New York Knicks – Off Season Report

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2015/2016 Record: 32-50 (13th in the Eastern Conference)

Ins:

Derrick Rose TR – Bulls
Joakim Noah FA – 4yrs / $72mil
Courtney Lee FA – 4yrs / $50mil
Brandon Jennings FA – 1 yr / $5mil
Mindaugas Kuzminskas FA – 2yrs / $6mil
Willie Hernangomez FA – 4 yrs / $5.9mil (Player Option 4th)
Justin Holiday TR – Bulls
Maurice Ndour FA – 2yrs / $1.4mil (Partial Guaranteed 2nd)
Marshall Plumlee FA – 3yrs / $2.5mil (Partial Guaranteed 2nd)
Ron Baker FA – 1yr / $543k (Non Guaranteed)
JP Tokoto  FA – 1yr / $543k (Non Guaranteed)
Chasson Randle FA – 1yr / $543k (Non Guaranteed)

Outs:

Jose Calderon TR – Bulls
Robin Lopez TR – Bulls
Langston Galloway FA – Pelicans
Cleanthony Early FA – Unsigned
Jerian Grant TR – Bulls
Kevin Seraphin FA – Pacers
Derrick Williams FA – Heat
Arron Afflalo FA – Kings

Off Season Analysis:

Brace yourselves New York, there is a new super-team in town! According to new starting Point Guard, Derrick Rose, the Knickerbockers have joined the Warriors in a class of their own. And to think, all it took was a shortsighted trade for the aforementioned Rose and splashing a bit of cash in the manic days of early free agency. Let’s peel back the layers on this one and investigate what Phil Jackson and his cronies have actually pieced together.

Derek Fisher’s tenure in the Big Apple didn’t last long, fired with a 23-31 record during just his second season of a five year deal. Phil wasn’t liking what he was seeing and instead moved long time friend, Kurt Rambis, up the bench to the role of interim head coach. He too struggled bringing any hope to the Knicks back-half of the season. Perhaps it was that or perhaps it was his focus being elsewhere, which meant one horny man was replaced with another.

Enter; Jeff Hornacek. After what seemed a drawn out interview process, the Knicks President made the surprising choice of hiring the ex-Suns leader just months after he was relieved of his duties in Phoenix. However, that wasn’t the main concern. It was more his very different coaching philosophy to date, as opposed to the Triangle. As well as the peculiar choice for Phil to hire from outside his own circle. Perhaps Phil was slowly learning the error of his ways and becoming prepared to hand over the keys entirely to a new brains trust. Whatever it is, you really have to question how Hornacek plans (or is allowed) to use the roster he’s been given and more importantly, how he can control a lockeroom full of egos given his recent failure in the desert.

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You deserve someone to look at you the way Jeff Hornacek looks at Phil Jackson.

In a sign that the Knicks were at least willing to give Hornacek a PG to run with, Phil made his second major move of the off-season in trading for Derrick Rose. New York traded Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant to Chicago, in return for Justin Holiday, Rose and a ’17 2nd rounder. Make no mistake, the centrepiece of this trade was Rose and I can’t say that I understand it. Without even touching on his injury woes or more recent baggage (which EVERYONE should get up to date on), the fact is the Knicks gave up at least one major asset for a guy who had no market. Chicago would have been hard pressed to offload Rose without including further assets themselves until Phil and the Knicks decided to save the day.

The NBA Draft was next on the calendar but once again New York hosted the party with everyone else having the fun. Thanks to the never ending Carmelo Anthony trade and ensuing moves to build a team around him, this time acquiring Raymond Felton and Kurt Thomas, the Knicks were without a pick. In fact, heading into free agency and after the Rose trade, New York had just 5 contracted players; Melo, Rose, Holiday, Kyle O’Quinn and Kristaps Porzingis. Therefore, the signings came in thick and fast with a treasure chest of cap space disappearing quicker than Derrick Rose’s knee ligaments.

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  • Key Pieces: Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee & Brandon Jennings.
  • Returning Vets: Lance Thomas, Sasha Vujacic &Lou Amundson.
  • New Faces: Mindausgas Kuzmingas, Willy Hernangomez, Mo N’dour & Marshall Plumlee.
  • Non Guarantees: Ron Baker, JP Tokoto & Chasson Randle.

All of a sudden the roster sat at the maximum 15 guaranteed contracts, along with a few non-guaranteed guys that now look highly unlikely to make the final roster save for another roster clearing trade. There was suddenly some buzz around Madison Square Garden and a few household names for fans to hang their hat on. But don’t let that fool you, once you scratch below the superficial surface you can see this team faces serious problems.

The depth chart behind the starting 5 is VERY thin and taking into account those starters include newly acquired Rose and Noah, that is pretty worrying. Some serious assets and money has been given up in exchange for the 1-5 combo who have played only 55% of games in the last 4 years. The only promising bench player is Brandon Jennings, who is not at all the player he once was. Anyone who watched him last season could see that the 6th man role carved out for him in New York, will be full of turnovers and poor shooting. Especially when he has little else to dish too. Not to mention that the 4 starters outside of Porzingis have a combined career average usage percentage of 92.1%. What once looked like the bright future of Knicks basketball is going to be limited to putbacks and end of shot clock bailouts. That’s going to be one sad looking Unicorn.

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So Knicks fans, I present to you an alternate Universe. One where Unicorns prosper, injuries are nothing but bad luck and the team is stronger than any individual. Presuming Lopez and Calderon have to go, I suspect we could flip the same assets used for Rose to land Ricky Rubio instead. Even if we have to include a pick, it’s the Knicks way! We then go into Free Agency armed with more money and a PG better suited to playing defence and feeding our real stars. We then spend $72 million on Bismack Biyombo instead of Noah, again for reliable D and more touches for our other starters. Now for some better bench players. We have a spare $10 million to bring Mirza Teletovic (career best 3p% 15/16 season) on board , Lance Stephenson (surprisingly good post all-star break) can come in on the minimum for a low risk/reward proposition and we will match on Langston Galloway (a restricted free agent) because why wouldn’t you when his cap hold is so low? We can still afford Lee, Thomas, Vujacic and all the kids too!

So the question remains, would you prefer fact or fiction? Perhaps most importantly in this fictional scenario, we are keeping the future cornerstone of our franchise happy rather than catering to guys with a much shorter Knicks life span. Porzingis would feature heavily in this starting 5 rather than being an afterthought and have more chance to switch between the 4 and 5. The players we have brought into the starting group will have very specific roles, particularly lifting our defence and lightening the load on Anthony and Porzingis on that end of the floor. Leaving them, plus Lee to carry the offensive load with some actual firepower off the bench too. Rolling out lineups of Porzi-Mirza-Melo-Lee-Galloway and watching a Knicks team scrap on D has me drooling with far more excitement than the sad reality. Perhaps the Zen Master worked it all out in one of his Peyote induced hallucinations and saw more hope in his plan.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-4-43-15-pmscreen-shot-2016-09-21-at-4-45-00-pmWith all this in mind, one thing is certainly worth monitoring this upcoming season. Has Phil Jackson gone all in with one foot out the door? There are reports that suggest Phil can opt out of his current deal at the end of this season. It’s safe to say I have my fair share of reasons to believe he could be going down in a blaze of glory . A coach with a recent history of losing his lockeroom as well as a very different coaching philosophy, a starting 5 with a myriad of injury concerns, a possible disgruntled future star and zero reinforcements has all the ingredients of a successful dumpster fire. I would have handled things a lot differently but hey, that’s just me.

Grade: D

2016/17 Prediction: 35-47

League Pass Meter: 6/10

If you are going to dedicate some League Pass time to this team, make it early! Every game that goes by means less of a chance that all will remain on court. You might see someone blow out a knee but you’ll also have to watch a depressed unicorn limited to put backs and late clock touches.

Depth Chart:

PG: Rose Jennings Randle*
SG: Lee Holiday Vujacic  Baker/Tokoto*
SF: Anthony Thomas  Kuzminskas
PF: Porzingis Ndour
C: Noah O’Quinn Hernangomez  Plumlee

*Salary likely guarantees 10th Jan 2017

Salary Cap Situation:

2016/17 salaries: $101,183,171 (over the cap team)
2017/18 salaries: $70,960,260

Max room: $31mil
Min room: $21.4mil

Future Assets:

Incoming:
2017 2nd (Magic)
2017 2nd (Rockets)
2019 2nd x 2 (2 least favourable from Cavs, Rockets & Magic)

Outgoing:
2017 2nd (Pistons or 76ers)
2018 2nd (76ers, lesser pick in return)
2019 2nd (76ers)
2020 2nd (76ers)
2021 2nd (76ers)

2016/17 Questions:

Can this team stay healthy for the majority of the season?

Will Rose play well enough to earn himself a new contract in New York?

Is Porzingis’ development going to be haltered by this new look team?

Will Hornacek still run the Triangle or be given free reign?

Is Phil Jackson hanging around or is this his last hurrah?

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