In the New York Knicks’ 69-year history, their best turnaround from one season to the next is 14 wins. This was done twice, and was done in back-to-back years. The 1986-87 Knicks went 24-58, the 1987-88 Knicks went 38-52, and the 1988-89 Knicks went 52-30.
There were actually two instances the Knicks won more than 14 games than the previous season, but that was due to strike-shortened seasons. In 1998-99, the Knicks went 27-23 and in 1999-00, they went 50-32. Equate the 1998-99 season to 82 games, and the Knicks have approximately a 44-38 record, leaving only a six win difference. In the 2011-12 season, the Knicks went 36-30 while the 2012-13 Knicks went 54-28. Equate the 2011-12 season to 82 games, and the Knicks record would be around 45-37, which would be a nine win difference.
Last season’s edition of the Knicks had their worst season in team history at 17-65. A team that performs that badly cannot be fixed overnight, but steps can be made to improve the franchise in order to put it in good standing again.
Carmelo Anthony only played in 40 of the team’s 82 games. If he can stay relatively healthy, one would have to believe that is worth a decent amount of wins by itself. The Knicks also drafted Kristaps Porzingis four overall, and traded for the nineteenth overall selection, Jerian Grant. On top of that, Phil Jackson signed free agents Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams, Kyle O’Quinn, and Arron Afflao to help bolster the roster.
With the addition of six new players who should all be in the Knicks regular rotation, the team now has more depth to overcome injuries and not lose as much when starters such as Anthony need to rest on the bench.
As of now, the Knicks should be able to go two deep at every position. There are still questions amongst fans as to who will be the starting point guard (Jose Calderon or Grant) and power forward (Porzingis, Williams, O’Quinn, or perhaps Anthony who has succeeded at power forward in the past). A nine man rotation of Anthony, Lopez, Afflalo, Grant, Calderon, Porzingis, Williams, O’Quinn, and Langston Galloway has a lot more quality pieces than last season, when the Knicks were trudging out lineups that had fans yelling “Who?” Lou Amundson, Lance Thomas, and Cleanthony Early will work hard to find a way into the rotation, and Jackson still has a little cash he can play with to add another piece to the puzzle.
In order for the Knicks to have their best turnaround in a season of 15 wins, they would have to go 32-50. Realistically, that should be achievable. Anything less would have to be considered a disappointment after Phil Jackson’s first chance to go free agent shopping, since last year guys like Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani disallowed Jackson from having cap room to make any major free agent signings.
It would be a step in the right direction. If things go the right way, the Knicks can improve even more than 15 games and re-enter the postseason after a two-year hiatus. While the Eastern Conference is the inferior conference in the NBA, there are still quality teams in it so it will not be easy. Teams such as Miami, Indiana, and Charlotte did not make the playoffs last season, but look to be improved.
Miami will have a full season of Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside along with Chris Bosh coming back, and they added Gerald Green, Amar’e Stoudemire, and drafted Justise Winslow.
Charlotte has added Nicolas Batum, and pieces that should play a role such as Jeremy Lin, Bismack Biyombo, Tyler Hansbrough, Spencer Hawes, and recent draftee, Frank Kaminsky.
The Pacers added Monta Ellis and Jordan Hill, drafted Myles Turner, and now will have a full season of their star player, Paul George, after last year’s gruesome leg injury. Turner and Hill may enter the starting lineup immediately after the Pacers lost David West and Roy Hibbert.
All three of these teams have playoff aspirations after not making it last season, along with the Knicks.
With a healthy Carmelo Anthony back to being one of the best scorers in the NBA, anything is possible. Keep in mind it was just in 2013 when he helped lead the Knicks to the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a 54-28 record, and finished third in MVP voting.
If Melo stays healthy, if both rookies play important roles and perhaps make All-Rookie teams, if Calderon can revert back to the player the Knicks thought they were getting when they traded for him last season, if Lopez can become the defensive stopper in the middle that the Knicks expect him to be by signing him to a four-year, $54 million contract, if Derrick Williams can start playing like the second overall draft pick that he was in 2011, then who knows what could happen. That’s a lot of “ifs” though.
That is part of the reason why basketball, and sports in general, are such a beautiful thing to watch. Sometimes all the “ifs” work out in favor of the team, and fans witness seasons that can be deemed “magical.” Expecting this season to be “magical” is probably unrealistic, but Knicks fans still have plenty to be excited for after the disastrous past season.