The New York Knicks have decisions to make before opening night. What might the final 15-man roster look like on Tuesday, October 25?
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Oct 8, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Chasson Randle (4) drives to the net between Brooklyn Nets forward Chris McCullough (1) and Brooklyn Nets forward Justin Hamilton (41) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Before the New York Knicks’ season opener on Tuesday, October 25 in Cleveland, team president Phil Jackson needs to trim the roster down. As of Wednesday, October 12, the Knicks have 19 players on the roster. The maximum an NBA team can carry is 15.
The team is going to have some tough decisions to make, as some players have surprised and shown out in the preseason.
We know the starting five for this Knicks team, and we know certain guys off the bench are locks to make the team (Brandon Jennings, Lance Thomas, etc.). Will the Knicks opt for the younger guys or the more veteran players? Who is destined to go to Westchester?
Here is what the Knicks roster could look like after cuts.
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) celebrates with forward Carmelo Anthony (7) after a play during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 130-103. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The Starting Five
Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee
Phil Jackson went into the offseason knowing he had cap room to work with and numerous holes to fill in the New York Knicks’ starting five. First he traded for point guard Derrick Rose, the former NBA MVP who dealt with countless injuries while with the Chicago Bulls.
Free agency came along, and Jackson signed Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee to fill out the Knicks’ lineup. Noah received four years and $72 million to be the Knicks’ starting center, while Lee was signed for four years and $48 million to fill the hole at shooting guard.
We have yet to see this unit play together in the first three preseason games, as Noah has been out with hamstring issues and Rose is in Los Angeles at his trial. We should get to see the group on Saturday night against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden.
If this group can stay healthy, with a dominant and poised Carmelo Anthony, and an improved Kristaps Porzingis, it should be one of the best in the Eastern Conference.
Oct 10, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) dribbles the ball during the third quarter against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks won 90-88. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The bench is going to be the key for a New York Knicks team that has a starting lineup mostly comprised of injury-prone players. The Knicks bench lost two of its big pieces from last season in free agency in Derrick Williams and Langston Galloway.
Signing Brandon Jennings gives the Knicks a dynamic sixth man, something they haven’t had since the days of J.R. Smith. Its only been three preseason games, but Jennings is already becoming a fan favorite partly due to moves like this:
Maybe the most important move for the Knicks’ bench was re-signing forward Lance Thomas to a four-year deal. He provides defensive intensity, leadership, and the occasional high-scoring game.
Kyle O’Quinn and Sasha Vujacic will both be back on the Knicks’ bench, though neither was impressive last season.
The Knicks seem to like Vujacic’s impact in the locker room and his knowledge of the offense Phil Jackson wants to run. O’Quinn is in the second year of a four-year deal, so cutting him would make no financial sense.
The two other bench locks both played last season overseas. Willy Hernangomez was a teammate of Kristaps Porzingis a couple of years ago in Spain. At 22 years old and at 6’10, Hernangomez has shown major upside in the preseason.
As of now, he’s probably the backup center.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas is a stretch forward who can provide the Knicks with a scoring wing off the bench. The Lithuanian-born player is still very raw.
Oct 10, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Ron Baker (31) shoots the ball over Washington Wizards guard Daniel House (4) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks won 90-88. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Who Else Makes the Team?
In: Chasson Randle, Marshall Plumlee, Justin Holiday, Ron Baker
Out: Lou Amundson, JP Tokoto, Damien Inglis, Maurice Ndour
The final four spots are going to be difficult for the New York Knicks to decide on, but the preseason has separated some players. Chasson Randle, the undrafted guard from Stanford, is averaging 7.7 points per game in the preseason and had a great showing at Summer League.
He even started the other night in place of the injured Joakim Noah.
Justin Holiday was the other player the Knicks received in the trade for Derrick Rose. Holiday has experience on winning teams (won a ring in Golden State), and will give the Knicks versatility off of the bench.
The last spot was tough to decide upon. In the end, I think the Knicks should go with Ron Baker. Baker was undrafted this year out of Wichita State and has shown the tools of an NBA player in both the Summer League and the preseason.
The Knicks are trying to win-now, but keeping Baker along with guys like Randle and Plumlee allows them to build for the future. The Knicks really don’t need Lou Amundson when they have three other guys on the bench who are capable of playing the four or five.