The New York Knicks are a franchise that has been stuck in mediocrity. They have had some really bad times and some really good times but they haven’t won a championship in recent memory. Blame it on James Dolan, blame it on Mike D’Antoni or Mike Woodson, blame it on Eddy Curry, blame it on the Bulls, but the Knicks just have not been able to get over the hump. But, do not fear Knicks fans, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You may not see it yet, but you will soon.
The legenadary Phil Jackson is now manning the helm of the Knicks, and Dolan is no longer backseat driving. Now that the Zen Master is making the decisions he wants to make, he brought in his guy to coach, who will be running his system on the floor, and doing it with guys he genuinely wants on the team.
Phil Jackson and Triangle Offense go together like peanut butter and Jelly. You can’t think of one without the other. The Knicks are obviously going to be running a lot of their offense through this system, and head coach Derek Fisher has already implemented the Triangle with New York’s summer league team. Below is a look at the Knicks use of the Triangle in Summer League action.
As a coach, Jackson won 11 rings running the triangle and every team had a few similar traits.1
- Every single one of Jackson’s championship winning teams had at least two players who took the bulk of the scoring load and most had a third. Every one of those teams had three players average 12.8 PPG or more. Typically there was a hierarchy of one 25.0 PPG player, one 15-20 PPG player, and one 12.5-15 PPG player. The only exception are the ’00-’01 and ’01-0’2 Lakers but Shaq and Kobe both averaged higher than 25.0 PPG.
- Each team had role players who could space the floor. B.J. Armstrong, Steve Kerr, and Derek Fisher are all examples of this.
- They outrebounded their opponents, often by a significant margin. Offensive rebounding was also a big emphasis.
The Knicks roster as it stands now does now does not completely fill these requirements but there is a lot of promise. I would be a little surprised if the Knicks made the playoffs but honestly it wouldn’t make me spit out my coffee.
They have two hidden gems at center in Samuel Dalembert and Cole Aldrich. Both were top 20 in TRB%,2 top 30 in ORB%,3 and top 30 in BLK% (Aldrich actually led the league)4 last season. When looking at that, also factor in that this includes guys like Deandre Liggins, James Southerland, and Erik Murphy who all played less than 100 minutes. While Dalembert and Aldrich are not guys you want to play 30 MPG, if they keep playing like they did last year they will be valuable role players.
The Knicks are also loaded with floor spacers. New addition Jose Calderon is one of the best shooters in the league and perfectly fills the “Steve Kerr” role. Tim Hardaway showed a lot of promise last season as a shooter and could see a bigger role next season. And as much as people love to hate on J.R. Smith he was actually one of the best spot up shooters5 in the league last year (his pull up jumpers on the other hand…).
So now that leaves us with the question of scoring. While Carmelo is not the two-way star that Jordan, Kobe, and Shaq were, he is a bona fide scorer who can easily put up 25 PPG. It remains to be seen if anyone can step up into the second option role. Smith scored 18.1 PPG two years ago, and at one time Amare Stoudemire was one of the top scorers in the league. Maybe one of them can step up, but it’s unlikely.
Even if this next season is a wash for the Knicks they still have lots of options for improving the team.
The Knicks have the potential for tons of cap space after the 2014-15 season. Let’s say the Knicks pick up the team options on Shane Larkin and Hardaway, Smith picks up his player option, and you throw in the guaranteed salary of Carmelo, Calderon, and Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks have $41,391,974 of committed salary. If the cap reaches an estimated $66,000,0006 the Knicks would have a little over $24,000,000 of cap space to work with.
In addition, they would have a room mid-level exception which would be $2.814M7 in the 2015-16 season. There are going to be some pretty good free agents that year including Goran Dragic, Rajon Rondo, Arron Afflalo, Monta Ellis, Klay Thompson, Luol Deng, Kevin Love, and Al Jefferson. The Knicks will also have a lot of role players to choose from and may also want to bring back someone like Aldrich or Dalembert.
This may seem like a dumb thing to get excited about, but the Knicks actually have their draft pick next year. Making fun of the Knicks draft pick situation has been the cool thing to do lately, but Knicks fans can tell everyone else to shut up because you guys have a first rounder next year.
Another thing that might seem dumb to say is that the Knicks might want to miss the playoffs next year. Again, I wouldn’t be that surprised if the Knicks make the playoffs next season. It will be tough to pull off however. Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Indiana, Miami, Toronto, and Washington all look like playoff teams on paper. The Knicks need everything to go right to make the playoffs but honestly missing them wouldn’t be that bad. If the new lottery format8 is implemented, it would be more advantageous than ever just to be in the lottery. Even if they keep the current lottery system having the chance for the number one pick is better than not.
The 2015 draft could be great, and even deeper than last years lauded class. This is just my opinion but the 2014 draft was not that great. It was a top heavy draft and even the drop off from the first to the tenth pick was huge. Just look at this mock draft9 and tell me you aren’t excited already. If a team can get Dakari Johnson at #21 they should be ecstatic. Now I guarantee that this will all change and by next June the order will be completely different, but if all of these players go out it could be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.
The Knicks could make the playoffs next year, but they have a lot of work to do to become a true contender. Things seem to be on the up and up at Madison Square Garden.
Honestly most good teams will share these traits ↩