This was it—the moment New York Knicks fans have been waiting for.
Since Phil Jackson took over team president duties in 2014, there was always an aura around this offseason. It was almost mythical—cap space sprawling further than the eye could see. Following the Knicks’ third straight sub-.500, playoff-less campaign (32-50), this summer would be just wonderful.
Well, it was…OK.
With just three players—Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle O’Quinn—under contract before free agency kicked off on July 1, the Zen Master made a few splashes and a few long-term investments. The roster has boom-bust written all over it this year (think Sammie Coats, fantasy football players), with the playoffs and lottery both within reach.
Either way, the ‘Bockers should (at the very least) be entertaining. ESPN’s Zach Lowe ranked them as the No. 5 team in his NBA League Pass rankingsNBA League Pass rankings
Here’s a look at last year’s roster as opposed to what we’re looking at heading into 2016-17.
- Arron Afflalo: Signed a two-year, $25 million deal with the Kings
- Langston Galloway: Signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Pelicans
- Kevin Seraphin: Signed a two-year, $3.6 million deal with the Pacers
- Derrick Williams: Signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Heat
- Joakim Noah: Signed a four-year, $72 million deal
- Courtney Lee: Signed a four-year, $50 million deal
- Derrick Rose/Justin Holiday: Traded from Bulls for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant
- Willy Hernangomez: Signed a four-year, $5.6 million contract (2015 second-round pick)
- Mindaugas Kuzminskas: Signed a two-year, $6 million deal
- Brandon Jennings: Signed a one-year, $5 million deal
- Marshall Plumlee: UDFA, signed a three-year, $2.5 million deal
- Maurice Ndour: Signed a two-year, $1.5 million deal
- Damien Inglis: Signed a one-year, $900K deal
- Ron Baker: UDFA, signed a one-year, $500K deal
- Chasson Randle: UDFA, signed a one-year, $500K deal
- P. Tokoto: Signed a one-year, $500K deal
- Lance Thomas: Signed a four-year, $27.5 million deal
- Lou Amundson: Signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal
- Sasha Vujacic: Signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal
BIG QUESTION: What’s the latest on Derrick Rose?
The Knicks’ starting point guard has been missing time while in court for a civil rape trial—always an ideal way to kick off the season.
Rose’s accuser took the witness stand for the final time on Tuesday in Los Angeles, according to Julia Marsh of the New York Post. Per Jon Greenberg of The Athletic, the verdict should be arriving soon—within days, not weeks.
It seems most believe the point guard will be cleared:
POLL: Testimony in the Derrick Rose lawsuit is complete, see it all here: https://t.co/OoGHzew4we
We may get a verdict today; who will win?
— Dan Werly (@WerlySportsLaw) October 18, 2016
In the homestretch of the Derrick Rose trial. No smoking gun. Most reliable evidence is text messages that work against accuser.
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) October 18, 2016
If guilty, Rose will undoubtedly face punishment from the NBA. If he’s cleared of any wrongdoing, it’s unlikely Adam Silver can discipline him at all.
Assuming all goes his way, the 28-year-old could even start on opening night, per coach Jeff Hornacek:
Jeff Hornacek said Derrick Rose 'probably' would start in the season opener vs. Cavs even if he misses last 2 preseason games.
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) October 18, 2016
A start is not definite, but it’s more likely than not. Hornacek, heading into his first year as Knicks coach, added that the lack of clarity in the rotation is “not ideal,” per Marc Berman of the New York Post.
If all falls in line, the Knicks are a playoff team. No doubt.
Porzingis must take another step forward, likely becoming not a dominant force on both ends, but the dominant force. Anthony must play unselfishly and efficiently. Noah and Rose must stay healthy and throw the clock back a bit. Both have fallen off their superstar mountaintops in recent years, but health has been at the heart of the declines. The same goes for Jennings. Some of the young players, like Hernangomez, must prove capable of immediate minutes.
It’s a decent ask, for sure. The Knicks have more variables than most teams.
Think of what they could be, though.
Noah and KP both serving as “Beware of dog”-caliber protectors of the rim. D-Rose running the break. Jennings turning MSG on its head. Courtney Lee playing the three-and-d’ role. Melo playing with genuine stars, which is when he’s at his best.
It’s a pretty picture
…But it’s one that could be cracked easily.
Rose could break down. So could Noah, whose contract lasts four years. Any serious injuries—or limited play as a result—to the big man would be disastrous for NYK. Jennings is a capable starter if Rose goes down, but he’s coming off an injury of his own.
Anthony could get jealous of Porzingis stealing, even more, spotlight. His recent take on KP’s “learning curve” wasn’t a shot, but it was a bit questionable.
The veterans could prove to be past their prime, and the young pieces (sans KP) could prove unready for big-time minutes.
The Knicks have promise, but things could plummet downhill—and fast—if they can’t repel the injury bug. It’s hard to imagine NYK falling so far that they’re high in the lottery, but the playoffs are far from a lock.