While many have been critical of their front office throughout the duration of the offseason, the Knicks have quietly established an intriguing, young core.When it comes to organizational dysfunction, no team gets more attention than the New York Knicks. Ranging from their front office hires to the roster they put out on the court every night, this organization puts itself under the microscope 24/7. But while some of the heat that comes their way is understandable, they do deserve credit where it is due.
In the midst of the disarray that’s transpired over the course of the past two years, the Knickerbockers have put together an intriguing and promising young core.
In regards to youth, the movement revolves around Kristaps Porzingis.
In his first two years on the scene, Porzingis has impressed with his two-way play. Playing above the rim and out on the perimeter, the 7-foot-3 Latvian has been a unique asset on the offensive end. Defensively, he’s been just as impressive.
Defending the rim and serving as a shot blocking presence, Porzingis has been just as productive defensively as he has been a go-to scoring outlet. With the Knicks looking to ship off Carmelo Anthony, the status quo appears to be building around their 22-year-old big man. Fortunately for them, they have the young pieces around Porzingis to begin making a promising foundation.
When it comes to the pieces around Porzingis, one key ingredient to the puzzle is center Willy Hernangomez.
Last year, the Spanish big man was a pleasant surprise for the Knicks in his rookie year. Posting 8.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in just 18.4 minutes per game, Hernangomez showcased an ability to score in the paint with his post-up arsenal and hit the boards. What’s intriguing about Hernangomez is how plotting him in the starting rotation affects the Knicks long-term.
With the NBA becoming a point guard, small-ball driven league, it’s becoming increasingly rare to see a team feature two prototypical big men in their starting five. While Porzingis doesn’t play like the generic, post-up, mid-range big man, his tall frame at the four and Hernangomez at the five provides the Knicks an intriguing and unique frontline duo. A duo worth experimenting with?
While starting the two bigs alongside one another goes against the modern day small-ball trend, it’s a unique duo worth giving a shot based on its youth — Porzingis and Hernangomez are 22 and 23 years of age, respectively.
After the big man duo of Porzingis and Hernangomez, the Knicks also possess a couple of young backcourt pieces.
With the eighth pick in the NBA Draft, the Knicks selected French point guard Frank Ntilikina — who also possesses an intriguing skill set.
Standing at 6-foot-5, Ntilikina possesses a near 7-foot wingspan — remarkable for a backcourt player. His unique wingspan helps contribute to the notion of him being a physical specimen on both ends of the floor — which also contributes to his defensive tenacity.
By playing tight on-ball defense and defending the perimeter at ease, Ntilikina serves as a gnat on the defensive end — his wingspan is key to that play.
Another notable facet of Ntilikina’s game is his selfless mentality.
Unlike the modern-day NBA point guard, Ntilikina gravitates toward being a pass-first player, as opposed to a scoring outlet. Given that mentality, Ntilikina is adept to finding his teammates in halfcourt and fastbreak sets — which should bode well with Porzingis.
Given he’s adept at running up and down the floor and playing with an aggressive mentality, Ntilikina will be able to find Porzingis in stride and allow him to finish in transition at the rim. The other youngling Ntilikina will be looking to help assist is shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. — who signed a four-year pact with the Knicks in free agency.
After being dealt away two years ago, the Knicks brought back Hardaway on a hefty four-year, $71 million dollar deal. Regardless of whether Hardaway is worth the money, the reality is that he is an improving young piece that the Knicks can work with going forward.
After being more of a spot-up shooter beyond the arc, Hardaway has expanded his offensive arsenal.
Playing with more of an attack mindset, to go along with his perimeter play, Hardaway has become a more sound product on the offensive end. Posting a career high 14.5 points per game on the five-seeded Atlanta Hawks last season, the 25-year-old Hardaway is a player on the rise as he heads back to the team that gave him his start back in 2013.
Now that Hardaway is accustomed to being a more well-rounded scorer, the Knicks have an up and coming backcourt piece going forward.
The Knicks have made their fair share of mistakes over the past few years, but they have simultaneously put in place a promising and intriguing young core — which they deserve credit for.