How do we survive no Knicks basketball until Thursday? Four thoughts about the team before the last stretch of the 2018 season.
Last Weeks Knicks Record: 0–2, 23–36 overall
Upcoming schedule: 2/22 @ Magic, 2/24 vs. Celtics
In an abridged week of ball due to the All-Star Break, the Knicks dropped both games in very different fashion. After getting outclassed from the opening tip by the Philadelphia 76ers last Tuesday, the Knicks turned around and blew a 27-point lead against the Wizards, putting the icing on the cake and marking the unofficially official beginning to this season’s edition of #KnicksTank.
Lets take a look at the current state of the Knicks as well as how they are positioned for the future:
1. Peaks and Valleys of Tim Hardaway Jr.
Four year, $71 million—Is THJ grossly overpaid?
You’ll get a variety of different answers when asking Knicks fans that question at this juncture of the year. I find myself changing my opinion on a game to game basis due to the inconsistencies Hardaway Jr. has endured this season. Ask anyone these questions after his 4-of-16, nine-point dud showing in Philly on Tuesday and many would say Tim is the latest in a long line of poor offseason acquisitions for New York (see: Joakim Noah). But if you ask fans after his 37-point barrage against a quality Washington team, the response would be markedly different.
Despite the small two game sample size, this last week has been a microcosm of a rollercoaster season for the 25-year-old shooting guard. At this point in the season, THJ seems to be the best offensive option remaining on a Knicks team without Kristaps Porzingis, and Timmy definitely brings a lot to the table in terms of perimeter shooting as well as his prior experience playing in New York.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has decided not to listen to the tank chatter.
Knocks down the three to give him 22 points on the night. pic.twitter.com/lTMRQEjGBc
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) February 15, 2018
However, the black cloud of the expensive four-year commitment the Knicks gave Hardaway in the offseason continues to hang over a organization looking to break the trend of being the laughing stock of the NBA over the last decade plus. I’m not implying that dumping Hardaway is the way to go this season, but watching him be so inconsistent makes you wonder if he’s really going to be an integral part of the future.
This second half of the year is important for Hardaway to show he can have consistent staying power and prove to all he can be a long-term solution at the guard position as the Knicks continue to fish for answers as to how to become relevant again.
2. Frankie Smokes On Display At Rising Stars Challenge
In a convincing 155–124 win for Frank Ntilikina and Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge, the Knicks rookie point guard stuffed the stat sheet with six points, five assists, four rebounds, and three steals. A Knicks fan’s dream is that Frank will be able to impact the game in all of these categories consistently one day, but for now we all can agree he needs one thing: minutes. We’ve seen Jeff Hornacek begin to gradually phase out Jarrett Jack and begin to give Frank and newly acquired and 21-year-old guard Emmanuel Mudiay more minutes. Developing the young guys, especially Ntilikina, is something that will go a long way in determining if Jeff Hornacek still has a job here next season, as my colleague, Michael Corvo discussed in last week’s column.
FRANK NTILIKINA WITH ANOTHER DUNK!
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) February 17, 2018
The second half of the season is insignificant in terms of winning games because to shoot for the playoffs is a foolish proposition at this point. Developing Frank while having him go through the growing pains that any teenage NBA player should go through is the primary focus of myself and many other Knicks fans out there as we dive into the the final 23 games of the season.
3. Firesale Incoming?
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Lose as much as possible, secure the highest pick attainable, and develop the young guys. This right here is the plan that needs to be put into action immediately if you’re the Knicks. This begins with selling off expendable pieces to contending teams. While New York experienced a more active trade deadline 11 days ago than in recent memory, key contributors in Courtney Lee and Kyle O’Quinn remain on the roster. It is understood (hopefully) by the Knicks’ front office and coaching staff that this year is a wash and it is imperative to bring more minutes to potential future pieces, so it’s reasonable to question why O’Quinn and Lee still play important role on the team. Perhaps we’ll see general manager Scott Perry part with the aforementioned veterans in July, but Lee and O’Quinn’s respective trade values highs may have come and gone with the passing of the deadline—what can they provide for a team needing development and playing time for younger competitors?
4. Successful Surgery For KP
Kristaps Porzingis underwent successful surgery early last week to repair his gruesome torn ACL. Although he is expected to be sidelined the majority of next season, any sliver of good news coming from KP’s camp is something to grasp onto tightly and be optimistic about. While Porzingis is out with his injury this gives others the opportunity to step up and prove why they can be a mainstay on the rebuilding ‘Bockers. I look forward to receiving KP updates and tracking his long recovery journey extensively. It is important to note Porzingis, based on his social media postings and is ultra determined to come back and the road to recovery has officially begun. Stay strong and get well, Kristaps.