What is your 2018 Knicks New Year’s resolution?

Happy New Year’s Day, folks!

Happy holidays to Knicks fans, hopefully you had a safe time last night spent with family and/or friends. Let’s get right to our Knicks thoughts headed into the new year.

1. New Year, New Knicks

The Knicks enter 2018 with a .500 record 36 games into the 2017-18 season. It’s admirable considering New York’s possible trajectory post–Carmelo Anthony, and Porzingis has developed into a serious threat for the Knicks, despite still figuring out his shot selection.

This season has felt like a weight has been lifted, though. There’s levity surrouding the team, and despite being on the fringe of the Eastern Conference playoffs, there’s definitely less internal pressure to make the playoffs by any means necessary. Instead, the Knicks have been able to focus on making the team better in 2018 and beyond. Kristaps Porzingis’ quotable “needed this win more than oxygen” after the New Orleans game eclipsed another respectable and mature comment from KP. “It’s never easy to accept a loss…at least the good part is you fought hard. I think we fought hard. I gave my everything,” KP chirped following the Spurs loss.

January won’t be easy for the Knicks as they face better opponents and a ton of games on the road. It’s more than likely that they’ll lose quite a few games this month, but focusing on development and playing the right way in order to complement KP’s game, in addition to ramping up the minutes for Ntilikina, should be among the tenets of good basketball in victories or defeats. Hopefully 2018 brings a re-energized spirit towards building a top-to-bottom team-oriented game. My 2018 resolution for the Knicks? Committing to developing all facets of the game—from scouting, to coaching, and to building a stable roster that can compete with modern teams.

2. No Rush KP

When Kristaps’ shot isn’t falling, you can probably chalk it up to a few key factors. The first is health. That’s a huge variable, and we’ve seen it be affected by that elbow soreness, the knee injury, and the ankle sprain. However, KP’s health has been mostly fine in the last week. The second factor is timing. When KP is taking his time with his technique and motion, then buckets falling seem natural like waterfalls. The last is squaring up:

Porzingis calls for the ball from Jarrett Jack (a sight not unseen from the Knicks) and Jack finds KP perfectly squared up, his elbow aligned to rise above the late close-out from Anthony Davis, leading to the first three points of his clutch seven points in the final 90 seconds of the game.

3. Road Tripping

The Knicks won just their third game on the road last Saturday in N’awlins. Their 3-12 record (.200) away from the Garden is dismal, and truly the hallmark of a solid NBA team is the ability to handle business on the road. The Knicks, however, aren’t quite that good of a team yet, despite bona fide talent at the top with Porzingis. There’s still plenty of work to do, though, like finding a compatible wing to play with Porzingis and figuring out when to slide him to the center position, a place he’ll need to play in order for the Knicks to compete with spread-the-floor offenses. New York has managed to eek out three wins on the road, although they squandered leads in winnable away games, and barely escaped Davis, Cousins, and the Big Easy with the victory. Late-game coaching has been a concern, and somehow playing Joakim Noah in the fourth quarter didn’t blow up in Hornacek and the Knicks’ face.

After a brief pit stop back home, the Knicks have another three-game road swing, and then their annual West Coast trip, which includes seven consecutive away games plus a matchup with the Warriors in Oakland. This crucial stretch of the Knicks’ schedule could likely determine the outlook for the remainder of the season. Float around .500? Maybe the Knicks will be buyers by the trade deadline. Sink lower? Potentially sell separable pieces like Enes Kanter, Kyle O’Quinn, and Courtney Lee.

4. When’s Tim Back?

Tim Hardaway Jr. is dealing with a stress injury on his left leg, and although the team preaches progress within the rehabilitation period, THJ is still M.I.A.

The Knicks have desperately missed Hardaway Jr. (whether it be living or dying with his streaky shooting). Wing depth is shallow for New York, and Timmy’s aggression driving to the basket and creating lanes for the Knicks help facilitate ball movement whilst opponents must rotate over to open ‘Bockers. With their second leading scorer absent, the Knicks have attempted 4.5 fewer three-pointers per game, averaged 2.2 fewer points per game, have a worse Offensive Rating (although they’ve seen a slight uptick in Defensive Rating), and have worse true-shooting percentage and effective field-goal percentage. New York went 11-10 with Hardaway Jr., and since then are on a 7-8 stretch, per NBA Stats. The Knicks need THJ’s floor-shrinking ability and transition buckets to prevent half-court offensive fatigue when KP, Kanter, or the Knicks can’t seem to connect.

5. When Will Frank Start?

Our staff writer, Peter Saclarides, wrote his compelling case for the Knicks to begin starting rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina. I, immeasurably, concur.

The next stretch could be brutal, and whether the Knicks become buyers or sellers near the trade deadline (mentioned above) could really become irrelevant considering the end of 2018’s regular season will not commence with a dominant postseason run from the ‘Bockers. Instead, the future should be in focus. That future includes Frank Ntilikina, who has slowly but surely attained more minutes and more instances closing games with crucial defense on opposing guards like Kyrie Irving and Tony Parker.

One could make an argument that Frank actually helps the Knicks win close games now, but let’s not harp on that point. Frank shouldn’t play the entire 12-minute fourth quarter. That’s not quite sustainable, and the rotations should dictate Ntilikina’s presence towards the end of the game, so starting contests is logical, too. Frank should get more reps starting and finishing games, playing with other team’s first units, and grappling with the different styles of teams and how they react to his play, so eventually he can learn how to break away from the scouting report and pick apart defenses. Let the Start Frank campaign begin in earnest.