The New York Knicks have yet another conundrum; do they push for the playoffs or make changes and start afresh next season?
The New York Knicks face yet another conundrum, but the outcome of this one will define the path for the remainder of the season.
After beginning the 2016-17 NBA season with a record of 14-10, the Knicks have gone just 8-22 over their last 30 games. This disastrous stretch has seen the Knicks falter to a record of 22-32 — 12th in their conference.
Despite the sub-par play, New York sits just 3.5 games out of the eighth seed in the eastern conference. However, on the flip side, the Knicks are only 2.5 games ahead of 14th seeded Philadelphia.
This is why the New York Knicks have a conundrum on their hands; still within reach of a postseason berth, but equally as close to being a bottom-feeder.
This then begs the question, “Do the Knicks persist with their playoff hopes, or start the rebuilding right here and now?”
It may seem like a simple question, but with the current state of the New York Knicks, it is far from that. In an ideal world, New York should give up on this season. Their aim should be to get as high up in the loaded 2017 NBA Draft as they possibly can. A lottery pick is far superior to making the playoffs and being swept in the first round.
However, as mentioned before, this is the Knicks. Nothing can be simple.
Over the past month, the NBA landscape has been flooded with rumors surrounding Carmelo Anthony. The overall consensus in that Knicks’ President of Basketball of Operations, Phil Jackson, would prefer to deal the nine-time NBA All-Star. Alternatively, Anthony is said to be unwilling to waive his no-trade clause and desires to remain with the franchise. Thus, in a seemingly classic Phil Jackson move, he has subliminally criticized and bullied Anthony through the use of social media which has all but destroyed their relationship.
A roadblock within the conundrum.
With the current makeup of the Knicks, they will not be a championship threat within the foreseeable future. Yes, the Knicks do have some quality young building blocks in Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez as well as a few other solid role players. But, the core of the roster is a 32-year-old Anthony, 31-year-old Courtney Lee, 31-year-old Joakim Noah and 28-year-old Derrick Rose. Jeff Hornacek said recently that he is still focused on qualifying for the postseason but also on developing the younger or less experienced players on the roster.
Clearly, the Knicks are in two minds. However, it is not viable to be in this state for the remaining 28 games of this season. Despite being deep in a hole, the New York Knicks can still salvage something from this season and accomplish it prior to the February 23rd NBA trade deadline.
So far this season the New York Knicks have not made any changes personnel-wise. There is always the possibility the Knicks could turn it around with some alterations. That will remain unknown unless the Knicks take the leap of faith. There is also middle ground between keeping the roster the same and “blowing it up” — that would be re-tooling.
There is no doubt that Rose has exceeded expectations this season; he has averages of 17.6 points per game, 4.5 assists per game and 4 rebounds per game on 45.7% shooting from the field. However, he is not a long-term fit for New York, mainly because he does not mesh well with the Knicks’ two main pieces in Anthony and Porzingis, due to his lack of passing on drives and inability to shoot the long ball — just 13 makes on 24% shooting this season.
Rose may not be viable long term, but as a result of his solid individual play, he holds trade value. New York could receive, potentially, a first round pick, in return, or even some young pieces who have potential. Possible suitors for the 28-year-old are teams on the periphery of the playoff picture. Possibly, Sacramento for example, who are desperate to end their playoff drought.
Dealing Rose would be of great benefit to the Knicks. New York could possibly land a pick in this year’s stacked draft, and it would see Jennings become a full-time starter where he seems to get others involved more than Rose does. This would also (hopefully) see Ron Baker re-enter the rotation which would further his development and potentially make him a viable rotation player for years to come.
Rose’s current contract expires at the end of this season. This means that the Knicks front office brass will have a fair idea of their plan for Rose. If they do not plan on re-signing Rose, trading him prior to the deadline is the smartest move.
Head coach Jeff Hornacek should also make an adjustment to the starting lineup. This is the obvious one; Willy Hernangomez over Joakim Noah. In his last 11 appearances, Hernangomez is averaging 9.9 points per game, 9.9 rebounds per game, 3.4 offensive rebounds per game, and 2.1 assists per game whilst shooting 50% overall and seeing just 21.2 minutes per game. We already know Joakim Noah won’t be apart of the Knicks long-term future, whereas Hernangomez will be.
Following the rise of Willy Hernangomez, Kyle O’Quinn has become expendable. In a similar fashion to Rose, O’Quinn has played far above expectations. He is averaging 6.3 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game and 1.2 blocks per game on 53% shooting from the field. Consequently, O’Quinn too has trade value and he could be flipped for a late first round pick to be insurance or even a contributor on a playoff or contending team. Washington or Atlanta who lack front court depth, for example.
The New York Knicks have a conundrum on their hands; do they persist with the current group in an attempt to qualify for the playoffs, or do they make some changes, acquire picks and start afresh next season? The logical move would be to do make some trades an attempt to salvage something from this disappointment of a season.
The trade deadline is now just 13 days away. The next two weeks dictate the path the Knicks take for the remainder of the season.