The 2017 offseason was the wildest in NBA history. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are now Eastern Conference rivals. Out West, Chris Paul joined James Harden, while Paul George and Carmelo Anthony united with Russell Westbrook. Ten recent All–Stars changed uniforms, and we haven’t even gotten to Kevin Durant’s strange summer, so let’s get to previewing. The 2017-18 NBA season is finally upon us.
NEW YORK KNICKS
2016-17 finish: 31-51, 12th in the East
• Offensive rating: 104.7 (18th)
• Defensive rating: 108.7 (25th)
Additions: Tim Hardaway Jr., Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Frank Ntilikina, Ramon Sessions, Michael Beasley, Jarrett Jack
Subtractions: Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday, Sasha Vujacic, Marshall Plumlee, Maurice Ndour
Did the summer help at all?
Yes and no.
Yes, because the ‘Melo drama is finally resolved. After ex-Knicks president Phil Jackson spent a year ridiculing the player he signed to a max contract with a no-trade clause, calling him a ball hog who lacks the will to win and would be better off elsewhere, the new regime convinced Carmelo Anthony to expand his list of potential trade destinations and sign off on a deal to join the Oklahoma City Thunder.
No, because Anthony is still really good — an elite scorer who’s been to 10 of the last 11 All-Star games and was either New York’s best or second-best player last year, depending on how high you are on rising star Kristaps Porzingis’ development. The Knicks will win fewer games without Anthony and Derrick Rose, even if the former wasn’t fully engaged and the latter was a shell of his former self.
From Rose going AWOL to the Charles Oakley saga, the 2016-17 Knicks were a disaster, and they will be worse this year. They have a lottery pick to show for their troubles — one they used to draft 19-year-old French point guard Ntilikina. That selection raised eyebrows, given that Dennis Smith Jr. was still on the board, but Sessions is already calling Ntilikina “a young Kyrie,” so take that for what it’s worth.
The Knicks also signed Hardaway to a four-year, $71 deal that the Atlanta Hawks couldn’t wait not to match. They now owe $76 million to Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas, Hardaway and Kanter in 2018-19 and have another $58 committed to the first four of those guys in 2019-20, when Porzingis will be a restricted free agent. Let’s not harp too much on how poorly the Knicks were run, but ouch.
Then there was a $4.3 million deal for Ron Baker that no other team would have offered, which was made more curious by the fact they let Justin Holiday — a better player — walk for the same price.
Don’t get me wrong. Hardaway is an above-average player, as are McDermott and Kanter. The Knicks were a poor shooting team and the league’s worst defensive rebounding outfit last season, and they now have a pair of deep threats and another big (albeit defensively challenged) body in the mix.
With Porzingis, Ntilikina, Hardaway and surprising young center Willy Hernangomez, the Knicks have the makings of an intriguing young core, which is not something they could say at any point during the Carmelo Anthony Era. Plus, they now have SuperCoolBeas, who might just be the NBA’s most entertaining personality this year. Embrace the ridiculousness, New York. There’s a long way to go.
Best-case scenario: Porzingis stretches the floor offensively and shrinks it defensively, morphing into the All-Star unicorn we figure him to be. Ntilikina is worth the No. 8 pick, and then some. Hardaway, Hernangomez and McDermott all improve under a coach who is rejuvenated by his freedom from Jackson’s Triangle oppression and the ‘Melo distraction. The kids are the future. Teach them well.
Oh, and for the love of all things holy, let Beasley be who he imagines himself to be — a 25 points-per-game scorer who’s “one of the best in the NBA” and “literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor.” It all won’t be enough to make the playoffs, but it’ll be enough for us to believe in the Knicks again.
If everything falls apart: As much as they have a habit of finding a new rock bottom, it really does seem like there’s no way but up for the Knicks. They will not be good. We know this. But there’s hope. The worst that could happen is losing it all: Porzingis — still upset about being shopped — demands a trade, Ntilikina is a bust, Hardaway’s contract is an albatross, Hernangomez’s rookie season was a mirage and everyone remembers the Knicks owe Noah $19.3 million in 2019-20. (Sorry, New York.)
Best guess at a record: 21-61
Read all of Ball Don’t Lie’s 2017-18 NBA Season Previews:
Atlanta Hawks • Boston Celtics • Brooklyn Nets • Charlotte Hornets • Chicago Bulls • Cleveland Cavaliers • Detroit Pistons • Indiana Pacers • Miami Heat • Milwaukee Bucks • New York Knicks • Orlando Magic • Philadelphia 76ers • Toronto Raptors • Washington Wizards
Dallas Mavericks • Denver Nuggets • Golden State Warriors • Houston Rockets • Los Angeles Clippers • Los Angeles Lakers • Memphis Grizzlies • Minnesota Timberwolves • New Orleans Pelicans • Oklahoma City Thunder • Phoenix Suns • Portland Trail Blazers • Sacramento Kings • San Antonio Spurs • Utah Jazz
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