With Carmelo Anthony out of town, the New York Knicks will have an interesting time selecting their next starting five.
The New York Knicks are heading into the 2017-18 NBA season with a number of new faces and key departures. Among them, most notably, is Carmelo Anthony. After shipping off the All-Star forward to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Knicks will go into this season without their former franchise player and with a new name at the center of everything blue and orange – Kristaps Porzingis.
But how will Jeff Hornacek and the Porzingis-led Knicks starting lineup look on opening night?
Point Guard: Ramon Sessions
When the Knicks signed Sessions to a one-year, minimum deal, they envisioned utilizing the former Charlotte Hornets guard as a bridge for Ntilikina’s development.
While not a top-tier player, Sessions is a sound product on both ends of the floor; he holds his own on the defensive end and isn’t a ball dominant guard.
Sessions likely isn’t the Knicks long-term answer at point, but for the meantime, he’ll be their solution at the one until Ntilikina shows he can produce at the NBA level.
Shooting Guard: Tim Hardaway Jr.
No free agent signing stood out for the Knicks more than reuniting with shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr.
After being traded on draft night back in 2015, the Knicks view Hardaway as a focal point of their offense this upcoming year, which handing over $71 million proves.
Ever since his departure two years ago, the Michigan product has become a well-rounded scorer. As opposed to just standing in the corner, Hardaway has developed the ability to create his own shot and pose a consistent scoring threat. Averaging a career-high 14.5 points per game while shooting a career-best 45.5 percent from the field with the Atlanta Hawks last season, Hardaway is a player on the rise. His defense remains suspect but it has slightly improved to the point where he’s not an utter liability.
After Porzingis, Hardaway will be heavily relied on to produce a great deal towards the Knicks’ offensive efforts.
Small Forward: Courtney Lee
In the wake of Anthony’s departure, the Knicks have a hole to fill out on the perimeter — and moving Courtney Lee up from shooting guard to the three to fill that void makes sense.
Last year, the Knicks inked the veteran on a four-year deal to come in and be a “three and d” wing, which he was.
Playing tight one-on-one and perimeter defense, Lee was just what the Knicks signed up for defensively. On the other side of the ball, Lee produced up to his standards. Shooting 40.1 percent from beyond the arc, he was a threat out on the perimeter for Hornacek and company.
Based on his ability to spot up from the outside and compete on the defensive end, starting Lee out on the perimeter alongside Hardaway appears to be the likely course of action for the Knicks.
Power Forward: Kristaps Porzingis
Anthony is gone and now it’s Porzingis’ time to shine. The Knicks are his team and management will go forth with him as their centerpiece, which, without a doubt, pencils him in as a starter.
It’s no secret what the 7-foot-3 Latvian is capable of doing. He can play out on the perimeter, attack the rack, play above the rim and pose a shot-blocking presence. His ability to play on both ends is the most underrated facet of his game — though that doesn’t mean he cannot improve.
Despite playing with an attack mindset, Porzingis is not adept at playing in the post or creating his own shot at ease. He also needs to garner the ability to stay on his feet and defend in isolation sets.
With the keys to the Mercedes, there’s no doubting that the junior big man will be starting come opening night.
Center: Enes Kanter
The Knicks netted Kanter as apart of the deal that shipped Anthony to Loud City. Upon his arrival, the Turkish product will likely get the starting nod.
While not much of a defensive threat, Kanter is an established offensive product; he can play in the post, has a midrange jumper and hits the boards. Last season, Kanter posted 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game despite playing in just 21.3 minutes off the Thunder bench. Over the course of the last four seasons, Kanter has contributed, on average, 13.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in just 24.4 minutes per night.
Kanter is a starting big in the association; the Thunder were of the mindset that he was best suited coming off their bench. But for the Knicks, having two bigs that combine for nearly $36 million coming off the bench (Kanter, Noah) would be a bad look on management. Plus, Kanter provides the Knicks with someone who can contribute to their offensive attack, which is currently looking for an identity. He can also force the issue in the paint and have Porzingis stretch the floor, which certainly helps the Knicks balance out their frontline and starting five as a whole. Having one of the game’s better rebounders in their starting five will also help.