2016-17 New York Knicks Season Preview: Don’t Mention the Trial

Up next, The Dunkyard’s explains why the Knicks’ upcoming season feels a lot like Groundhog Day.

Last season by the numbers

  • Record: 32-50 (24th)
  • Offensive rating: 104.6 (24th).
  • Defensive rating: 107.6 (18th)
  • Pace: 93.4 (26th)
  • True shooting: 52.7% (23th)
  • Turnover rate: 12.6% (11th)
  • Offensive rebounding: 23.7% (18th)
  • Defensive rebounding: 75.8% (18th)
  • Highest PER*: 20.3 (Carmelo Anthony)

(*) – minimum 1,000 minutes.

At a glance

(Converts the above rankings into a rating out of 10).

nyk

Recap

GM Phil Jackson did the right thing last year by committing to a rebuild of the Knicks – and having the cajones to draft Porzingis with the 4th overall pick in the draft. Tabbed as a major, high-risk project, Porzingis gave naysayers and crying fans the giant Lativian middle finger on his way to a PER of 17.7 – good enough for second on the team.

As far as the Knicks’ overall on-court product was concerned, it predictably didn’t deliver much. Having said that, it is important to bear in mind that the 32 wins achieved was almost double the amount won the season before (17).

On offense, the Knicks really struggled to shoot from just about everywhere on the court, ranking 20th on three point accuracy and 28th on two point accuracy. The lone exception to this was the free throw line, where the Knicks ranked first in accuracy (80.5%). The problem was that they couldn’t get there anywhere near enough, ranking 25th in attempts.

Three point shooting was a particular problem with Anthony being the only one to hit more than 100 threes for the season. Adding to the insult was the fact that his 105 threes came at a cost of 33.9% accuracy. Afflalo (who has now left) was next best, with 91 makes at a solid 38.2%. Although Porzingis was below par from outside by league standards, his 81 threes at 33.0% provided a glimmer of hope for the future.

If the Knicks weren’t ranked 11th in taking care of the ball, their offense would have ranked even lower than 24th overall.

The defense fared surprisingly better, ranking 18th. Chief among the positives here was the perimeter defense, which ranked 4th and 6th respectively for three point makes and attempts. While this was somewhat overrated by the Knicks’ glacially slow pace (26th), the bottom line is that they kept opponents to 34.1% from down town (7th). The only mystery is how they managed to achieve this with Calderon playing 28 minutes a night at the point. Afflalo, Galloway and, to a lesser extent, Anthony all deserve credit in this respect. Porzingis’ ability to roam the perimeter on occasions was also very encouraging.

Reasons to be optimistic

Porzingis was awesome as a rookie last season. Although his shooting was well below par overall (TS 51.8% – 59th out of 76 power forwards), his high usage rate of 24.6% showed that he wasn’t afraid and could create his own offense. If he can continue to improve, the Knicks will have a perennial All-star on their hands… and perhaps more. His organic growth will be the main variable for the upcoming season.

If Noah can stay healthy, the Knicks will have a proven winner and fearsome competitor in their corner. Aside from his defensive ability and high post passing on offense, Noah’s energy and capabilities as an enforcer will also be useful in taking some of the heat off Porzingis as he continues to develop.

Derek Rose and Brandon Jennings are both on expiring deals.

Reasons not to be

All of the major players brought in have major durability issues.

Neither of the point guards brought in can shoot the ball. In fact, none of the players brought in can shoot the ball. Lopez and Calderon were the only Knicks who shot at an above average level last season and they are now gone. Overall, the Knicks did nothing to help their shooting problems over the off-season and arguably made things worse. The bricks could really fly this season.

Robin Lopez and Derrick Williams actually played decent basketball last season (both had a PER over 17.0) and are now gone.

Despite blowing last season, the Knicks couldn’t keep their first round draft pick. Their no. 7 pick went to Denver, who took Jamal Murray. This was a leftover from the Melo trade – you know, the guy that they could have gotten for free during free agency instead of having to trade for him. And it amazingly got even worse from there:

New York – would have had the no. 7 pick, but swapped it to Denver for the no. 9 pick (Melo trade), before then trading that pick away in 2013 to Toronto for ANDREA BARGNANI!!! (No, I’m not joking). The GM on the other side for each trade was Masai Ujiri by the way. (Ed: Denver ended up taking Jamal Murray at no. 7, so let’s see how bad this ends up for New York).

(Ed: Toronto took Pöltl with the no. 9 pick).

This one could get real ugly.

Speaking of ugly, Phil Jackson still REALLY likes the triangle offense and Rose is already confused by it. Happy days!

Major Ins

Derek Rose, Brandon Jennings, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee

Major Outs

Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, Derrick Williams, Aaron Afflalo

The Dunkyard’s recommended ‘death’ lineup

  • Rose
  • Lee
  • Anthony
  • Porzingis
  • Noah

Dave’s lowdown

Your feelings towards this team will hinge greatly on where you live. If you live in New York then you have just signed an ex-NBA MVP, an ex-NBA DPOY, a playoff-tested SG and Brandon Jennings.

If you live anywhere else besides New York then the Knicks have just signed a below league-average PG, with paper-mache knees who is facing gang rape charges, a 31 year old center with shoulders held together by scotch tape and a game that is becoming increasingly redundant in today’s NBA, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings.

Expect to see New York dominating the National TV Schedule, and no matter what ‘Sliding Doors’ direction this franchise takes this season, it’s going to be essential viewing.

Forecast record: 37-45

With the poor quality of shooting on hand, it’s difficult to see the Knicks making the playoffs this season. At best, Rose, Lee and Jennings represent a slight to moderate upgrade on Calderon and Afflalo – while Melo is another year older and past his prime. The difference between whatever Noah has left and Lopez seems a bit of a wash.

Porzingis is the X-factor. However, while he should improve, there’s only so much he can do in his second year.

The bigger concern is where the Knicks go from here.

Firstly, Noah’s contract is worth $72 million over the next four years. If his body decides not to co-operate, this contract could really become a cap clogger and hurt the Knicks’ future roster flexibility.

Then there’s Lee, who just turned 31 years old and posted a PER of 11.5 last season. He’ll be paid $50 million over the next four years. Lee’s never posted a PER above the league average (15.0), is an average shooter overall (TS 54.0% last season) and is declining in defensive value. Afflalo replicates almost all of his abilities, will cost the Kings the same amount per season – but only for another 2 years. What on Earth did the Knicks need the extra two years out of Lee for?

All up, between Lee and Noah, that’s around 30% of the Knicks future salary cap (assuming it goes up to $100 million next season) completely tied up for the next four years.

Yet again, the Knicks have opted to overpay suspect veterans rather than rebuilding sustainably. And for what? Any added wins the Knicks get this season out of Noah, Rose, Jennings and Lee probably won’t get them into the playoffs, won’t make them anything close to contenders even if they do – and will push them further down the order in next year’s deep draft where they have their own first round pick again.

If only Jackson could have stuck to the plan.

Pity.