With a start that has Knicks fans everywhere excited, what type of takes can we have that make sense, and what might be overreactions?
Back when I was in high school, I used to work nights at my local gym cleaning up weights. It wasn’t the coolest shit I ever did but money was money back then. Plus, I got to lift for free, but I digress. Every gym has their “regulars” who come in at the same time every day. My gym was no different; every night a group of guys would come in and lift. In between sets they loved to argue, mainly about hoops. For whatever reason, arguing about hoops and girls are the two most primal arguments.
This was back when Kobe vs. LeBron in the Finals was a legitimate possibility. Every single night they would argue. Kobe vs. LeBron, Shaq vs. Duncan, Knicks vs. Nets, you get the point. Facts (and common sense at times) came at a premium and usually led to an escalation in the argument. But at the end of the night, everyone would squash it and come back the next night and do it all over again.
Facts always seemed to Irish goodbye the conversation the longer an argument lasts, especially when talking about hoops. The chief priority is defending whatever take you present regardless of the absurdity (i.e. Nikola Jokic being better than Kristaps Porzingis). That’s all that matters. You’re a lawyer pleading your case to your jury.
The first month of the Knicks season is in the books and there are sure to be takes. Scour Twitter or Reddit and you’re sure to find some. Below are four takes that range from icy cold to blazing hot. Everyone who has ever argued hoops (or anything for that matter) knows at a certain point someone else interjects to check the temperature of the conversation. Today that person will be me. I will argue both sides of the take, because as the legend Desus Nice always says, you gotta hear both sides.
After hearing both sides, a temperature of the conversation will be taken. Blasphemous statements are hot takes and factual statements are cool takes. Pretty simple, right? Dope, let’s get started.
The Take: The Knicks Won the Melo Trade.
Yes, the Knicks absolutely won this trade.
There is little gray area here. The Knicks are 7-5 and currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Conversely, the Thunder are 6-7 and sit in 12th place. Carmelo Anthony and his new superteam have struggled to close out games. Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and the Knicks have been money in the fourth quarter.
Let’s dig a little deeper. McDermott has found himself a home in New York. Jeff Hornacek has blessed him with a role–something he was unable to find in the cesspool over in Chicago or in OKC where his stint last seconds longer than Barstool’s partnership with ESPN–and in return, McDermott has thrived. He is shooting a career-high 46.9 percent from three and sports an effective field goal percentage of 65.4, also a career-high. If he can stay in this neighborhood and simply space the floor, there is no reason the Knicks don’t keep the 25 year old in the fold for the foreseeable future.
Kanter is a little different, but still positive. He has learned to play alongside Porzingis rather quickly which is not surprising given he mirrors Willy Hernangómez’s game. Kanter ranks sixth in the Eastern Conference PER rankings with a rating of 24.12, per ESPN. The assumption is that Kanter is being showcased to be shipped off yet again. If that is true, he’s a solid asset, and if it’s not, that’s fine too. He fits the current team and is starting to really thrive next to KP.
And one last thing–we’re not talking about context here. He who must not be named destroyed Melo’s trade value. The fact the Knicks got workable pieces in return without attaching future picks is a huge win already.
Settle down, no way the team getting the star player lost the trade.
When two teams are trading and one team gets a star, chances are the team acquiring the star won the trade. It may not look like it now, but the Thunder will figure this out. Let me remind you of 2010 when everyone thought the Heat were doomed after a forgettable first month together. Meshing three guys who are used to shooting 20-plus times a night isn’t easy. This Thunder trio reminds me of a slightly lesser version of that Heat trio.
Melo is the Chris Bosh in this group and I think he’s starting to realize that. In the Thunder’s recent game against the Clippers, Melo focused on containing Blake Griffin rather than getting off shots. Instead, it was Paul George who went off for 42 and Melo took the least amount of shots out of the trio of him PG and Russell Westbrook. By April, the Thunder will look like the team that turned spare parts into key cog.
Temperature of Take: Chilly
The Take: Willy Hernangómez is expendable.
Yes, Willy is definitely expendable.
Enes Kanter has performed nobly alongside Porzingis. He has masked Porzingis’ shortcomings (rebounding) and has not gotten in his way too much on offense. His experience has helped, and his overall physical demeanor has provided a spark on the defensive end. Kyle O’Quinn has come off the bench and kept that same energy up, which has resulted in some strong play down low. While all this has happened, Willy has been riding the pine.
For the record, Willy is still good and on a great contract. But that doesn’t mean he’s untouchable. The only guys on the roster worthy of the untouchable label are Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina–and Ron Baker, but he’s untouchable because no teams actually want him.
Teams might want Willy. He’s a 23 year old big who can score for himself and rebound the basketball. If the opportunity arises to add a player who can catapult the Knicks into the playoffs, what’s the argument for keeping him?
You leave Willy alone!
What’s the argument? I’m glad you asked. First off, he’s signed for pennies on the dollar. There are few deals the Knicks can do for Willy that will land them anything truly significant given that they are over the cap and would have to match salaries. The realistic return for him right now is a second-round pick or at best a late first-rounder near the deadline.
Secondly, he’s Porzingis’ best friend on the team. That sounds like an idiotic excuse, but we see other guys do the same thing. You think James Jones hung around because he brought something to the table? No, LeBron just liked him so he got to chill on the bench. There is a logjam at center in New York right now, but this is the NBA. Situations are fluid and a big injury or trade can happen in a second. Getting rid of a capable player like Willy is just continuing the sickening habit the Knicks have had of recycling players too early.
Temperature of Take: Blazing Hot
The Take: Tim Hardaway Jr. is worth the $71 million contract.
Waste. Of. Money.
We’re talking about the same Tim Hardaway Jr., right? The one shooting a career-low 31 percent from three? The one who still can’t guard up on his man and has a defensive rating of 112 this season? Yeah, stop it fam. You know when you buy a bad meal and remember exactly how much you paid because every cent was one cent too much? That is the feeling I sometimes get when I see Hardaway Jr. on a cold spell.
Steve Mills allegedly had every intention of throwing Hardaway Jr. the bag before free agency even started. That he, not Dion Waiters who was also in talks with the Knicks, was the first choice, is tough to accept. He’s been far from bad, but did they really have to pay that much? Waiters signed with Miami for $20 million and is the same age as Hardaway Jr., and is having a similar, if not slightly better statistical season.
With Porzingis starting to flourish, the money tied up with Hardaway Jr. complicates any free agent moves. Porzingis is a guy worth coming to play with. What if by chance some big names become interested? They may take a discount but will still want some money. Would signing someone like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on a one-year deal have been a smarter move? In hindsight, there are moves that could have had a similar effect on the team for a considerably cheaper price.
He is definitely not a bad investment.
Okay, so he’s shooting a career-low from three. He’s also averaging a career-high in points (17.4), rebounds (3.9) and assists (2.6). His jumper has been J.R. Smith-level streaky, which is the true meaning of the gift and the curse. There are games where you never want to see him in a Knick uniform again (earlier this year vs. Boston). But then there are times when you say to yourself “that is my shooting guard”.
His game against the Cavs is everything you want from him. When his jumper is on, the sky’s the limit for him on offense. The key adjustment he has made this season is what is most encouraging about him; he’s getting to the line. He is averaging a career-high in free throw attempts. He’s the second option on the offense, so he is depended on to score every night whether his jumper is on or not.
Timmy is still just 25 and growing into his game. The Hawks dished out $70 million to Kent Bazemore last offseason and no one batted an eye. Bazemore is three years older than Hardaway Jr., and producing at a lesser clip. The price of the brick has gone up in the NBA and the Knicks had to pay market price for a capable player.
Plus, don’t let Hardaway Jr.’s contract distract you from the fact the Knicks gave Ron Baker $9 million and a no-trade clause.
Temperature of Take: Hot
The Take: Kristaps Porzingis is a top-15 player.
Pump the brakes, he’s not there yet.
The consensus preseason player rankings had Porzingis in the 20-30 range. Clearly he has played well enough to receive a bump, but let’s not get too hasty here. To be considered a top-five, he has to at least be top-five at his position. For arguments sake we’ll place him at power forward. LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and Anthony Davis have all been ranked ahead of him previously.
He has outplayed Love and Millsap already this season. Blake has been having a quietly good year, but in a pinch I’ll probably take KP. Ditto for Aldridge. I’m still taking AD over him, but he has vaulted himself into the top-five for his position. Now throw him into the pool with everyone else. I’m still ranking LeBron, Giannis, KD, Steph, Harden, Russ, Draymond, John Wall, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Karl Anthony Towns, Dame Lillard, AD, Boogie Cousins, Kawhi, and Kyrie over him.
Thus far, he has performed mightily, but he is still 7’3” averaging under ten rebounds. I’m not asking for much there. In terms of guys I’m turning on to watch KP skies up the rankings, probably into the top-five. But in a list of alphas he still has some way to go.
No question about it.
Notice the argument against KP not being top-15 was mostly arbitrary nonsense? That’s because there is no argument to be had against this point. Kristaps Porzingis is a top-15 guy in the league at the moment. And don’t worry, I have context but first, a quick tangent.
Are we positive his nickname “The Unicorn” is good for his brand? He seems to have embraced it since it got so big, but to me it’s kind of a soft name. When I think of unicorns, I think of cartoons and shrooms trips, not of an uber-talented basketball assassin. Also, the source of the nickname came from a Kevin Durant interview. Kevin Durant has burner Twitter accounts so it’s not like it was Bron, Kobe, or his mentor Melo who gave him that nickname.
I’ve got a better mystical creature to refer to him as–a dragon. You keep the mystical elements of the unicorn nickname, but also account for the killer mentality Porzingis has. You think a unicorn is this savage in post-game interview? Hell no. And then there is the playing style.
When he’s on the court, he is burning your team to the ground. He is catching oops from the Chase Bridge. He is pulling up from halfcourt. He is sending your shot attempts into the Hudson River. Whatever you try and do when he is on the floor is useless. He will find you and he will destroy you.
Is it a coincidence his best performances of the season have come against Jokic and Myles Turner, two guys he has been compared to in the past? Of course not. He is a killer and unicorns aren’t killers. Dragons are, so that’s what I’m calling KP from now on.
Back to the argument. Through one month in the season Porzingis is the third leading scorer in the league, averaging 30.4 per game. He also ranks third in PER with a rating of 29.30 per ESPN. He has career-highs in every statistical category, sans assists and steals. His offensive rating is currently at 118, by far the best mark of his young career, and you can see how much better the Knicks play when he’s on the floor.
The best players in the game are the ones that scare the living shit out of the opposing team while simultaneously giving their own team a bump of confidence. In the one game Porzingis missed this season against the Magic, the Knicks hung tight, but you never felt they could come back. Porzingis’ absence was the reason for that.
How high up the rankings Porzingis will rise in anyone’s guess. He’s starting to make the mythical “leap” and where that leaps end is exciting to project. What I do know is if you have someone who can give me 30 a night and protect the rim, I’m grabbing him all day.
Temperature of Take: Frigid
There are sure to be disagreements with my assessments, but that’s the point. Hoops arguments are never-ending loops of points and counterpoints. The takes will keep flying as the season goes on, and as they come up, we will be here to check the temperature of every conversation.