New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis finally takes the reigns as the team begins what is destined to be a long rebuild.

Kristaps Porzingis has played 138 NBA games and posted a usage percentage of 30 percent or higher 27 times. Carmelo Anthony had more games like that in 2016-17 alone. The ten-time All-Star attempted 825 more shots than the unicorn in the last two seasons.

It was always going to be Anthony’s team as long as he remained in New York, but now he’s gone. The budding star from Latvia is the unequivocal best player, primary option, and team leader. This is what we’ve been waiting for.

Until now Porzingis has only been able to show flashes of the great player he can become. With the offense to be played through him, the sky is the limit on his potential. He’s already coming along as a three-point shooter; converting at a 35.7 percent clip as a sophomore up from 33.3 percent as a rookie.


Finally working out with the legendary Dirk Nowitzki was a big step for Porzingis over the summer. There’s no one better for the youngster to learn post moves from than the Dallas Mavericks superstar.

The starring role that he took on for Latvia during EuroBasket 2017 must’ve helped. Porzingis was third in the tournament in scoring and made over 53 percent of his shots. He took his squad to the quarterfinal round where they were done in by eventual champion Slovenia.

Of course, it’s not going to be all fun and games for Porzingis in his first year as “the man.” This rebuilding season isn’t as much about wins and losses for the Knicks as it is about developing their younger players. Porizngis included.

The 22-year-old has never faced this kind of pressure. Melo wasn’t just his mentor and friend, but he was also a security blanket. If Porzingis’ shot was off, it wasn’t the end of the world because Melo would save the day. The security blanket’s gone now. Porzingis is alone and free to be unleashed on the league.

This wouldn’t be a preview if we didn’t take a look at what moves the team made in the offseason. Who’s here? Who’s gone? We’ll also tell you why you should watch this team (other than Porzingis). There are different reasons. Then it’s prediction time. We’ll look at awards, records, etc.

This is ESNY’s New York Knicks season preview and predictions:

Key Departures

The loss of Carmelo Anthony was heartbreaking, but it was long overdue for both sides. The former superstar didn’t get the Knicks nearly as big a haul as he should’ve, but it was important to move on. Again, for both sides.

Speaking of moving on, the Knicks finally smartened up and canned Phil Jackson back in June. In classic Knicks fashion, they let him do the draft before they fired him. But Jackson had created a culture so toxic and unbearable for the players that he had to go. Whether Anthony was there or not.

Jackson’s prized acquisition last summer was Derrick Rose. The former MVP came in with big plans to make the playoffs and talked about re-signing in New York. His agent wouldn’t shut up about it. But it didn’t work out because Rose wasn’t a fit at all with Anthony or Porzingis. There was also the whole going AWOL thing.

Justin Holiday was a workhorse for the team off the bench. Holiday was the only Knick to play in all 82 games last season. He was arguably their best perimeter defender; even better than Lee. Holiday’s play will be missed, but New York hopes rookie Damyean Dotson can pick up where Holiday left off.

Key Additions

The new Knicks regime welcomed Tim Hardaway Jr. back with a four-year, $71 million contract. The contract is tough to swallow given the amount of money New York already has tied up in Joakim Noah. It seems like they should be trying to shed salary. But you can’t argue that Hardaway will be a valuable weapon on offense for this team. He played in all five preseason games and led the team in minutes, scoring, and steals.

We still haven’t seen much from Frank Ntilikina. In fact, it was only 18 minutes in New York’s first preseason game against the Nets two weeks ago. He didn’t play in any of the other exhibitions after hurting his knee vs. Brooklyn. He was impressive in limited minutes, though, with his defense and passing.

Enes Kanter has already established himself as a reliable scorer for the Knicks. He was second on the team in scoring during the preseason at 15.5 per game. The question is: how long can he stay on the floor due to his struggling defense?

The “walking bucket” Michael Beasley scored 17 points against the Rockets in an impressive 7-of-11 shooting performance. But in his other three games, he posted more pedestrian point totals of 7, 8, and 10. Despite an odd preseason, Beasley remains a crucial addition for the regular season. New York needs buckets. The former No. 2 overall pick can get them.

Why You Should Watch (Other than for KP)

  • How good is Frank Ntilikina?
  • Can Jeff Hornacek coach?
  • How will the offense look?

We won’t see Frank start right away. His preseason injury issues put the kibosh on that dream for Knicks fans. Until we see the first-round pick go up against NBA competition in the regular season on a consistent basis, it’s hard to make any determination about him. He’s always going to be linked to Phil Jackson and the triangle, but he looked good running a different offense in the preseason.

It’s time to see what Jeff Hornacek can do. Last season, he wasn’t running his offense, and his boss’ friend was running the defense. Hornacek escaped all criticism because the media and fans were focused on Phil Jackson. That won’t happen this year. If he struggles, he’ll get the boot.

It’s not Phil Jackson’s offense in New York anymore. The Knicks were just 22nd in pace during the preseason. They were 17th during the 2016-17 regular season while running the ancient triangle. They showed signs of the up-tempo offense that Jeff Hornacek wants to run, but they haven’t put it all together yet. They also aren’t at full strength.

Predictions, Team Awards

  • Most Valuable Player: Kristaps Porzingis
  • Rookie of the Year: Frank Ntilikina
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Kristaps Porzingis
  • Sixth Man of the Year: Michael Beasley
  • Most Improved Player: Willy Hernangomez

If Kristaps Porzingis isn’t the Knicks MVP, then it’s going to be a long season. He should end up leading the team in scoring, blocks, and possibly rebounds as well. The unicorn is also the team’s best defender, on a team of bad ones, so that’s why he gets the nod with DPOY.

It’s Frank here over Dotson. Although I don’t think either guy will be featured much this season, Frank will be featured more. It’s more of a playing time thing because Dotson will end up being a solid rotation guy when more minutes become available.

This one’s tough to predict because the team hasn’t announced it’s starting lineup yet. It could be Courtney Lee here or Michael Beasley. We’ll say Beasley, though, because he’s the better bench player. Beasley is a great fit as a bench scorer for the Knicks next to Kristaps Porzingis at the stretch four spot.

Willy Hernangomez is a name that hasn’t been talked about much recently. He’s been lost in the Enes Kanter created fog. Just because he could be losing his starting role to a superior player, right now anyway, doesn’t mean that Hernangomez won’t get better in whatever role he receives.

Final Record: 28-54 (5th in Atlantic, 12th in East)

The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season and 11th in the last 14. Just hope this lost season turns into Luka Doncic, Michael Porter Jr., or Marvin Bagley. You may not know who those guys are right now, but if you’re a Knicks fan, you’ll have their bios memorized before midseason.

ESNY Staff Picks

Robby Sabo, Founder

Final Record: 39-43
Place in East: 9th
Playoff Result (if any): N/A
Team MVP: KP
NBA Awards (if any): N/A

Now that Melo, Phil and all the drama is gone, it’s time to start playing real basketball. Yes, the defense is gonna be rough, but as bad it will be, it’ll be improved with Melo, a slow, lumbering 3-man gone. With KP finally afforded the chance to grow with pieces around him, he’ll lead a potent offensive attack that works in the regular season but has no shot of contending. It’ll be an exciting year one for the new era.

Call Melo a “great teammate” all you want. He’s just not a great leader and his scoring doesn’t make up for the rest of his deficiencies. Exciting hustle team ball will keep the Knicks in playoff contention all season long. And, oh yeah, Porzingis will finally rightly assume his place as one of the top five players in the leauge. He wasn’t “fortunate” to have Melo taking “pressure” off of him these last two years. Rather, he’s been stuck in the mud in having a guy shoot at a .433 clip ahead of him.

Robbie Stratakos, Staff Writer

Place in East: 12th
Playoff Result (if any): N/A
Team MVP: Kristaps Porzingis
NBA Awards (if any): N/A

The New York Knicks have entered a new era — one centered around Kristaps Porzingis. With Carmelo Anthony out the door and young pieces such as Frank Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway Jr. and even Doug McDermott in place with Porzingis and center Willy Hernangomez, the Knicks have themselves an intriguing, young core. However, this grouping will struggle big time defensively, which will ultimately prevent them from making a playoff appearance. It’s going to be a little while before the Knicks can be a serious playoff threat; improving on that end of the floor will be crucial if they aspire to do so with Porzingis as the team’s focal point.

Danny Small, Contributor

Final Record: 28-52
Place in East: 13th
Playoff Result (if any): N//A
Team MVP: Kristaps Porzingis
NBA Awards (if any): Tim Hardaway Jr., Most Improved Player

This will be a rebuilding year for the Knicks focusing on player development. This team will be led by Kristaps Porzingis and his growth is one of the few things that will keep Knicks fans watching. His ability to mesh with Frank Ntilikina is one of the most interesting story lines heading into this year. If those two can develop chemistry, the Knicks future could be bright. Look for Tim Hardaway Jr. to take the biggest leap this season. He will be the second option on offense and have ample opportunities to put up points. If he continues to build on his second half from last season he may find himself in serious contention for the Most Improved Player this year. Player development should be the only thing on the minds of Knick fans this season.

Alex Jordan, Staff Writer

Final Record: 24-58
Place in East: 12th
Playoff Result (if any): N/A
Team MVP: Kristaps Porzingis
NBA Awards (if any): N/A

Even with Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson gone this season will be a disater for the Knicks. The young players will struggle and the Knicks won’t win as much as they did last year because they don’t have the team to beat everyone. Kristaps Porzingis will become an All-Star and have a shot at being the league’s MVP. It will be an exciting and entertaining first year of a rebuild that the Knicks will be able to build off of for the 2018-19 season.

Michael Dolan, Contributor

Final Record: 35-47
Place in East: 10th
Playoff Result (if any): N/A
Team MVP: KP
NBA Awards (if any): N/A

This is the season that Porzingis takes over as the leader of the Knicks. They make a full commitment to a full rebuild. By the trade deadline, both Lee & O’Quinn will be traded. Their perimeter defense will improve as the season goes on and Ntilikina receives more playing time.

Nick Durst, Audio/Video Director

Final Record: 24-58
Place in East: 13th
Playoff Result (if any): N/A
Team MVP: Kristaps Porzingis
NBA Awards (if any): NBA All Rookie Second Team – Frank Ntilikina

In games that Carmelo Anthony did not play last year, the New York Knicks lost every single one of them, so expecting a lot of losing this season. Steve Mills is the wrong man for the job when it comes to being in charge of the roster. He was not able to make any trades to improve the team and the only player he could sign was Tim Hardaway Jr., who he overpaid. Kristaps Porzingis should continue to grow as long as he does not get injured. Frank Ntilikina will turn all of the doubters into believers by season end, as he emerges as one of the best defensive point guards in the league. Ntilikina’s pass first style of play will be refreshing to see for Knicks fans. Doug McDermott will have a very solid year as the sixth man.

Justin Birnbaum, Contributor

Final record: 33-49
Place in East: 12th
Playoff Result: N/A
Team MVP: KP
NBA Awards: KP All-NBA Third Team, Frankie Ntilikina All-Rookie Second Team

The post-Carmelo Anthony era won’t exactly kick off with fireworks, but there will be plenty to look forward to. With the franchise now on his shoulders, we will finally learn whether KP is the superstar we are all hoping he can be. Tim Hardaway Jr is poised for a breakout season after seeing his best year as an Atlanta Hawk and now transitioning into a starting role. If Frank Ntilikina can remain healthy, his progress and development will be a key factor to monitor over the season. The Knicks may be a long shot for the playoffs in 2017-18, but they’re not as further out as you think. Plus, tanking this year may prove to be an advantage with three super prospects at the top of the 2018 draft board, including Luka Doncic.

Geoff Campbell, Contributor

Final Record: 30-52
Place in East: 12th
Playoff Result (if any): None
Team MVP: Kristaps Porzingis
NBA Awards (if any): Most Improved Player – Porzingis

At the end of the day all you want to see is gradual growth and improvement. THJr. needs to show that he’s a starting SG in the league. Porzingis takes the next step in his development and both Ntilikina and WHG continue to improve. Regardless of the record, as long as they play hard and improve on defense, fans will be happy. This season is also important because we need to see if Hornacek is a true teacher if the game and if he can help develop young talent.

Bryan Pol, Senior Writer

Final Record: 21-61
Place in East: 13th (ahead of Brooklyn and Chicago)
Playoff Result (if any): N/A
Team MVP: Kristaps Porzingis
NBA Awards (if any): N/A

The Knicks will be a mess defensively this year. They will be relying on a replacement-level player (Ramon Sessions) and a rookie (Frank Ntilikina) at point guard, which spells disaster. However, they should light up the scoreboard with Porzingis, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Enes Kanter (his pairing with KP could actually be thrilling to watch), and Doug McDermott manning a free-flowing, yet undefined (at least as of yet) Jeff Hornacek led, run-and-gun style offense. When the offense gels, they could be fun to watch, but they won’t be a “must see” club on League Pass this season. This is now Porzingis’s club, but the Knicks should not push him to play much beyond 60 games given his youth and the hope for a high lottery pick. In that vein, they should strive to be a lottery club that is gunning for a top three pick. Anything outside of the first five selections of a top-heavy draft class for the Knicks would be futile. They need assets and youth, seeing as no free agent would pine to come here after the Melo/Phil fiasco and owner James Dolan’s place at the helm. (edited)

Rick Weiner, Editor in Chief

Final Record: 22-60
Place in East: 13th
Playoff Result (if any): Watching from the couch
Team MVP: Kristaps Porzingis
NBA Awards (if any): N/A

It’s going to be a LONG season for the Knicks, but unlike losing years of the past, it’ll be highly entertaining. This team is going to put points on the board. Problem is, they can”t stop anyone. Kristaps Porzingis will take the next step in his development and make the first of what will be many NBA All-Star teams.

I'm ESNY's Executive Editor for I cover the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Email: Chip Murphy covers the NBA for Elite Sports NY. You can find him on Twitter @ChipperMurphy.