I have been really sick twice in my life.
Sickness 1: In high school, I had mono for like two weeks and that was straight up miserable.
Sickness 2: I have genuinely believed every offseason has been a success for the Knicks and they are on the right path going forward. This is an illness that has not gone away and has plagued me every year since pretty much forever.
Needless to say, The Knicks are Back.
The Knicks 2018-2019 season begins tonight with a preseason game against the Wizards. Yes, it is only preseason and that has no ability to really predict how a season will go, but I will say my optimism is irrationally high. Not necessarily because I feel they are a team that will contend this year (they won’t be anywhere close to the playoffs), but because they have seemingly figured it out in terms of not sacrificing the future for the present.
History will show that every offseason for the Knicks has included some truly absurd contracts being offered to players who inevitably didn’t come close to their expected production or didn’t deserve them in the first place. Names like Noah, James, Curry and even to sadder extent Houston come to mind, but for the first time in ages, the Knicks were fiscally responsible in prepping for the season. They utilized their cap space to bring in some former lottery picks who haven’t reached their expected potential and set themselves up to be a major player in free agency after this season. This season will really serve as an appetizer to what will hopefully be some sustained buffet of success moving forward.
A positive of the Knicks offseason included the hiring of coach David Fizdale. Fizdale is widely regarded as a “player’s coach” and has a great reputation throughout the league as a great young(ish) basketball mind and really being able to connect with his players. Given the talent on the Knicks roster vs the rest of the league, my assumption is he really just wants to see these guys play hard, compete as best they can and figure out who really fits into the Knicks long-term plan. Looking around the NBA, the level of talent has never been higher and we are truly planted in the era of the Super Team. Most competitive teams have three plus superstars as the focal point of their team and are then surrounded by a healthy mix of seasoned veterans and athletic young guys.
After examining the Knicks roster, this approach does not yet apply to them. Let’s take a look at the five major components of the Knicks projected 15 man roster for the upcoming season.
The Young Lads: There are clearly some solid young pieces to build around. Their two draft picks this year, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, put on a show in what some consider the most inspiring 2-3 record in the history of the summer league. Knox’s ability to score, Robinson’s ability to rebound and defend the rim combined with both of their athleticism gave fans at the very least something to discuss in a positive light. The muscle gain for second year, defensive stud of a guard Frank Ntilikina has also been a big talking point. His ability to defend multiple positions make him a valuable piece going forward and another good player to have in a league that continues to get more athletic ever year. Additionally Damyean Dotson, another draft pick from 2016, has shown some promise as well.
The Show Us Your Not a Busts: The front office has brought in Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, Mario Hezonja and Noah “Study Room” Vonleh, over the past year. These four former lottery picks still have a lot to prove and will be given the minutes to either establish themselves as important parts of the Knicks future or guys who will float around the NBA for the next few years not living up to what was expected of them. Burke will see the most minutes of the crew as he is slated to be the starting point guard.
The Veterans: Looking at this group, there is experience, some leadership and presumably a large portion of the Knicks statistical production. Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter make up this veteran core that will hopefully play the part of giving the Knicks some level of stability and help mentoring the young guys. Kanter, the most talented of the three, is looking to expand on his most statistically productive season as he seeks a new contract this offseason. He has also expressed his desire to remain a Knick for life, and while his commitment to the franchise is admirable, it is still up in the air to whether he fits into the future plans of the organization. Hardaway was given a massive contract last season, and while he didn’t match the expected production that the contract would imply he should have, he still proved to be a valuable asset and contributor. I guess by default Ron Baker also falls into this group. His grit makes him a fan favorite, his production however does not.
The Street Clothes Guys: Isiah Hicks, Luke Kornet and Allonzo Trier make up the end of the Knicks roster, and their bench. While these guys provided some mediocre minutes at the end of last season/the summer league, it’s hard to see them becoming major contributors this season. If they end up in that role, it will either be a pleasant surprise or means someone has been injured. Speaking of injuries…..
The Let’s Pray This Guy Comes Back Healthy Because the City/Franchise/World Really Needs Him: The biggest question mark surrounding this franchise is clearly focused on the greatest export in the history of Latvia, Kristaps Porzingis. The history of ACL injuries, big men in the NBA and their return to stardom when they come back does not lean towards the positive for KP, but given his unicornian (a word I have clearly just made up) nature, who is to say he doesn’t come back even better than he was before (most doctors)? Porzingis may not even play this year because of his injuries (I personally think he shouldn’t) to assure that going forward, this team is in the best position to compete with him as the centerpiece of the organization.
Looking at the roster and thinking how it compares to others in the NBA is by no means inspiring. Thinking that Thomas, Hardaway and Lee can matchup with the superstars on the Celtics or Sixers, or any other team in the Eastern Conference/NBA is irrational and naive. However the roster makeup does lead the fanbase to believe that this season will be the pivotal season of roster development, evaluation and planning for the future. Given the cap space they will have, the draft picks they still own and the return of KP I am willing to say things are genuinely looking up for the Knicks.
Claiming the Knicks are back, which I have done relentlessly, is not so much an expression of contending this year, but rather putting themselves in the position to compete going forward. I am sick enough to realize this piece will presumably blow up in my face, as it does every year, but given they have yet to play a game with this roster, optimism still remains high.
If there are any doubts whether or not the Knicks are back, feel free to shoot a follow to a tremendous twitter account Are The Knicks Back.
The Knicks wins o/u is set at 29.5 and my sick head thinks they surprise some people. They have guys who all have talent, a coach who is well-liked, a lot to prove and my unwavering support. I don’t want to say it’s a lock, but I would suggest putting your life savings on the over.
Also, it’s tough to bet preseason NBA (I probably will), but I think the Knicks cover at +7.5 tonight against the Wizards. Again, not a lock, but I am putting my next paycheck on the game.