Last Year’s Record: 17-65 (15th in East)
Projected Roster (with Last Season’s Stats)
PG- Jerian Grant ROOKIE
SG- Arron Afflalo 13.3PPG-1.7APG-3.2RPG-35%3P
SF- Carmelo Anthony 24.2PPG-3.1APG-6.6RPG-1.0SPG
PF- Kristaps Porzingis ROOKIE
C- Robin Lopez 9.6PPG-6.7RPG–1.4BPG-54%FG
G- Jose Calderon 9.1PPG-4.7APG–42%3P
G- Langston Galloway 11.8PPG–3.3APG–1.2SPG
F- Cleanthony Early 5.4PPG-0.9APG-2.5RPG
F- Derrick Williams 8.3PPG-0.7APG-2.7RPG
C- Kevin Seraphin 6.6PPG-3.6RPG-51%FG
B- Kyle O’Quinn 5.8PPG-3.9RPG
B- Lou Amundson 4.9PPG-5.1RPG
B- Thanasis Antetokounmpo ROOKIE
B- Lance Thomas 7.1PPG-3.1RPG
B- Sasha Vujacic DNP Also waiting promotion: C-Willy Hernangomez, F-Louis Labeyrie, F-Maurice N’Dour
NEW ADDITIONS: SG-Arron Afflalo, C-Robin Lopez, PF-Kristaps Porzingis, PG-Jerian Grant, F-Derrick Williams, F/C-Kevin Seraphin, F/C-Kyle O’Quinn, F-Thanasis Antetokounmpo
KEY LOSSES: PF-Andrea Bargnani, SG-Tim Hardaway Jr., G-Alexey Shved, F-Jason Smith, G-Shane Larkin, F-Quincy Acy, C-Cole Aldrich, G/F-Travis Wear
The Scoop: Well, the Knicks fans were certainly wrong about this offseason, but that’s sort-of the fun of being a Knicks fan. Yet another bad year in the books, this one a bottom of the Eastern Conference placing, and now, the Knicks stare the new season in the face without any major acquisitions to speak of. Sure, the roster has been overhauled, but the replacements are not exactly all-pro caliber players. The LaMarcus Aldridge, Jimmy Butler, Monta Ellis, etc sweepstakes’ are over, with the lure of the Big Apple being less than ever before. Players simply do not sign for teams based on history or even location anymore like they used to, the Knicks not being a big enough draw in themselves to lure the top free agents to play. Now, they’re in an interesting position. Carmelo Anthony, arguably a top 10 NBA player, is signed to a wildly large contract to be the face of a mostly rebuilding franchise. So, rather than continue the hunt for youth, in order to save Melo, the Knicks splurged on some very low-grade free agents such as Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo.
The big draft was a bit of a bust, a 2nd worst record placed them 4th in the draft, and they ended up with 7-foot European big Kristaps Porzingis, a project pick that could prove disastrous if his summer league performance is any indication. The second first rounder they had went to a new point guard, Notre Dame standout Jerian Grant, which could prove to be a total steal. The mismatch of bench players that were added, along with the two new rookie starters leaves New York with more question marks than ever before, and coach Derek Fisher must attempt to get the team under control after an awful first season. Sure, some roster fluff is gone, but it’s replaced by more roster fluff, and the Knicks may end up in a continued state of turmoil with an aging system from Phil Jackson, an overpaid superstar, and a mediocre supporting cast.
The Point Guards: As mentioned before, the Knicks did draft a new first round point guard to attempt to stabilize the future of an extremely weak position for them last year. Jerian Grant was a top collegiate player last year, and could have a strong career as a pro. Grant comes in good ball-handling ability and good court vision, and could make every bit as much of a rookie impact as some of the guards taken ahead of him. He replaces Tim Hardaway Jr. in the deal with Atlanta, and one has to commend Phil and his team for giving Grant a chance to take over the reigns as a Point Guard for this roster. His backup will be veteran Jose Calderon, the oft-injured defensive matador with good passing ability and a wonderful three-point shot. Calderon went into last season as a starter, but like usual, injuries hurt his overall product. Expect them both to play between 25-30 minutes a game and share the load. Hopefully, Calderon will be a good veteran mentor for the much-younger Grant, and they both will most likely average around 11 points and 5 assists.
The Wings: This begins and ends with Carmelo Anthony, the scoring title winner from three years ago, and the underrated superstar of this team. Am I an Anthony apologist? Maybe, but much of the ‘Carmelo’s not a winner’ talk has gotten in the way of his greatness in the last few years. Let’s revisit that just 3 seasons ago, Carmelo won the scoring title and lead the Knicks to the number 2 seed in the East. The following year, the Knicks finished 9th, but not without Anthony playing his last two months on a separated shoulder to try to will the team into the post-season. Last year, the Knicks shut him down to allow the tanking to continue. Anthony brings a beautiful post-game, unthinkable mid-range jumpshooting, solid three-point shooting, a hard nose for rebounding and veteran experience to the team that needs it. Anthony is ball-dominant, but he’s among the most capable players in the league at being effectively ball dominant.
If Anthony draws a one-on-one matchup, expect his defender to lose, every single time. Melo will again flirt with 25 very efficient points per game, and be fun to watch whenever he’s on the floor. His shooting ability and classic post-game makes him one of the league’s most lethal scorers, and that hasn’t changed despite the constant back-lash from NBA fans.
Opposite Anthony is new-comer Arron Afflalo, who started last season with big-time numbers before being moved to Portland, where the sixth man role really didn’t agree with him. He’s back in a starting order now, and along with his fine shooting and shot-creating ability, should see an uptick in his stats from last season, flirting with 16-17 points per game, most likely.
The bench players feature two youngsters who showed promise last season, one is second year player out of Wichita State, Cleanthony Early, who looks to build on his long-and-lean defense with a more developed offensive game. Secondly, there’s Langston Galloway, the undrafted free agent from St. Joseph’s, who surprised everyone with his poise in critical moments and solid scoring touch, showing about 14 points per game as a rookie. One wonders how high his ceiling is with his lack of height and lateral quickness, but Galloway seems to have a nose for scoring the basketball, and will be a fine rotation player for the lowly Knicks. A few other players will compete for minutes including Fisher favorite Lance Thomas, European vet Sasha Vujacic, and Greek Freak’s brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who finally got an NBA contract and deserves a chance with his athletic ability.
The Bigs: The main changes the Knicks made actually coincide with their bigs, with all 5 main rotation bigs being recent additions. Let’s recap: gone are Andrea Bargnani, Cole Aldrich, Jason Smith, Quincy Acy, and Travis Wear. The Knicks obviously viewed many of those players as just movable pieces in the grand scheme of the rebuild. Bargnani was a failed experiment and is now Brooklyn’s problem, Jason Smith is mediocre, and although Cole Aldrich and Quincy Acy were positive surprises, they aren’t worth any real contract money. The Knicks flipped all of these players for a few, better quality guys, mainly featuring 1st round pick Kristaps Porzingis and Blazers’ vet Robin Lopez.
Lopez is a defensive presence and a decent enough scorer to warrant a starting spot at a dying center position in this league. He was overpaid, sure, but the Knicks were desperate for some extra talent. We’ll see about Porzingis. No comment.
The bench bigs include disappointing journeyman Derrick Williams, who will again try to mold his athleticism into a real NBA trait, and Wizards’ role player Kevin Seraphin, who has been good in limited runs off the bench. If either of these guys don’t work out, Magic veteran Kyle O’Quinn can provide some backup. The Knicks also, for unknown reasons, signed Lou Amundson for over 1.5 million a year, which seems like a waste considering Williams, O’Quinn, and Seraphin can all fill bench minutes. Between these four guys, they should find some solid ground, but the lack of offensive capability is concerning, and they’ll need guys like Seraphin or Porzingis to at least get close to double digit points for this to work. The offense has to give something on the inside to allow guys like Anthony and Afflalo to work.
Summary: The Knicks will be again at the bottom of the Eastern conference. Case in point, there are too many question marks in the starting lineup, and not enough offensive capability in the bench for the Knicks to hang with better teams. Carmelo will make them watchable, and it’ll always be the MSG Knicks, but there is a severe lack of worthwhile players on this roster. Even in a best-case scenario, where guys like Seraphin and Porzingis can score, Jerian Grant and Derrick Williams meet their potential, and Melo is top 3-5 in the NBA in scoring, the Knicks will only be around the 9th or 10th best team in the East. The bench is too weak, and the starting lineup may have recognizable names, but the talent level just isn’t there. The Knicks are not very athletic, not very recognizable, and certainly not well-coached, expect them to be in the lottery once again.
Players I Love: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Seraphin, Derrick Williams’s untapped potential, Lou Amundson’s haircut, and Little Greak Freak Thanasis
Players I Hate: Langston Galloway, Krispy Porzongo, Kyle O’Quinn’s untapped potential, Arron Afflalo’s inconsistency, and the fact that Lance Thomas is even on an NBA roster.