Knicks fans have struggled to maintain a positive attitude with the (near) future of the New York Knicks, especially with Phil Jackson’s head scratching pick of Kristaps Porzingis fourth overall in this year’s NBA draft.
This might have been a move to subtly tell the Knicks faithful that Carmelo Anthony is as good as done in a Knicks uniform. Or it could be a Sam Hinkie, General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers type of draft for New York; draft the best available prospect, regardless of fit and position.
Porzingis has an immense amount of talent, and he is measured at taller than 7 feet, however he is clearly a project. Either way, Jackson has made a lot of Knicks fans unhappy. This soliloquy by the one and only Stephen A. Smith says it best.
Although Smith’s very emotional rant may ring true in some fan’s ears, Jackson has actually done a decent job of revamping the Knicks roster in a matter of a year.
2014-15 Roster Opening Day:
Quincy Acy, Cole Aldrich, Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Cleanthony Early, Tim Hardaway Jr., Shane Larkin, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, Jason Smith, J.R. Smith, Amar’e Stoudemire, Travis Wear
2015-16 Roster Opening Day (as of 7/24/15):
Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway, Jerian Grant, Ricky Ledo, Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn, Kristaps Porzingis, Lance Thomas, Derrick Williams
In reality, Phil Jackson did help clear cap space, but he could have done a better job landing more talent for key acquisitions other teams basically took from the Knicks. Time also helped, because Bargnani’s monstrous $17 million contract is up, so is Stoudemire’s, at $20 million a year.
New York also signed high quality character players, and high IQ basketball players. They have acquired four solid players via free agency worth $96 million, as opposed to when they signed Stoudemire for $100 million in 2010.
Derrick Williams, the replacement for Bargnani, is making less money in two years than Bargnani made in one. These contracts are even more astute than they seem because of the upcoming monumental jump in cap space the league will have because of a new television contract. They have signed four different role players that will help balance the Knicks and add a base value, and that is more attractive to superstar players looking to switch teams.
While shedding contracts for players who are high character “winning” players, the Knicks also were able to bring themselves under the cap space and add pieces to a championship puzzle. Lopez is a blue collar worker in the paint who sets very good screens for scorers, and is also a very good free throw shooter for a big man at 76% for his career. He shoots 57% from inside of 10 feet, and 82% of his field goal attempts come from the paint area, which means he will be available for drop off passes in the lane, and can finish at a relatively high rate.
Arron Afflalo is a very high IQ, high character player who can, and is willing to play defense. His versatility and ability to perform on both ends is something the Knicks haven’t had for years at the 2 guard spot. Afflalo also is able to quickly make good decisions on the court and capitalize off of low timed touches. He shoots with a frequency of almost 60% where the ball is in his hands for 2 seconds or less, and his shooting percentage is 43%. That means that he has the ability to catch and shoot and also be effective in a ball movement system, like the triangle, because he’s not a ball stopper by any means.
Kyle O’Quinn and Derrick Williams are both solid power forward role players, and Williams can play small forward a little bit as well.
Jerian Grant is a very talented point guard, and his distributing skills were shown during summer league, which surprised some fans. His shooting form is a little slow for a point guard in today’s fast paced, run and gun NBA, but he can fix that over time.
A part of one of Notre Dame’s best teams of all time, Grant averaged 17 points and 7 assists as a senior last year. He is a big strong guard who also showed an innate ability to get to the basket any time he chose, even though his left wrist was heavily bandaged, indicating an injury. He’s also very big for a point guard at 6’5”, 205 pounds.
Possibly the biggest acquisition the Knicks attained was Latvian big man Porzingis. He’s the mystery of the draft, in many scouts eyes, because as legend James Worthy said “He’s a mix of Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki”, but he also has the potential to crumble like most European big men do coming into the NBA at a young age.
He’s listed at 7’1”, but some think he’s taller, he’s very slim, at 220 pounds, but has the frame to put on weight. He’s a mobile, floor spacing stretch power forward with the ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot a very fluid, smooth looking jump shot. He’s a project, however, and most likely will be used in pick and pop situations next year and in down screen actions from whoever is playing point guard to shoot mid range catch and shoot jumpers.
So, the Knicks will at least be entertaining next year, and although the end of the dark tunnel seems long, at least we can see the light. They’re getting players who fit the system, and more importantly, they’re getting great locker room glue guys who will provide the basis for the Knicks for years to come.