Question Marks and Risks: What are the Knicks?

Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports


By Chris Molicki

By now, everyone’s heard Derrick Rose’s comments and made plenty of jokes: The New York Knicks are a super team. Hilarity ensues.

Perhaps Rose had just misspoke. The Knicks are certainly a super interesting team, as they have the ability to finish pretty much anywhere in the East between Cleveland at the top and the Sixers-Nets contingent at the bottom. Their level of success will depend on a lot of different things; health, player improvements, defense, team chemistry, etc. But each major player on this team is so polarizing, and they can all affect the Knicks in big ways.

The one player that there are the fewest questions surrounding is Carmelo Anthony. At this point, you know what you’re getting with Melo: a 20 point-per-game scorer who will rebound, has started to share the ball more, and is hit-or-miss on defense. With all of the team’s new additions, Anthony may take less shots, and in turn, improve his efficiency, but his role should remain mostly the same.

Another player that doesn’t have a ton of mystery surrounding him is Courtney Lee. The free agent acquisition, who most recently played with the Hornets, is a classic 3 and D player who will plug right into New York’s lineups and help right away. Lee is a great complimentary player to pretty much anyone, and he may go down as the Knicks’ best offseason signing.

Getting into the true enigmas of the team, Rose himself is a curious case. Last season, he averaged 16.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game, performing as a below average starting point guard. However, Rose was dealing with an injury that affected his vision, and he seems to be rejuvenated (at least mentally) since coming to New York. If you’re expecting former MVP Derrick Rose to walk through that door next season, you’re sadly mistaken. The truth is, Rose hasn’t even been close to that player since his injuries, and expecting that to change now is foolish. But if Rose can stay healthy and be an average starting point guard (which I think is his ceiling at this point), that would be a nice improvement for the Knicks from last year. Keep in mind, they had Jose Calderon running the show.

Continuing with the theme of health, Joakim Noah, the other big pickup from the Chicago Bulls, has a lot riding on his physical well being too. Noah is a former MVP candidate whose career has been derailed due to injuries. While Noah has never been a big-time scorer, a series of maladies led to him averaging only 4.3 points per game last season, while grabbing 8.8 boards and dishing out 3.8 assists. Those aren’t exactly numbers that warrant a 4-year, $72 million contract, but that’s exactly what Noah got. Noah’s defense and fiery spirit will certainly be a plus to this team, but that’s only if he can stay on the court. If he does, he’ll be the key to anchoring the Knicks’ defense. But the smart money says the 31-year-old big man won’t return to form and will have fans clamoring for Robin Lopez.

While the potential outcomes of Rose and Noah may have Knicks fans feeling depressed, there’s one player that won’t: Kristaps Porzingis. Despite Phil Jackson majorly shuffling the deck that is this Knicks’ roster, Porzingis might have the single greatest impact and take the team to new heights. In his rookie season, KP averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks, and 1.1 threes per game. The versatility and do-it-all nature of his game gave Knicks fans hope that they haven’t seen in over a decade. Porzingis was never expected to be this good as a rookie. He was deemed too raw and skinny to have much of an impact. But KP went ahead and shined, making a massive jump from what was expected from him to what he actually did in his freshman season. Now, Porzingis has the chance to make another leap. There’s no doubting that the Latvian Angel is set to be a star, and that he’s the perfect kind of player for the modern NBA as someone who can make outside shots, protect the rim, and do a little bit of everything in between. If Porzingis can make some big improvements from Year 1 to Year 2, New York should have a nice amount of success.

What the Knicks get out of Rose, Noah, and Porzingis will go a long way in shaping their season. But if you go down the line, there’s plenty more questions the Knicks have. Can Brandon Jennings rediscover his form, and does the soon-to-be 27-year-old overtake Rose as the starter at some point this season? How much can Lance Thomas build off his success from last season? What kind of role does Spanish rookie Willy Hernangomez play on this team? What about other bench acquisitions like Justin Holiday and Mindaugas Kuzminskas? How quickly does this team of new pieces mesh together? Does a hybrid of Jeff Hornacek’s offense and the triangle lead to wins? How is this team going to play defense? Do the Knicks resign Derek Fisher, not as a coach, but as a player??

OK the last question was a joke. But as you can see, there’s a lot of uncertainty from top to bottom, not just on the roster, but in the organization as a whole. Jackson has taken some risks this offseason, and pretty soon, we’ll see which ones pay off. If the majority of these players pan out, the Knicks should have a successful season that culminates in the playoffs, and although the team’s future plans are still in flux, that would be a welcome sight for fans. But if things go wrong for a lot of these players, it could lead to a nightmare season, a stunting in KP’s growth, and even more questions about where the Knicks go from here.
This Knicks’ season has the chance to be an exciting one filled with success, but it could just as easily go off the rails and be one to forget. However, one thing’s for certain: With this collection of players, things are sure to be entertaining, and that might be good enough for James Dolan. Super.

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