Come summer, the Knicks are hoping and praying that Kyrie Irving defects from the Boston Celtics. It is lonely in New York without a proven superstar. The Knicks better hope Kyrie didn’t watch their game in Philly where they didn’t bother to compete. So far, they are not doing much to recruit Irving or Kevin Durant by their listless play.
First year coach David Fizdale has his work cut out for him. LeBron’s former coach took on the toughest job in the NBA: the New York Knicks who have a clueless front office. Fizdale lacks pressure to win right now but he has pressure to make the team competitive so they look like they only need a great player to complete the rebuild. It’s a magic trick, an illusion. Their role players have to do things they can’t. Fizdale has to develop players, tweak his system, coach who he can coach. At worst, lottery means someone other than Zion Williamson and no Kyrie or KD.
The good news is that without the huge glare of the spotlight on the Knicks- they are on national television a measly five times- the Knicks and Fizdale in particular can grow his team but he has to do it quickly.
That’s the plan. But New York isn’t much for plans nor patience.
The Knicks best player in Porzingis absence is Tim Hardaway Jr. He had a poor showing on Wednesday against the Sixers, 1-11, but on the season he averages 23 points a game on 40% shooting and 36% from three. He gets to the line more than 6 times a game with an offensive rating of 112. The 23-year old 6-6 guard has taken 295 jump shots with a below average efficiency, 39%. Hardaway Jr. struggles in the 4th quarter, 38%. Almost half of his shots are threes. When he misses, Enes Kanter is there to grab it up, 4.4 offensive rebounds per game. The Knicks are first in offensive boards which means they are bricking a lot of shots their bigs gather up.
Yep, they can’t shoot. They are 27th in field goal percentage, 25th in three point percentage. Point guard play is missing big time, they are 25th in assists so a lot of iso ball. The Knicks score a lot of points because of offensive boards and getting to the line. At 108 points a game they score enough. But they are 24th in field goal defense and nearly last in scoring defense. 108 points isn’t a thing when you give up 113. That’s why the Knicks are here.
The roster is why the Knicks are here. Defensive Ratings of players who see lots of court time:
- Tim Hardaway Jr: 116
- Enes Canter: 111
- Noah Vonleh: 109
- Alonzo Trier: 115
- Frank Ntilikina: 115
- Damyean Dotson: 114
- Trey Burke: 116
This year (without Porzingis) was always going to be about development and waiting for 2019-20 when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are available. Klay Thompson is a long shot to want to come east having been on the west coast his entire life.
But here’s the thing about the Knicks dreams. The $57 million on the books after this season means they can be a player next free agent summer. The bad news is the Knicks have zero roster bling. Teams attractive to star players are teams that have an infrastructure. The Knicks are counting on New York City to be a draw. But players care less about the big market and more about the supporting cast. Are the young players the Knicks have developed enough to be in competition for a long playoff run with a star? Uh, no.
Let me put it another way. Why would Kevin Durant come to the Knicks when no one plays defense, absolutely no one, and frankly no one can shoot with any level of accuracy, when he can go to the Clippers who have a nice blend of young and veteran players and no star. They will have money too.
The Lakers young core aren’t great but they are better than anyone the Knicks have. Kyle Kuzma is better. Josh Hart is better and Brandon Ingram is better. Magic Johnson can’t wait to give money to a star.
So the Knicks don’t have an open door. They have to prove something. Frankly, they are nowhere near the driver’s seat.
Often the Knicks are unwatchable. The Knicks lose in bunches. 5 in a row. Then 2 in a row. Then 7 in a row. The project to wait this year out and be a player next year has faulty logic unless David Fizdale can get his team to be tougher on the defensive end, more physical. Superstar saviors may shut their eyes and look the other way. S.O.N. Same old Knicks.
Kyrie is losing in Boston and hates it. No way he’s coming to New York with mediocrity to his left and right he has to pull out of the gutter every night. But then again he won’t be alone. He’ll be with Kristaps. But who knows what Porzingis career will look like. See Gordon Hayward. There is going to be a lot of caution if Porzingis doesn’t suit up this year which he shouldn’t.
I’m just saying Kyrie or Kevin Durant isn’t a done deal, particularly with the roster the Knicks have. They have flexibility next season if they don’t get a superstar. They can build with good but not great players. If they get lucky, then the money shrinks and they have 10 contracts coming off the books.
It seems like we say this every year at this same time, November nearly over, December looming and the writing on the wall, but the Knicks are still a long way from the playoffs. It’s a perfect job for a coach to build a culture. But let’s be real. This is New York. They are never patient. Hope Fizdale rented a place and didn’t plan on long term in Gotham.