Bryan and Charlie discuss a brewing Knicks-Nets crosstown rivalry and the state of their respective rebuilds on Monday Musings.

Bryan Gibberman: Knicks versus Nets hasn’t been something anyone outside of the fans of the two franchises has cared about in a very long time. The last time both teams were good in the same season was 2012–13. 

A focus has once again come onto the two franchises as the Nets have come out of the doldrums and the Knicks’ rebuild is in its early stages. My opinion on where the two franchises are is the Nets have a more stable, trustworthy structure from top to bottom while the Knicks have compiled more high upside talent.

Where’s your mind at with the organizations?

Charlie Zegers: We saw an awful lot of Knicks/Nets comparisons this week. Makes sense, I suppose…especially with the Nets playing so well and the Knicks…playing like the Knicks. 

Lazy comparisons, mostly.

Look—I’m terribly impressed by what the Nets have done this season. Sean Marks has built an interesting roster and landed a couple really nice players. Kenny Atkinson has them playing excellent ball. D’Angelo Russell has turned his career around. Spencer Dinwiddie deserves every cent of that fat contract he just signed. I really like Jarrett Allen’s game. Rodions Kurucs is a keeper. And they’re doing this without Caris LeVert, who might be their best player overall.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact that they’re in year three of their rebuild. And they got to go through what the Knicks are going through now in relative anonymity.

As far as I’m concerned, the clock on the Knicks’ rebuild started last summer. The core of the team—let’s call it Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier and, of course, Kristaps Porzingis—has yet to play even one minute together. So if we want to really compare rebuilds, it’s only fair to look at the 2018–19 Knicks with the Nets from two seasons ago.

Now, I have no idea if Scott Perry will be as good as Marks, or if David Fizdale will become the coach that Atkinson seems to be. I’m just hoping they’ll be given enough time to really develop something.

Bryan: The Porzingis factor is the most thought-provoking part of this activity. As good as LeVert was this season, he’s still never had the type of individual impact impact KP has. If Porzingis is around, how much different are we viewing the Knicks right now?

Would Porzingis and Frank continued their small sample size success from last season playing together? 

Would Fizdale playing KP at the 5 bring the Knicks offense to a level we didn’t know it had? 
Is the Robinson/Porzingis tandem an awkward fit because neither can defend on the perimeter and they both struggle on defensive rebounds, or is it a dominant defensive duo that protects the rim, comparable to any other duo in the entire league?
There are so many questions that have gone unanswered that we won’t know until whenever Porzingis is back.
Charlie: There are enough “what ifs” attached to Porzingis and his injury to keep us in column topics for months, possibly years.
  • Would they have made the playoffs last season? (Unlikely…they were 23-31 before he got hurt, and a good five games out of eighth in the East)
  • Would they have won a few more games down the stretch and fallen a couple of spots in the draft? (That DOES seem likely)
  • Does a healthy Porzingis save Jeff Hornacek’s job? (I’m guessing no.)
  • Does a healthy Porzingis change the Knicks’ 2018 draft strategy? Would they be looking at more NBA-ready players and less at high-upside teenagers? (I’m guessing yes.)
And then there’s the biggest question: is the presence of a healthy KP enough to convince another all-star caliber free agent to sign with the Knicks?
The other big question: where do the Nets go from here? Is Brooklyn going to be a free agent destination? If not, how does that team continue to improve? Because a core of Russell (assuming he stays) and Allen and Dinwiddie and LeVert is only going to get you so far.