By: Monte Perez
The New York Knicks have a record of 8-10. They didn’t get to 8 wins last year until January 23rd. This team has a lot of holes and weaknesses but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Under owner James Dolan, the Knicks drafted one player who went on to become an all-star. That player was David Lee and they traded him. This is how you build winning organizations in the NBA…through the draft. Yes, you can sign free agents but developing young talent is the way it works. It is not rocket science, Spurs, Warriors, Clippers and Bulls all drafted “stud players”. Even the Heat had Dwayne Wade, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem. The Cavaliers drafted LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. It is no surprise that these teams continue to win 50 games a year and make playoff runs when healthy.
I have taken the liberty to describe every New York Knicks starter and their coach based on a movie character. Below you will find my first quarter grades, for each player as well.
Derek Fisher– In the move I, Robot (starring Will Smith) a robot named Sonny says, “What Am I?” This Character really describes Fisher. What is he? We don’t know yet. Last season the Knicks were one of the worst teams in the league and Fisher made a ton of mistakes as a coach. But, that is okay, Gregg Popovich was 17-47 his first year with the San Antonio Spurs. I expect a rookie coach to make mistakes on the job. The one negative about Fisher is that he is a robot. I want to see him occasionally rip into players. I am of the firm believer you get more flies with honey than vinegar but even the “Zen Master” Phil Jackson ripped into his players occasionally. He has the Knicks playing hard so as of now, I will give him a C+ Grade
Carmelo Anthony – In Rocky III Apollo Creed says, “Listen. It’s quiet, isn’t it? When you retire, it’s too quiet. I mean, we way too young to retire, anyway. Anthony is like Apollo, tremendous athlete who didn’t always work hard but can still play. Melo can still light up the scoreboard but he is clearly on the decline of his career. He has turned into a half court player and the Knicks rarely run because of it. He is still a ball stopper at times but I give him a lot of credit for passing more this season. I think he has faith in Kristaps Porzingis, Langston Galloway and Arron Afflalo. Melo is averaging 22 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. At times he still gets lost defensively.The Knicks can never win a championship with Melo as the number 1 option. He just isn’t good enough to carry a team to a title. If he was he would have done it at 25 not 31. As of now, I will give him a B- Grade.
Kristaps Porzingis – When the 20 year old, 7’3 Power Forward, was drafted by the New York Knicks the fans booed him. I don’t understand why Knicks fans did this.How can you boo someone you have never seen play. Did Knicks fans think that Phil Jackson, who has won 13 rings as a player and a coach forgot basketball? I compare Porzingis to Jake Sully from the Movie Avatar. Think about it, he is young but confident and full of life and energy. He is a foreigner from a far off land ( Liepāja, Latvia). Like Sully, He gained the respect of the people around him almost immediately. When I saw Porzingis play in the NBA Summer league I wrote an article predicting he would win the Rookie of the Year. He has proven to be very aggressive and very skilled. As he gets stronger and gains more weight (he is only about 240lbs) he will get much better. Porzingis already has an impossible shot to block. His jump shot is almost Kareem Abdul-Jabbar like. At 7’3 and a quick release you would have to jump like a kangaroo to block it it. The Knicks don’t run any plays for Porzingis at all, yet he is averaging 28 minutes, 13.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.90 blocks per game. Porzingis will not lead rookies in scoring because Anthony is the first and second option on this team but he is by far the most skilled and has the highest upside. As of now, I will give him an A- Grade.
Jose Calderon –If Calderon were a character in a movie, he would be Adam Sandler. A Few minutes a game he will make you smile followed by 2 hours of boredom. Calderon is like a game manager in football ( Like Ryan Fitzpatrick of the New York Jets) when the team is leading he won’t hurt you, but when you need him to make plays he just can’t do it. If you press Calderon defensively he struggles to get the Knicks into their offense. He can’t penetrate inside the lane consistently and if his jump shot is not working he is virtually useless on the court. He is averaging 8.0 points 3.3 assists and 2 rebounds per game. In a guard/wing league Calderon is clearly below average and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets traded at the deadline. As of now, I will give him a C Grade.
Robin Lopez – There is really only one movie character to describe the Knicks Center… Shrek. Lopez is big, slow and methodical… but I like him. Lopez is averaging 7.4 and 6.2 rebounds per game in just under 25 minutes. He does all the dirty work and bangs with opposing centers so Porzingis doesn’t have to. He has his role and plays it well. One of the things I do not like about the Knicks offense is often times they run it through him at center. He holds the ball and slows the offense down tremendously. He is only averaging 1.9 assists per game so it’s not like his passes out of the post are leading to easy baskets. Overall he is a solid center playing within himself. You can win with him on you team but not if he is a 1, 2, or 3 option. As of now, I will give him a B- Grade.
Arron Afflalo – This is Afflalo’s 5th team in the NBA (Detroit, Denver, Orlando, Portland and New York). If he was a movie character he would be someone from The Fast and Furious Part 5. He is a physical specimen who plays up tempo. He doesn’t do anything to great but he is a solid pro. He is a very good defender who takes the pressure off of Anthony because Afflalo will guard the opposing teams best perimeter player. He is averaging 13.2 points 3.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists. As of now, I will give him a B- Grade.
The Knicks bench has been very effective at times. Early on during the season they were leading the NBA in bench scoring. Langston Galloway leads the second unit. He was amongst the league leaders in 3 point shooting percentage. He has cooled off of late but he is still shooting 45% behind the arc. Jerian Grant has shown some sparks off the bench but right now the game is too fast for him. He often gets into the lane and leaves his feet and gets himself in trouble. He is learning on the jobs but he will be a reliable guard who can penetrate and defend. The Knicks second unit is much more athletic than their starters. With Calderon, Lopez and Melo the Knicks are very slow up front.
I don’t expect much from this team. My orginial assestment was 36-40 wins. The Big question is what to do at the trading deadline. Melo has a no trade clause so even if the Knicks wanted to trade him and go younger, he is not going to go to a team that gives up a ton of players for him. The team is heading in the right direction and they are still 2-3 years off from being a legitimate 50 win team.
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