Well, Knicks fans, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you have a much better team now than you did last year. The Knicks’ midseason and offseason moves have led to a massive overhaul from last year’s team. The Knicks have moved on from Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., Andrea Bargnani, J.R. Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire, all symbols for the Knicks’ brand of uninspiring and stagnant basketball we’ve come to expect out of the team for the past few years. The Knicks got Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant on draft night, then added Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn and Derrick Williams in free agency, and they’re expecting these additions to help them be a more competitive team in the East.
Here comes the bad news: we have no idea if this will work. Of the players on the roster, the only members who played with both Carmelo Anthony and Jose Calderon last season are coming from deep off the bench. We really have no idea what this team will look like come October; there’s no way of knowing whether the players assembled will complement each other on the court outside of guessing and having faith in Phil Jackson. Will the team crash and burn in a toxic lack of chemistry, or will the new pieces fit in perfectly with Melo? Anthony is the key to all of this; the Knicks’ success this season relies on his ability to be the best player on the team without marginalizing his teammates’ abilities.
Ideally, the perfect Carmelo-based offense allows him to be the primary scorer with shooters all around him and a big man to attack the boards, like we saw in 2012-13. Calderon (if he’s still around) and Afflalo should do their part to space the floor and Lopez should do a good job cleaning up the boards. It’d be ideal for Williams to find his game and become a consummate stretch 4 worthy of the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft, but even if that doesn’t happen, perhaps Porzingis develops quickly and steps into that role. Grant also has nice potential in the Triangle.
This team shouldn’t have much of a problem scoring the ball anyway; the main problem will be keeping other teams from scoring. If this team wants to have success, they’re going to need to play good defense. People have been telling me for years that Anthony could play good defense if he wanted to, so now would be a good time to start. Having Lopez man the middle should lead to an improvement, but it’ll have to be a team-wide effort to be significantly better on defense, and Anthony will have to bring it on that end.
Needless to say, Carmelo needs to be very good next year if the Knicks want to be successful. The worst thing that could happen to the Knicks right now would be if Melo comes back from his knee surgery and is a shell of himself. This team’s offense is going to be based around Anthony even with all the other additions, and if he’s not any good, the team may fall apart. It likely wouldn’t be a complete disaster like last season because the supporting cast is better, but it still wouldn’t be pretty.
I think the team falls somewhere in the middle of the best and worst-case scenarios. Melo will be good, but the team will only be okay and they’ll win between 35 and 42 games. If they make the playoffs, they’ll lose in the first round to a much better team. Sure, I very well could be wrong. Melo could come back and put forth an MVP-caliber season and lead the Knicks to a great season, but there’s just as good a chance things so south. Again, it’ll likely fall somewhere in the middle.