What are the expectations for the 2016-17 New York Knicks? Are they fair, foul, or simply irrelevant? Our Chris Priczak gets to the bottom of it.
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Sep 26, 2016; White Plains, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (left) addresses the media as point guard Derrick Rose looks on during the New York Knicks Media Day at Ritz-Carlton. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
There have been several noteworthy predictions for the New York Knicks heading into the 2016-17 season. The ESPN Summer Forecast has New York finishing with 40 wins and Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider predicted the Knicks will finish with 35 wins, which would be a three-win improvement from the 2015-16 season.
If the results are close to that, then it would mean the New York Knicks would miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
On the other hand, former Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy believes something positive will happen in the Big Apple.
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) dribbles the ball as Houston Rockets forward Ryan Anderson (3) defends during the third quarter at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 130-103. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The D-Rose Factor
Even though Derrick Rose has dealt with injuries since winning the MVP in 2011, he has seen more game action in the past three seasons. Rose played in 66 games last season after playing only 61 games the previous two seasons.
If New York can get at least 65 games of productivity out of the former MVP, the Knicks should be in good hands.
Following the 2016 All-Star Game, Derrick Rose averaged 17.4 points and 4.6 assists in 30.9 minutes per game. Along with that, he shot 47 percent from the field and 38 percent from downtown.
While Rose finished off the 2015-16 season on a high note, he hasn’t been an effective 3-point shooter in his career. The Chicago native can attack the rim with ease, however, which he displayed in the Knicks first preseason game.
He was relied on to take more shots in Chicago, but that won’t be the case in New York. Carmelo Anthony is a threat as a 3-point shooter. The Knicks will utilize Rose’s skills and won’t rely on him to be the No.1 option.
Oct 8, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) reacts after scoring a basket against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Kristaps Porzingis’ Development
Along with Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis showed his ability to knock down threes during his rookie season. Porzingis is the tallest player to record 70 or more 3-point field goals in a season.
The sophomore forward displayed his confidence and improvement with his 3-point shot in the first game.
The Knicks found a rhythm on offense in the third quarter against the Houston Rockets, which was powered by Porzingis knocking down a few threes.
In that game, Porzingis shot 5-of-6 from beyond the arc.
Even though it was the first preseason game, it was evident that Porzingis made improvements in his game. In one instance, Derrick Rose drove to the basket and drew in an extra defender. Instead of taking a difficult shot, Rose kicked it out to Porzingis, who drained a three.
While it’s unlikely the Knicks forward will have a high 3-point percentage, he will be effective in that department. Teams led by Jeff Hornacek have been known to push the pace and shoot threes.
Being confident with his three-point shooting is a huge positive, which will be beneficial for a team that finished 18th in the league in 3-point field goal percentage (34.6%) last season.
Sep 26, 2016; White Plains, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee addresses the media during the New York Knicks Media Day at Ritz-Carlton. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Joakim Noah is another player the New York Knicks brought in during the offseason. He had shoulder surgery in January and missed the Knicks’ first two preseason games. The Knicks looked lost on defense against the Rockets, but things could have looked a little different if Noah were on the court.
The Knicks made improvements, which was seen in their match-up against the Brooklyn Nets.
When Noah gets on the court, the Knicks’ defense should be improved. Noah knows it’s the preseason, but he wants to be ready when the season starts.
“I want to be out there and play,” Noah said to Marc Berman of The New York Post. “At the same time, I have to be smart. I got to be careful with a hamstring. It’s preseason. I just want to be right when it counts.’’
With all the huge moves made in the offseason, the most underrated, yet valuable, signing has to go to Courtney Lee.
Lee gets praised for his defense, since he has the ability to defend both guard positions. He’s an exceptional perimeter defender and can guard the three-point line as well. Opponents shot 35.4 percent from three last season with Lee as the defender.
While his defense is the strongest part of his game, Lee can be an adequate shooter. As the Knicks guard showed in the second preseason game, he knocked down a three off of a shovel pass from Brandon Jennings.
While Courtney Lee believes the New York Knicks starting five can be “very scary”, the Knicks will need to see production from their second unit.
Oct 10, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (40) dunks the ball as Washington Wizards guard Daniel House (4) defends during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks won 90-88. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
New York added several new pieces—Brandon Jennings, Justin Holiday, Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Maurice Ndour, and Marshall Plumlee— to their bench in the offseason. Along with the new additions, Lou Amundson, Kyle O’Quinn, Lance Thomas, and Sasha Vujacic have returned to the team.
There are a few rookie guards—Ron Baker, Chasson Randle, and J.P. Tokoto— on the roster, all of whom are competing for one of the final roster spots.
Since Rose didn’t play in the second preseason game, Baker and Randle saw extended playing time. Both guards were effective from three-point range. Along with looking solid on offense, Randle was also getting it done on defense, as he picked up three steals.
The former Cardinal totaled 14 points, two assists, and two rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
“I love him. I just love his poise out there, the way he controls the game, controls the basketball,” Anthony said. “He can push the pace. He can slow it down. I think you guys would love him too the more that you see him play.”
Jennings has high expectations set for himself. When Phil Jackson brought the former No.10 overall pick aboard, Jackson expects him to go after the Sixth Man of the Year award.
“He said he expects me to be sixth man of the year,” Jennings said to Ian Begley of ESPN. “So I’m definitely gonna embrace that role. I don’t see why I can’t be in that conversation, and I’m fine with it. I’m definitely fine with it.”
Jennings is playing in his first full season after rupturing his left Achilles tendon in January of 2015. He signed a one-year deal with the Knicks, but he wants to prove that he can still play at a high level. He has the ability to distribute the ball, which is something he will need to bring to the second unit.
While Jennings has spent most of his career as a starter, he has averaged almost six (5.9) assists per contest.
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 Second Unit
With Derrick Rose unavailable in the Knicks’ second preseason game, Brandon Jennings was added to the starting rotation. Jennings brought a bulk of energy to the game, which saw him run the court with pace.
In addition, he was able to make plays for himself, along with setting up others. Along with his strong effort on offense, he was being a pesky defender; most notably turning defense into offense following a steal on Yogi Ferrell.
The most valuable asset he will bring off the bench is his three-point shooting. Jennings was most efficient off catch and shoots, as he shot 41.4 percent off the catch and shoot. It’s already evident how weak the Knicks three-point efficiency was last season.
Not only will Jennings be an important piece off the bench, but he may see some time as a starter, if Derrick Rose is unavailable.
With Rose and Jennings as the primary point guards on the roster, the Knicks could add another guard to the roster, most likely one of the rookies. With one of the three rookies potentially making the final roster, it’s likely the other two start of the season in Westchester.
Lance Thomas will be an important piece off the bench. He’s proven his value on the offensive side of the ball, which will be an asset to the second unit. Last season, Thomas shot 40 percent from three-point range. The second unit will need to step up this season since it’s something the team struggled with last season.
New York ranked 20th in the league in bench point per game (33.7).
Even though he did have knee issues, Thomas showed that he can be a tough defender.
From a returning player to a rookie; a rookie that could be an under-the-radar player next season.
Willy Hernangomez will provide a spark off the bench in his rookie season. He will be going through the ups and downs during his rookie season, but the Knicks will utilize Hernangomez’s offensive skills.
He’s a back-to-the-basket big who can score in the post and rebound the ball. The 6’10” center has the ability to score with off-hand as well, which makes his offensive game so strong. Along with that, his skill as a passing big will be an asset to the team.
The 2015 second-round pick struggled on defense in the Euroleague, especially not being a good pick-and-roll defender. Playing with Noah, Hernangomez will have a chance to learn from a former Defensive Player of the Year.
The talent is evident. It’s only a matter of time until this team gets in a grove and starts producing wins.
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) brings the ball up the court during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
There are a lot of factors that have to fall in place in order for the New York Knicks to have success. Let’s make a small checklist.
The number one thing is the most important one: health. Derrick Rose (47 games), Carmelo Anthony (52 games), Joakim Noah (68 games), and Brandon Jennings (75 games) have missed significant playing time over the past two seasons.
The second thing has to do with the number two player on the roster. Can Kristaps Porzingis step up in his second season? Last season, Porzingis had one of the best rookie seasons in NBA history.
He recorded upwards of 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 100 blocks, and 75 3-point field goals—the only rookie who has ever done that.
It’s hard to take many things out of two preseason games, but the Knicks should be happy with what they’ve seen out of their 7’3″ forward. He’s felt confident with his 3-point shots and looked solid on defense so far.
When some thought he would struggle on defense, he had a productive season on the defensive side as a rookie.
The third is the depth. The Knicks put a lot of offseason work in their starting lineup with the additions of Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, and Joakim Noah. Brandon Jennings, who has spent most of his career as a starter, has embraced his role as the sixth man.
He has even made it a goal to win the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Along with Jennings, Lance Thomas is looking to bolster the team’s second unit. Newly-aquired Justin Holiday is looking to find a home on a team, as he is on his fifth NBA team after going undrafted in 2011.
So far through the preseason, Ron Baker and Chasson Randle look poised to grab the final roster spot.
Feb 1, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) guards Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Cavaliers won 111-106 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Finally, where do the New York Knicks have a chance at finishing in the Eastern Conference?
The Cleveland Cavaliers are favorite to win the Eastern Conference. The Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics are expected to finish in the top-4. After the acquisition of Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young, the Indiana Pacers are looking to finish at the top of the conference and have success in the playoffs.
Even though the Detroit Pistons will be without Reggie Jackson for six-to-eight weeks, the Pistons will climb up the standings. With Jackson out, it could open the door for the Atlanta Hawks to overtake the Pistons.
At the moment, let’s pencil the Hawks as the fifth seed and the Pistons in the sixth spot.
There will be several teams that will be fighting for the final two playoff spots. The Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets are two teams that will be attempting to secure a spot in the postseason.
When it comes down to the final stretch, it could be the Knicks and Hornets fighting for the seventh seed and the Wizards on the outside looking in.
Leaving Washington out of the playoffs may be questionable since the Wizards have a top backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal.
At the moment, the Knicks have the potential to finish with the 7th seed. With that being said, their first-round match-up could be the Toronto Raptors or Boston Celtics.