Knicks Offseason Report: Goodbye Robbin’ Hoodie

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2016/17 Record: 31 – 51 (12th in the Eastern Conference)

2017/18 Salaries: $102,764,381 (Over The Cap Team) – full NYK cap situation – here

Incoming Draft Picks: CHI ’18 2nd, LAC ’18 2nd, ORL/CLE/HOU ’19 2nd (Least Favourable).

Outgoing Draft Picks: PHI ’18 2nd, PHI ’19 2nd, PHI/ORL ’20 2nd, PHI ’21 2nd.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 10.09.11 am.pngHe’s gone. Finally the drama is over, Carmelo Anthony can continue his career outside of New York City and the Knicks can attempt to build a formidable team once again. For no matter where you sat in the debate and whose side you were on, all Knicks fans should be able to recognise that things weren’t getting better with Anthony on the team. Hoodie Melo was ruining the future of the franchise, robbing from the rich and ruining the core.

It’s even okay to celebrate his departure, while still celebrating his time as a Knick. Melo certainly had his moments. Six and a half All-Star seasons after arriving halfway through  2010/11, culminating in a 54 win season under Mike Woodson in 2013 and reaching the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. It may have not always been glamorous, but Carmelo definitely brought the glitz back to Madison Square Garden. Yet, even with things not reaching the ultimate heights that the player, team or fans would have liked – no one in New York could have quite expected the dramatic fall.

From beginning to end, the 2017 Knicks offseason was full of questions. Did Kristaps Porzingis really skip his exit interview? Did Phil Jackson actually consider trading him? Was Jackson’s departure really a mutual agreement? Would Anthony waive his no-trade clause? Could the Knicks trade him to Cleveland? Or Portland? Or Houston? How about Oklahoma City?

In the middle of all that, some other basketball moves also needed to be made. However, even the rest of the Knicks offseason transactions could not escape at least a little controversy. What Jackson and Anthony have left behind, could still provide the Knicks faithful with some hope for the future. The weight that was holding the franchise down has finally been removed and moves have already been made to build an improved Knickerbockers core.

Now just one question remains; Can the Knicks do enough before the weight begins to pile up once again?

The Existing Piece
Kristaps Porzingis becomes the new face of the franchise and the player that the above question revolves around. Since being drafted in 2015, Porzingis has continually exceeded expectations and raised his potential ceiling as a legitimate NBA star. He enters his third NBA season, now with the undebatable franchise tag and just 82 more games before being eligible for an extension.

Key Question Is Porzingis ready to carry the full expectations of the Knicks franchise? 

We are about to find out whether or not Porzingis is ready to carry the franchise. He becomes the undisputed first option within the starting unit and will likely see his minutes increase to closer to 36 minutes a night, with Beasley the only realistic option behind him. The overall numbers should improve by virtue of the minute’s increase, with Per36 career numbers suggesting Porzingis should be good for roughly 20PPG with 8RPG, 2BPG and 1.6APG. However, if he can take a leap in efficiency this season then New York might have a legitimate 23-year-old first option on its hands with several more years control to build around him. If he can replicate his Year 1 to 2 percentage lifts (42.1% FG & 33.3% 3FG became 45.0% & 35.7%) from Year 2 to 3, all of sudden New York has a Power Forward capable of scoring like an NBA Shooting Guard and defending like a Center.

The Draft Piece
Frank Ntilikina was drafted eighth in the ’17 NBA Draft, by ex-President Phil Jackson and one spot ahead of Dennis Smith Jnr. Given both players appear to be Point Guards of the future in opposite conferences, the comparisons are likely to continue for the remainder of their careers. Think Deron Williams versus Chris Paul. Hopefully for Ntilikina’s sake history doesn’t repeat itself and he can have the edge over Smith when they go head to head, as well as when their careers are compared much further down the track.

Key Question – Does Ntilikina have enough potential to be the second star in NYC?

Whether Ntilikina can keep up with Smith over the course of their rookie deals means absolutely nothing and everything at the same time. Smith appears to have a significant career in front of him and if Frank can track with his potential then signs will be positive for the Knicks. New York will need a second star to emerge sooner rather than later next to Porzingis but Ntilikina might become that in a different way to Smith. If anything has been learnt from Williams and Paul, it’s that individual bouts and early career play doesn’t always paint the final picture. Where Smith might dazzle early offensively, New York may have found the perfect running mate for Porzingis in Ntilikina. Defensively the Knicks can begin to create a huge lineup (Ntilikina is 6’5” with a 7’0” wingspan) and if Ntilikina can fit in with Porzingis as the main option, the Knicks may have just made the right move.

The Free Agent Piece
Tim Hardaway Jnr returns to New York after the Knicks offered $71 million over the next four years. Yes, as a Restricted Free Agent the Knicks had to make sure the Hawks wouldn’t match but it was widely tipped as the worst deal of the offseason. Particularly after Hardaway admitted himself that the front office told him he had to ‘obviously improve a lot more on defense and improve a lot more on the offensive end.’

Key Question – Can Hardaway continue to improve to a point where he earns his inflated salary?

Hardaway is on the doorstep of the Top 50 highest paid NBA players for the 17/18 Season. While his new contract is highly questionable at this stage, it comes on the back of a much improved fourth season with Atlanta where he improved his overall field goal percentage from 43% to 45.5% and his shot from deep from 33.8% to 35.7%. It’s a big if, but if Hardaway can make similar improvements again in Year 5 while also enduring a minutes uplift, he could begin to earn his $16.5 million for next season. As all seem willing to admit, there is improvement needed on the defensive end too but a 6’6” frame is the perfect start. If Hardaway can become an average NBA defender and an efficient (48 FG% & 38 3FG%) 18PPG scorer, the deal doesn’t look quite as bad.

The Trade Piece
Enes Kanter become the key incoming piece of the Anthony trade, both for salary matching purposes but also overall talent. While Kanter may be slightly overpaid and not without his weaknesses, he is undoubtedly a talented offensive big who can score at will and clean the glass. New York fans will likely see a lot of Kanter in the not too distant future, with a Player Option too good to refuse for the 18/19 Season.

Key Question – Will Kanter prove to be a good fit with Porzingis and create a future in New York?

Don’t rule out the possibility of Kanter and Kristaps starting together and possibly even proving a good combination. As a starting Center, Kanter doesn’t have a lot of natural fits in the NBA due to his weaknesses on the defensive end. The lack of rim protection (55.5% Defended FG at the rim per NBA.com) and vulnerability in space is a problem for Kanter, however Porzingis’ strengths (44.4% DFG) can certainly cover some of those issues. Offensively, they are a near perfect fit. Porzingis is able to step outside (48.2% from 10-16ft & 35.8% from 3pt) while Kanter operates down low (63.4% at rim), yet both are still effective in other areas (Kanter – 51.5% 3-10ft/Porzingis – 70.4% at rim). Not to forget the struggle for opposing defenses to keep them off the glass, with an average of 6.8 offensive boards between them last season.

There is certainly some risk involved with every key piece the Knicks have currently put around their franchise guy, but there is some hope there too. Despite which direction each part of the current core goes in, the Knicks need to continue to build in the right way around Porzingis.

The new NBA has become all about stars teaming up with stars and it’s time for the Knicks to stop living in an old world. Frankly, it hasn’t worked for them in decades and New York should look no further than the example of NOLA’s build around Anthony Davis so far, for advice on what not to do. Gone are the days where New York can rely on its history or location, with players caring far more about your recent transaction history and where you were located in last seasons playoffs. Carmelo Anthony may have become the Prince Of Thieves as his time wound down in New York but the Knicks need to prove they aren’t the Kings Of Living In The Past. And Fast.

At the end of the day, only one question will matter for Porzingis; What have you done for me lately?

Projected Starting Five:

 

Projected Depth Chart:Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 2.05.23 pm

Overall Offseason Grade: D

2017/18 Prediction: 22 – 60

A D-Grade might be a little generous to the Knicks, given the horror offseason they have endured. Managing to avoid another chapter in the Melo-drama and drafting Ntilikina, save the Knicks from a complete failure of an offseason. With Anthony and Jackson both out of New York, the Knicks should lose heavily this season if they want to get things back on track. While 22 wins may appear a little on the low side given the current depth chart, expect the Knicks to play their way into a low win total. At least, that’s what they should be doing. With 2018 being the last season before Lottery Reform, the Knicks ought to fast track their development as well as their lottery chances, by playing plenty of youth. michael-beasley

Player To Watch: Michael Beasley

Your favourite player’s favourite player, Mike Beasley, could be worth keeping an eye on in Knicks blue and orange. With Carmelo Anthony gone, Beasley could assume the position as his replacement. Despite a sneaky good run of 56 games for the Bucks last season – where he averaged 9.4 points in 16.7 minutes on 53.2% shooting – Beasley may still be on his last chance in the NBA. While the instability of the Knicks franchise might not be the best place for any player on their last chance, the fit looks solid for Super Cool Beas. He will likely feature in a second unit that will rely heavily on his offense, not appearing to have much competition for minutes amongst reserves and could even pair at times with Porzingis. A career average 23.5 minutes could easily come per night and if Beasley can keep up his recent efficiency, 15 points and 5 rebounds off the bench is not out of the question.

Four Key Questions:

1. How do the minutes shake out at Point Guard?
Prior to the Carmelo Anthony trade, it was possible the Knicks would prefer a veteran such as Ramon Sessions running the Point for extended minutes. However, it’s a new dawn in Madison Square Garden and the keys are all but handed to Ntilikina to run the show. Sessions could potentially still start but Ntilikina should see close to 30 minutes a night, whether it’s off the bench or within the starting unit. The biggest loser in all of this could be Ron Baker. Save for injury or Courtney Lee moving permanently to Small Forward, Baker’s two year $8 million deal looks like a mistake by the Knicks front office as Baker will find it tough to see the court.

2. What is Porzingis’ best position going forward?
With four legitimate Center’s currently on the roster, all deserving of court time to varying degrees, it’s hard to imagine Porzingis will see much time at the 5 this season. It’s a shame, as it could very well be his future position in today’s NBA. Porzingis doesn’t yet have the frame (or want) to compete down low with some NBA 5’s, but at 7’3” it’s going to be hard to deny for the remainder of his career. Porzingis has shown elite shot-blocking and shooting skills and playing as a C in today’s NBA could open up plenty of action in New York. Joakim Noah could start next to KP, while the fit with Willy Hernangomez looked natural last season and the balance with Kanter is intriguing. Either way, we may need to wait a little longer before we see Kristaps in his “position of the future”.

3. Can Doug McDermott finally find a home in New York City?
Doug McDermott now finds himself on his third team, going into his fifth NBA season and he may have finally landed in the right spot. The Knicks finished 21st in three-point-percentage last season, adding just Hardaway Jnr and McDermott to try to rectify the issue. Unlike previous season’s, McDermott appears to have a clear role on this Knicks team and may even feature in the starting lineup if he can acclimatise quickly after being traded in. Restricted Free Agency is just one season away and McDermott will need to have a strong season to earn an offer sheet worth signing. Career best minutes could result in career best numbers for McDermott, with 15 PPG shooting 40+% from deep an achievable bar to set.

4. Can the Knicks be bad enough for a Top 3 pick?
The short answer is yes, if they want to. Trading Anthony was the first step in allowing the possibility of multiple ping-pong balls come June. However, the Knicks still have some handy pieces incoming and the roster is certainly capable of ruining the Draft party if given the chance. Finishing low enough in the lowly Eastern Conference is going to come down to some Front Office intervention. The Knicks will be smart to feature a lot of Ntilikina, Kanter, McDermott and Beasley. An experiment that will help with both development and examination, but more importantly results in a scarcity of wins. With no current long-term piece at Small Forward and either the four or five, the Knicks would love to get their hands on any of the current projected Top 5 ’18 Draft Class.


Info courtesy of:
Basketball Reference
Basketball Insiders
Real GM
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