With Kristaps Porzingis finally the centerpiece of the New York Knicks, there may be some excitement to be had at MSG in 2017-18.
Addition by subtraction is an interesting notion. It’s hard to believe that jettisoning assets will, in fact, make your team better, but in the case of the New York Knicks, two departures have given hope to a team in a situation where all hope seemed lost.
The departures of Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony have ushered in a new era of New York basketball and while the early returns may not be the results fans are hoping for, there may be some excitement to be had at Madison Square Garden this upcoming season.
Kristaps Porzingis: Franchise Player
Carmelo Anthony is gone and lucky for us, we don’t have to look too far to find out new franchise player. After putting up with all the drama surrounding his frustration with the organization and Phil Jackson’s pure disdain for his attitude, we can finally welcome the Kristaps Porzingis era with open arms.
Our favorite Lativan stretch forward should see an immediate increase in offensive production now that he’s “the guy.” Jeff Hornacek‘s new, triangle-free system will center around Porzingis, affording him more touches and opportunities to emphasize his strengths.
In an effort to ensure he meets these expectations, Porzingis is taking extra measures to avoid the health issues that plagued him in his first two NBA seasons. After missing 26 games through his first two campaigns, the 7-foot-3 big man is moving his longtime physiotherapist, Manolo Valdivieso, to New York for the upcoming season. Valdivieso will also travel on the road with the team on Porzingis’ dime. If all goes well, this may be the year where Porzingis finally takes the expected leap into an All-Star.
A Lethal Kanter-Porzingis Combo?
The Knicks took pennies on the dollar in the deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City. It was not an ideal scenario, but there is only so much you can do with a disgruntled superstar in possession of a no-trade clause after your president of basketball operations does everything he can to destroy said superstar’s trade value. Nevertheless, getting Anthony off the roster lifted a black cloud that was hanging over this franchise since 2011.
Nevertheless, getting Anthony off the roster lifted a black cloud that had been hanging over this franchise since 2011., in fact, is the reason why not many tears were shed when the Knicks rid themselves of Melo. In exchange, the Knicks received Doug McDermott, Enes Kanter, and Chicago’s second-round pick. While this isn’t exactly the haul you would expect for a 10-time NBA All-Star, there may be some inherent value in pairing Kanter with Porzingis in the frontcourt.
Kanter is an exceptionally bad defender, so by nature, we shouldn’t expect much on that end. However, Kanter’s offensive game is unique in that it pretty conveniently complements Porzingis’s skillset. The Turkish export will be able to fill in nicely in the low post, an area that at times Porzingis seems allergic to.
A solid rebounding presence will only benefit Porzingis’ prowess and desire to play around the perimeter. Before we get too excited about this proposition, Kanter still has some work to do to beat out Willy Hernangomez and Kyle O’Quinn for the starting center role.
Tim Hardaway Jr. Can Fill the Offensive Void Left By Melo
You’re probably thinking, “Hey, anyone can call for the ball, stop any and all ball movement, waste the shot clock on a useless isolation play, and score 25 points on 30-to-40 shots a game.” Well when you put aside how inefficient he was with the ball in his hands, you realize that someone is going to have to make up the 24.7 points per game Carmelo Anthony averaged as a Knick. It’s by no means a perfect fit, but Tim Hardaway Jr. is poised for a breakout season on the offensive end.
Hardaway rejoins the Knicks for a second tour of duty after two years spent in an Atlanta Hawks uniform. $71 million was enough to dissuade the Hawks from matching the Knicks’ offer sheet and as a result, Hardaway heads back to the Big Apple coming off the best year of his career. The former Michigan star averaged 14.5 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field, both career highs. Hardaway also ranks 16th in the league in PER (player efficiency rating) and 13th in both EWA (estimated wins added) and VA (value added) among qualified shooting guards. Keep in mind that he did all of this in primarily a bench role. Just for context, Hardaway was worth 5.1 EWA in 2017, ranking two wins higher than the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, Eric Gordon.
Sliding Hardaway into a starting role will almost immediately translate into an uptick in production. The Knicks are also particularly weak at point guard, so Hardaway may have the ball in his hands more than expected. Factor that all in with Jeff Hornacek’s up-tempo offense and the chance to play directly off of Kristaps Porzingis and you have the recipe for a breakout season.
If All Else Fails, The United Nations Will Be in Session Come 2018
Despite everything I’ve written, there is still a realistic possibility that the Knicks are awful in 2017-18. However, we can all breathe a sigh of relief as I don’t think there is a way the Knicks can trade anymore first-round picks for Tracy McGrady. So if all else fails, the Knicks will be in a position to potentially draft Luka Doncic, the next great European prospect. A 6-foot-8, 228-pound swingman, the Slovenian prospect has the chance to do something no European perimeter player has ever done before—be the first overall pick in the NBA Draft.
The 18-year-old has shined against established professionals like our own Kristaps Porzingis, Ricky Rubio, Marc and Pau Gasol, and much more en route to a shocking Eurobasket run that led to a gold medal win for Slovenia. His production at his age is unprecedented and he’s been labeled as a once-in-a-generation talent by many NBA scouts and executives. Doncic has drawn countless comparisons to the late Drazen Petrovic and all interesting parties will continue to flock to Spain to get a glimpse at the star in the making.
With potentially three international players in their starting lineup, there would be no better place for Doncic to start his career than New York. Pairing him with another young, international star like Porzingis could do wonders for his development and adjustment to American culture. Obviously, it’s not much fun to see your team tanking. But in this scenario it may be worthwhile, especially considering the prospect of your squad being nicknamed the “United Nations.”