The New York Knicks have 10 new players this season. After the drastic overhaul, expectations have shifted in the Big Apple.
Things were different when the New York Knicks began training camp at West Point after a lackluster 2015 summer.
Phil Jackson was overwhelmingly criticized for drafting the unknown Kristaps Porzingis with the Knicks first top-five draft pick since Kenny “Sky” Walker in 1986. Jackson then proceeded to whiff on the big names in free agency which set the bar low for last season.
That’s not the case one year later. The Knicks were willing to part with Robin Lopez in the Derrick Rose trade and spend $125 million in free agency on three players (Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Jennings) because they expect to win now.
Jackson told reporters (according to ESPN.com) he decided to accelerate his approach with the Knicks following a conversation with Carmelo Anthony. Anthony, 32, came to New York to establish a legacy but since his arrival in 2011, he’s won just a single playoff series. He’s obviously sick of losing.
The Hall of Fame coach needed to move fast to appease his superstar and Rose was a quick and easy fix. Chicago wanted to dump him anyway, and his contract only has one year remaining.
Although his name is now synonymous with injury-prone, acquiring Rose meant something to Melo. A legitimate starting point guard gave the superstar forward a glimmer of hope for the upcoming season.
Something else that made the Knicks take the risk on Rose was his reputation as a big-game player. He averaged an impressive 40.6 minutes, 23.7 points, and 7.1 assists per game (according to Basketball-Reference.com) in 41 playoff games during his tumultuous Bulls career. Rose’s teammate in Chicago, Joakim Noah, put up good numbers in 60 playoff games. He averaged 11.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
The Bulls moved on from the Rose/Noah/Thibodeau-era however, and the Knicks salvaged from the rubble. They picked up two of the three (we’ll never really know if they could’ve had the third, but let’s not go there again) and everything Rose and Noah have seen, will make them great assets in a big spot.
Rose and Noah are the flashy acquisitions. Those are fun and all. But the most significant move the Knicks made this summer was signing shooting guard Courtney Lee.
When New York signed Arron Afflalo in 2015, they thought they were getting a guy who could contribute on both ends of the floor. One of the elusive two-way players everyone was talking about. The Knicks finished 28th in defensive rating during the 2014-15 season, and they thought the 30-year-old swingman would be key to fixing that.
That wasn’t the case. In the 2,371 minutes Afflalo was on the court last season, the Knicks allowed 106.3 points per 100 possessions, the worst mark on the team and when he came off the court, New York allowed a much better 102.5 points per 100 possessions (via NBA.com). Afflalo finished the season with less than one defensive win share and a worse defensive box plus-minus than Sasha Vujacic and Jose Calderon (according to b-ball reference).
Well, Afflalo mercifully opted out, and he’s gone. The Knicks needed a new shooting guard, particularly one who could play defense to make up for Rose’s issues on that end. They hit a home run with Lee.
He’s an all-time great three-point shooter (.384) and one of the league’s most physical perimeter defenders. Lee will make life easier for Rose and Melo.
When training camp starts on Tuesday you’re going to see a Knicks squad that is built to win right now. What a difference a year makes.