After trading their star player Carmelo Anthony and firing Phil Jackson last offseason. It was clear the New York Knicks were reading to move the franchise in a different direction. This past season started off better than expected with Kristaps Porzingis looking like an MVP candidate for a few weeks. Despite the early season success, the Knicks season had a complete 180 after Christmas and they became the dysfunctional team fans have come to loathe for years. This season they will try to reach the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. With new coach David Fizdale at the helm, fans and players are excited for this new season. We’ll take a look at what’s to come in this New York Knicks season preview.
Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: New York Knicks Season Preview
2017-2018 Record: 29-53 (11th in Eastern Conference)
What Worked Last Season
The Knicks were an efficient team from inside the arc last season. Surprisingly the Knicks ranked best in the league at two-point shots, shooting 62 percent. They also shot the most two-point shots in the NBA averaging 73 shots per game. This is an area the Knicks can build on. They have a ton of players that can hit mid-range shots and score inside. The Knicks made a number of 15-20 point comebacks last season. They weren’t shooting threes during these exciting games. They were taking smart shots around the basket. If they can keep taking smart shots, the Knicks can take advantage of offensive lapses.
The Knicks also ranked fifth in the NBA in free throw percentage. They shot 79 percent from the charity stripe last season. This number is in part thanks to Courtney Lee who averaged 92 percent shooting free throws for the year.
What Needs Improvement
New York ranked 27th in the league when it came to three-point percentage. The Knicks shot 35 percent from behind the arc all last season. The only teams to shoot a lower percentage on three’s were the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, and Phoenix Suns.
The Knicks ranked 28th in the league in field goals attempted last season. Means that they need to be able to work the clock and have good offensive possessions. They need to stop taking so many outside shots and get more players to drive into the paint. Especially when it comes to the last two minutes of a game. Emmanuel Mudiay was one of the players they traded for, for that exact purpose. We’ll see if he can break into the team’s rotation and contribute in that way.
Off Season Changes
O’Quinn was a solid player coming off the bench for the Knicks the last three seasons. His consistent scoring touch and ability to rebound the ball is something this team will dearly miss. He set terrific screens which allowed the perimeter players access to the lane and was a player who was always willing to make the hustle plays.
Hezonja is a former lottery pick who has spent his whole career with the Orlando Magic. He never reached the peak of his draft stock but seems to be getting there. In his third season in the NBA, Hezonja had career highs in many statistical categories. Most notably in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage. Because of this improvement, the Knicks gave Hezonja a one-year deal.
Vonleh is another lottery pick who has been in the league for five seasons. He’s a player that won’t drop 30 points every night for the team, but he does provide a lot. Vonleh gives the Knicks a good versatile defensive presence, especially off the bench. Anything he can provide offensively is extra, as he is adept at rolling to the rim.
PG: Trey Burke
Burke should be in the starting lineup from day one. After playing half the season last year in the G-League, and proved his value once he was called up to the NBA. After being a top ten pick, Burke never was able to find a home in the NBA. He’s a talented player that can score at the basket in a variety of ways. In 36 games with the Knicks last season, Burke averaged 13 points on 50 percent shooting. More importantly, he averaged five assists per contest. This is probably one of the most important aspects of his game. In the month of March, Burke averaged 15 points and exploded for a 42 point performance against the Charlotte Hornets. Trey Burke is a key component to what the Knicks do this year.
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway had a mixed year in his first season back in New York. He did average a career high in points with 18, however, his three-point shooting left much to be desired. Hardaway shot 32 percent from three-point last season which is the lowest of his career. His patented shimmy gave the Knicks a little swagger. After his midseason injury Hardaway’s production suffered a bit. If Hardaway can build off this season, he will definitely be earning the money from his big contract.
SF: Courtney Lee
Courtney Lee has been perhaps one of the most underrated signings for the Knicks in recent years. Although his numbers aren’t eye-popping, he’s provided a consistent and reliable scoring presence for this team over the past two seasons. Lee may come off the bench at some point this season. However, as far as the beginning of the season is concerned, you want a veteran like Lee to show the youngsters how it’s done.
PF: Mario Hezonja
Obviously, Kristaps Porzingis belongs in this spot. Unfortunately, with his injury, he isn’t expected to be back in action with the Knicks anytime soon. Hezonja will become one of the main scoring options while Porzingis is gone. One of the big reasons he’s an excellent replacement for Porzingis is that he can score from all over the floor. Teams need to be extra careful guarding Hezonja because he is not shy about shooting the three ball. While also being deceptively athletic. Hezonja should be able to create good spacing on the floor to open scoring opportunities for other players.
C: Enes Kanter
Enes Kanter is the heart and soul of the Knicks team. He gives the Knicks a certain swagger that they haven’t had for a while. Fans can occasionally get on his case for his defensive lapses. However, his leadership in the locker room and tenacity to get on the court despite being injured is something that he should be admired for. Kanter enjoyed a career season last year and looks to be in his prime. He averaged career highs for both field goal percentage and free throw percentage. He also averaged a double-double for the entire season for the first time in his career. Despite a major injury, Enes Kaner looks primed for another big season.
Last year’s lottery pick was far from a bust. His scoring ability wasn’t amazing, but he was a tenacious defender. The talent is there, he just needs to harness it. With a year of NBA service under his belt, Ntilikina looks to build off his solid defense and become more of a threat on the offensive side of the ball. Don’t be surprised to see a breakout season from the sophomore guard.
Many fans are optimistic about what they see from this year’s first-round pick. Kevin Knox is known for his explosiveness on the court. This was on full display at the NBA summer league in Las Vegas. He averaged 21 points and was named all NBA summer league first team. It’s possible Knox beats out Courtney Lee for the starting small forward job. It’s very likely though to see him coming off the bench until he gets his feet wet against NBA talent.
When the Knicks traded for Mudiay last season, they were hoping they would receive some version of what he was during his rookie season. His production was very fluky and there’s a lot of uncertainty about what he’ll look like this season. Coach David Fizdale stated during his introductory press conference that he was going to get Mudiay right. Whether he can live up to those words will be seen.
Injury Watch: Kristaps Porzingis
Kristaps Porzingis was one of the best players in the NBA for the first month of last season. However, a mid-season slump and an ACL injury prevented him from finishing strong. Porzingis has the talent to take this team to the next level. The only question is if he can stay healthy. All eyes will be on Porzinigs when he returns, the only question is if he’ll be able to return to that all-star form after all his missed time.
The Knicks are a bit of a mess. They have been ever since they last made the playoffs. Every season is the same script. They excite fans for the first couple of months, but then completely collapse. New coach David Fizdale looks to change that culture. With LeBron James moving to the West, the Knicks control their destiny in a very weak Eastern Conference. Not having Kristaps Porzingis is a blow, however, they have enough talent to make some noise and get into the playoffs this year. Don’t expect anything higher than the 7th seed. This team has a bright future, but there will be expected chemistry issues to work through. One thing to note; If Kristaps Porzingis can come back sooner than later and return to all-star form, this team could slip into a playoff spot.
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