The Knicks go into the year with a new era ahead. What questions loom as the season approaches?
Following the long-awaited Carmelo Anthony trade, the Knicks are set for their first real rebuilding year in a while. Will they find success in year one post-Phil and Carmelo? Here are eight questions for the Knicks as the 2017–18 season approaches:
1. Will Kristaps Porzingis Start in the All-Star Game?
With Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul Millsap all leaving the Eastern Conference for the West this offseason, the 2018 All-Star frontcourt has a spot open, assuming LeBron and Giannis are locks to once again start.
Joel Embiid, Kevin Love, Ben Simmons, and other Eastern Conference studs will challenge Kristaps for that final starting spot. However, I think it’s safe to say that a breakout year on KP’s horizon, combined with his popularity make him the early favorite to start come February.
2. Can Tim Hardaway Jr. Live Up to His Contract?
After signing a four-year, $71 million deal this offseason, Tim Hardaway, Jr., has a lot to play for. While he’s known for his offense, fans will be looking for him to improve on the defensive end of the ball, where he was mediocre at best when he last donned a Knicks jersey.
Hardaway Jr. doesn’t have to turn into Kobe overnight to meet expectations, though. As long as he can efficiently score the basketball and hold his own on defense without taking too many touches away from the rest of the young roster, he should be fine.
3. How Will Frank Ntilikina Stack Up Against the Rookies?
With Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Lonzo Ball, and Dennis Smith Jr. just a few of the big names to come out of the highly touted 2017 draft class, it’ll be interesting to see how Ntilikina compares to his draft class.
Frank’s length on defense and his ability to shoot the ball are two of the main reasons why he was a lottery pick. If he can develop these skills this season alongside a few veteran point guards, I think Ntilikina can end up being one of the best players in his class.
4. Is Michael Beasley the Greatest Knick Since Ewing?
Watch this video if you haven’t already and tell me this isn’t the MVP of the league:
Two words: Walking. Bucket.
5. What Will Enes Kanter’s Role Be?
At 25 years old, newly-acquired big man Enes Kanter is one of the most intriguing pieces on the Knicks roster. He’ll likely come off the bench to start the season to give room for Willy Hernangómez to develop, while serving as a mentor figure for Willy to learn from. Kanter is still young, and could be a solid building block for the future of the franchise, depending on how he meshes with Willy and KP.
6. Who Will Start at Small Forward?
Following the Carmelo Anthony trade, one of New York’s biggest dilemmas is at the small forward position. With Courtney Lee, Michael “Walking Bucket” Beasley, Doug McDermott, and Mindaugus Kuzminskas all on the roster, the starting 3 come October 19th will most likely be decided during the preseason.
One potential option would be to start Lee alongside Hardaway. This lineup would excel in transition and shooting, both areas that Coach Hornacek has said he wants the team to improve on from last season. Their lack of size in the backcourt would be made up for in the frontcourt, as the Knicks have no shortage of bigs to choose from.
As ESPN’s Ian Begley noted, the coaching staff will tool with the lineup throughout preseason and likely through the beginning of the regular season to see which starting five suits the roster best:
Hornacek said he's probably going to mix starting lineups over the first 3 preseason games as coaches decide on the regular starting five.
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 1, 2017
7. Will the Knicks Thin Out the Center Position?
Kyle O’Quinn. Joakim Noah. Enes Kanter. Willy Hernangómez. Luke Kornet. That’s five centers on one roster. FIVE.
Presumably, the Knicks will attempt to get rid of one of these bigs throughout the season, whether it be through a trade or a buyout option given Noah’s albatross.
It just doesn’t seem possible that New York could hold on to all five centers the whole year, but if they do, I demand to see an all-center lineup at least once this season. Basketball deserves it.
8. Will the Knicks be Contenders for a Playoff Spot or a Lottery Spot?
With this season being the last one before the new draft lottery format is established, and with so many bad teams in the Eastern Conference, the race for a top lottery spot might be more heated than the race for the final playoff spot.
The East is so bad this year that I could legitimately see New York being the 8–10 seed. Hopefully it won’t come to that. If all goes well this season, we’ll watch our beloved Knicks soar to 15 wins and a top three pick.
— Peter Saclarides, staff writer