potential highs and lows for this coming 2016-17 NBA season.

This is the best roster of the Carmelo Anthony era in New York. That is both a factual statement and a very sad one. Until now Carmelo’s best teammates were a past his prime Jason Kidd, Amar’e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith, and Tyson Chandler. With those guys flanking him Carmelo led the Knicks to 54 wins and a two seed while finishing third in MVP voting.

A lot of the key elements for that 2012-13 season can be seen in the infant stages of the 2016-17 season. Carmelo comes into the year with yet another successful Gold Medal run in the Olympics. The Knicks will have a new head coach and brand new roster, only this time one of those pieces, Kristaps Porzingis, could be the best piece Carmelo has ever had around him. What should Knicks fan expect this season? Let’s take a look.

The Good… The Supporting Cast: The sum of the pieces Phil Jackson assembled in the offseason remains to be seen. But for the first time during Jackson’s tenure there is reason to expect production. Lance Thomas will resume his Swiss army knife role and fill whatever need is required. Kyle O’Quinn will look to bring energy on defense and knock down open shots on offense. The new guys is where this team can be completely different from last year’s squad.

Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah may be past their prime, but they still have a higher ceiling than Jose Calderon and Robin Lopez. Courtney Lee can bring everything Arron Afflalo did last year at shooting guard with half the usage rate. Brandon Jennings can win a game by himself on special nights and possesses that same microwave heat check that helped J.R. Smith win Sixth Man of the Year.

Relative unknowns Willy Hernangomez (76ers second round pick acquired during 2015 draft) and Mindaugas Kuzminskas could play bigger roles than expected. Hernangomez was one of Europe’s top big men last season and can help sure up a second unit with solid with inside scoring and glass cleaning. Kuzminskas’ job is still unknown, but from what you can gather from YouTube clips and scouting reports he can be a serviceable wing who can stretch the floor at power forward in smaller lineups or small forward in bigger lineups.

The Bad… The TriangleThe common theme in the top dogs are strong franchise foundations. There is an established culture and system. That is anything but the case with the Knicks. Jeff Hornacek is the third head coach of the Phil Jackson era and we’re only in year three. Jackson has yet to abandon using the triangle, holding onto the system like it’s a Horcrux. It’s the reason Derek Fisher—the guy Jackson handpicked when he took over as team president—was dismissed. When Hornacek was hired it was understood that he would get to run his own offense.

For the Knicks to leave the league’s basement they will have to build a foundation that players want to be aport of. Force feeding your ideology is not the way to go about it. If Jackson ever plans of being a successful executive he’s going to have to listen and adjust. It’s clear the players don’t love the triangle. It’s archaic. The faster the traditional triangle is ripped out of the playbook in favor of Hornacek’s uptempo style with triangle principles the sooner players start to buy in.

X-Factor… Derrick RoseThe key to the Knicks being a playoff team does not sit with Carmelo or Porzingis. It depends on how good Derrick Rose is. He’s talked the talk—going as far to say the Knicks are a super team—, now it’s time he walked the walk. The minute news broke of the Knicks acquiring Rose the jokes started pouring in. It’s a general belief that he is past his prime and assumed that this experiment will end in a disaster.

Rose can flip that script. He doesn’t have to rediscover his 2011 form, but instead find his way into the next chapter of his career. He might never be a star in the NBA again, but the Knicks don’t need him to be. They have Carmelo and Porzingis as the stars. Rose’s job is to be to run the offense and defend his position on defense. Unlike Chicago where the he felt he had to carry the city, in New York he will only be required to carry himself.

Bet On… Kristaps Porzingis Continuing His Ascension: There was a portion of the season where Porzingis was the center of the hoops world. He had shut up every person that booed him on draft night and taken NYC by storm with putback dunks. Then he started showing he’s not afraid to bang down low Then he showed us he can shoot. He showed that he can be depended on late in games to do his job.

Sophomore slumps exist, but I think Porzingis continues his ascension as a rising star. If you have gotten the opportunity to see KP’s improved jumper please do. He’s added more weight and has said all the right things. If he can get put in the situations to succeed—playing significantly more minutes at center for example—he will be the sidekick Amar’e Stoudemire’s body never let him be.

The Crystal Ball Says… The Knicks will make the playoffs: The similarities from the 2012-13 season and this season grow by the day. Carmelo is coming off Olympic Gold yet again. The Knicks have finally put a good supporting cast around their star in addition to a rising star. That year the Knicks won 54 games and made the playoffs. If the team gels well there is no reason to believe the Knicks cannot finish third in the Atlantic division and snag a six or seven seed in the east.

I’m not ready to jump on the 50-win season bandwagon that Jeff Van Gundy might be starting, but I do see a winning season. I’ll sign up for 48 wins and six seed in the East, exactly what the Charlotte Hornets were able to do with less last season. It’s been too long since there was playoff basketball in Madison Square Garden. This year the wait is over.



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