The Nets and Knicks finished one game apart last season, with New York sweeping the season series. What do they have in store this year?
The New York Knicks and their rivals (if you can even call them that) across the river faced similar fates last season. Both teams were plagued by injury, under the guide of a new front office, and pretty bad at the game of basketball. Predictably, the Nets and Knicks finished with almost identical records, with New York finishing 29-53 (11th place in the East) and Brooklyn going 28-54 (12th place in the East). While the woes of the Knicks were made up for on draft night with Kevin Knox, the Nets couldn’t look to the lottery for a reward for their troubles thanks to the nightmare trade of 2013.
Following the draft, both clubs continued to tweak their rosters through trades and free agency. While the Knickerbockers stayed relatively quiet aside from acquiring (Super) Mario Hezonja and Noah Vonleh, Brooklyn made a few moves that shook up the roster. The Nets traded Timofey Mozgov and his behemoth of a contract to Charlotte, as well as Jeremy Lin to the Hawks, erasing all questions as to who their starting point guard will be. Additionally, Brooklyn picked up Kenneth Faried, Shabazz Napier, and Jared Dudley through trade or free agency, and added Denver’s 2019 first-rounder to their books.
While Brooklyn and New York switched up their rosters a bit, don’t expect either team to make a leap this year. If last season is any indication of what this year will look like, they’ll likely both land at the bottom of the standings. Both teams, however, appear to be slowly moving in the right direction for once. Shout out my guy Scott Perry.
Being division opponents, the Knicks and Nets will face each other four times in the regular season:
- October 19 @ Brooklyn
- October 29 @ New York
- December 8 @ New York
- January 25 @ Brooklyn
Now, let’s take a look at how the teams match up on the court.
Styles of Play
Last season Kenny Atkinson’s Nets fell in line with the rest of the NBA, shooting a bunch of threes and moving the ball a lot. While they didn’t necessarily have the personnel to make it successful, Brooklyn is taking the right steps with their game plan. As for the Knicks, they didn’t do much of anything right with their game plan last season, so lets just forget 2017-18 even happened. This season, David Fizdale will likely push New York in a similar direction as Brooklyn. His Memphis teams were below average in terms of shooting the three ball, but they moved the ball decently well. Now, with a team that’s definitely less experienced than the Grizzlies were, but potentially better at shooting, the Knicks will begin to take baby steps into Fizdale’s ideal offense this season, which could well end up resembling Brooklyn’s. In their match-ups against one another, we’ll see how modern NBA offenses run by teams with multiple players that should probably be in the G League going at each other pans out. Probably pretty well.
While starting lineups have yet to be officially announced, Brooklyn’s starting backcourt will likely consist of D’Angelo Russell and Allen Crabbe, with heavy minutes from Spencer Dinwiddie off the bench. As for the Knickerbockers, Tim Hardaway Jr. will start at shooting guard with either Trey Burke or Frank Ntilikina at the one.
Whoever New York puts out there will need to handle Russell, who now unequivocally leads the offense with Lin shipped to Atlanta. Although he was in and out of the lineup with injuries and only played 48 games, D’Angelo put up a solid line of 15.5 points, five assists, and four rebounds per game over the course of last season. His 2 guard, Crabbe, is an efficient 3-and-D player who can consistently contribute on both ends of the court. I see New York’s best backcourt matchup against the Nets as Frankie and Hardaway. THJ’s scoring will be needed every night, and Ntilikina’s defensive prowess allows the Knicks to limit a backcourt with plenty of potential offensive firepower.
The big guys!
The Knicks will likely roll out Knox, Thomas, and Kanter at the 3, 4, and 5 spots while Brooklyn is expected to start DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Jarrett Allen. Neither team’s frontcourt appears to be their strong suit, but there are a few match-ups to look out for.
Knox’s ability to create space with the ball and score in volume as well as run the break will be tested in meet-ups with the Nets thanks to DeMarre Carroll. Carroll, a top-tier defender, is able to guard some of the league’s best wings both on the perimeter and in the paint, so getting the shots he wants will be a challenge for Knox. With the two teams meeting up twice early in the season, it’ll be interesting to see how the rookie handles Carroll’s toughness on the defensive end.
From the wing to down low, Enes Kanter on Jarrett Allen will be another intriguing match-up. The two centers share a somewhat similar style of play, both relying on getting to the low post for a majority of their buckets. As for three-pointers, Allen can occasionally step behind the arc and hit while Kanter tends to leave those alone (as he should).
KANTER FOR THREEEEEEshit pic.twitter.com/g1kpwRY0uL
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) October 3, 2018
Also, Kanter is more utilized by New York’s office than Allen is by Brooklyn’s. While Allen typically attempted five field goals per game last season, Kanter put up 10.
Wednesday’s preseason game gave us a preview of what this match-up of bigs will look like. Enes had an explosive game, dropping 22 and 20 and working on the Nets interior defense. As for Allen, he had a quiet night. He was unable to get a groove going offensively and finished with four points on 2-of-6 shooting. If this game is an accurate predictor of how the Kanter-Allen matchup will look during the regular season, the Knicks will have a nice advantage over Brooklyn in the frontcourt.
Both franchises will struggle off the bench this season. While the Knicks and Nets bolstered their rosters a bit over the summer, both are still somewhat lacking when the starting five comes off the floor (probably before that, too).
For Brooklyn, new additions Kenneth Faried, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, and the “unguardable” Spencer Dinwiddie will be key players off the pine. As for New York, we’ll see a lot of Courtney Lee, Mario Hezonja, and either Trey Burke or Ntilikina. Neither unit is particularly one to be wary of, ranking 22nd and 23rd in the league last season (per NBA.com), but I see the Knicks’ bench having a slight edge over the Nets based on talent. New York’s second unit has the experience and skill factors over Brooklyn’s.
Neither the Knicks or Nets will make a big splash this season. With both franchises in rebuilding mode, these match-ups will mostly be for bragging rights, and who gets to talk the most shit about the other mediocre basketball team.