With the deadline to make trades officially a thing of the past, the Knicks move on and head to Canada to play the Raptors.
Now that the #WojBombs have finally subsided, basketball must be played. After a bonkers trade deadline, the Knicks (23–32) head north to face the Toronto Raptors (37–16), currently one game out of the East’s top spot. These teams are basically in polar opposite places at the moment, emotionally and statistically. The Knicks (still with just seven road wins) will be looking to snap a four-game skid, while Toronto enters riding a three-game winning streak and the league’s best home record (22–4), including a 20-point drubbing of Boston on Tuesday.
It’s been a dramatic and stressful couple of days for the Knicks community. Kristaps Porzingis’ torn ACL in Tuesday’s loss to Milwaukee was beyond deflating, and should shift the franchise’s mindset for this season from playoff contention to the future. Since KP went down, the front office promptly shipped his pal Willy Hernangomez to Charlotte for two future second-round picks, then acquired former lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay from Denver in a three-way deal that offloaded Dougie McBuckets and his backdoor cuts. (Unfortunately, Joakim Noah remains on staff, along with other veterans that garnered some interest across the league but were not moved).
There will be plenty of time and space to break down the moves, but here are some other things to keep in mind ahead of tonight’s bout:
- In their first game post-KP’s injury, Jeff Hornacek’s squad will be further short-handed, without Enes Kanter due to oral surgery, McDermott and Willy Hernangómez due to trades, Mudiay (who will surely not arrive or play yet), and Ron Baker. This matchup was already lopsided on paper, but the shallow depth is not ideal against Toronto’s deep and outstanding bench. Michael Beasley will likely start, and Tim Hardaway Jr. will play after suffering his own injury scare Tuesday.
- In general, the Knicks should start playing young guys more, particularly Frank Ntilikina, and this game presents a perfect opportunity to challenge the rookie. Kyle Lowry (6.1 win shares) is a physical bulldog, and DeMar DeRozan (24.2 points, four rebounds, 5.1 assists) has become one of the most skilled two-guards in the league. Hornacek should allow Frank—who the organization clearly envisions as a combo guard, considering his length and the Mudiay addition—to go head-to-head with each of Toronto’s All-Stars. I’d also like to see more Trey Burke and Damyean Dotson as well.
- The Raptors are fourth in offensive rating and third in defensive rating, while the Knicks are bottom-15 in both. A big reason for the Raptors improvement this season has been their focus on pace and three-point shooting: they’re top eight in three-point attempts and makes, while the Knicks are last in both, and sit just 19th in pace. Something for the Knicks to keep in mind going forward.
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. EST, Air Canada Centre. Hang in there Knicks fans!