2014-15 Record: 17-65
C Robin Lopez, G Arron Afflalo, F Kyle O’Quinn, F Derrick Williams, C/F Kristaps Porzingis, G Jerian Grant, G Sasha Vujacic, F Kevin Seraphin
F Andrea Bargnani, F Jason Smith, G Shane Larkin, G Tim Hardaway Jr., F Quincy Acy, G Alexey Shved, C Cole Aldrich
Projected 2015-16 Lineup
PG Jose Calderon, SG Arron Afflalo, SF Carmelo Anthony, PF Derrick Williams, C Robin Lopez
It almost pains me to put the Knicks here. It really does. I think this team is going to be so much fun to watch all season long. If ‘Melo is actually healthy and the young guys play well, there’s really no reason why this team couldn’t be a playoff team, but unfortunately 7-14 in the East is super clogged, and someone has to finish at the bottom. Considering how bad they were last year, the Knicks sort of drew the short straw here. I write all that to say I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Knicks find a way to sneak into the playoffs. But I think it’s far more likely that they need another year of rebuilding.
As you can see by my projected lineup above, this is going to be a very different team than what we saw last year. Anthony hardly played any significant time and he didn’t play at all in the second half of the season. Adding Afflalo, Williams, Robin Lopez marks stark upgrades over whatever was going on there before. Nearly across the board they’re better. The departure of Quincy Acy should have the biggest impact, as he was always solid in key situations last year, but I’d still take the haul they brought in over what went out.
Derrick Fisher’s ability as an NBA coach still isn’t the most apparent, but it’s been reported that Phil Jackson is going to take on a bigger role this year. If that’s the case, and if Phil still has it, the development of these players could be huge for the future of the franchise. Unfortunately, it’s most likely that all this year will be is a stepping stone toward the future.
X-Factor: Kristaps Porzingis
We don’t really know all that much about Porzingis, purely because of how difficult it is to evaluate international talent. He seems like he could be the real deal, but who knows how many minutes he’s actually going to play this year? It still isn’t clear whether the Knicks view him as a piece of a future championship team or purely as a trade asset. If they want to use him as an asset, he could play more this year and even find his way into the starting lineup, assuming he’s NBA ready. If that’s the case, the Knicks lineup could prove very difficult to defend.
Most To Prove: Carmelo Anthony
Let me be clear that I don’t think ‘Melo really has much left to prove. The guy is one of the most dynamic scorers the league has ever seen and yet he still gets a ridiculous amount of hate. Part of that is the fact that he’s now in New York, where the media is more brutal than any other city (outside of maybe Chicago). But, it is true that he hasn’t won a title yet, and while I don’t think he will this year, he’s going to be scrutinized to no end. What he needs to do is stay healthy and help this team develop to the point where legitimate free agent talent is going to want to come to town. If that happens, this team could serious contend in 2017.
Why They’re Worth Watching
I mean, they’re the Knicks. They’re one of the most storied franchises in the NBA and they’re going to continue to develop. Even if you aren’t a Knicks fan, you have to be intrigued by what Phil Jackson is putting forth here.
Best Case – 38 wins and 8 seed
There is real NBA talent on this team. I know my big range from what I’m calling the best case and what I actually have projected below isn’t the most logical, but this team could go a lot of ways. I’m inclined to think they’ll be closer to worst case than best, but I won’t be shocked if I’m wrong on that.
Worst Case – 21 wins
The Knicks don’t have a ton of incentive to tank considering that the Nuggets have the rights to swap picks with them and whichever pick stays in New York actually goes to Toronto, but if the season isn’t going great, they may focus more on letting Porzingis, Grant, and the other young players develop. You may not get as many wins now if they’re out there in the fourth quarter, but it’s likely the best plan for the future.