Our writers put their heads together to predict what will go down for the Knicks in the upcoming season.
he New York Knickerbockers are ready to suit up with an alarming lack of expectations for the 2017–18 season.
The summer flew by–and so did a few Knicks. Phil, Carmelo, D-Rose: all gone. Kurt Rambis? Surprisingly still here.
Hornacek is coaching the squad of Island of Misfit Toys and the front office has been reshaped by Steve Mills and new GM Scott Perry.
New additions include Michael Beasley, the “new” Tim Hardaway Jr., Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Ramon Sessions, and draft picks Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson. Noticeably, Anthony has gone to greener pastures, and the bar has been set real low for New York–and real high for the emerging Kristaps Porzingis.
Let’s hear what our staff has to say about the upcoming season.
1. What will the Knicks’ record be this season?
Ankit Mehra: I can see the New York Knicks finally scraping the bottom of the barrel without Carmelo Anthony. I’m going with 34–48–good enough for a 13 seed in the Eastern Conference with the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls being worse.
James W.: 40 games or bust, fam!
Steve Tornello: Westgate has set the Knicks line at 30.5 wins. I think they go over. 33–49 is my call.
Mike Cortez: 25–57. Carmelo Anthony is gone, so the tank is back. Three years of tanking can be brutal, but take a trip down I-95 and ask Sixers fans if they mind all the losing now. The Knicks have committed to a proper process, and losing a lot of games is part of that process. The young guys will get plenty of reps and (hopefully) another young beast awaits the Knicks in June.
Brendan Duball: Before the ‘Melo trade, ESPN projected 32 wins for the Knicks, I’m willing to bet ‘Melo singlehandedly accounted for at least 4–5 wins last season. A ‘Melo-less, youthful Knicks squad would be lucky to go 27–55.
Ty Jordan: The Knicks will go 30–52. That’s exactly the kind of middle-of-the-road losing they’ll probably do since it keeps them low in the draft, yet still low in the standings.
Jack Huntley: 26 beautiful Kristaps Porzingis shaped wins and 56 beautiful Luka Doncic shaped losses.
Kyle S. Maggio: This is a bad team. The Knicks will win 29 games, the only solace being that they’ll have a high draft pick and that Kristaps and rest of the youth take some strides and show some flashes.
Jeffrey Bellone: I will go with my gut on this question and ignore the statistical models. I could see the Knicks getting off to a good start, free of the Triangle, injected with the energy of newly acquired players and youth. I see their lack of overall talent eventually catching up to them. The Knicks will finish 32–50.
Nick Scolaro: 24–58. There is a scarcity of talent and experience on the Knicks roster, I can’t envision them being improved record-wise with the subtraction of ‘Melo. Look for them to play hard, but be overmatched most nights by superior teams.
2. Now that Carmelo, who was the longest tenured Knick, has been traded to OKC, is KP ready to take on a new role as leader of the team on and off the court, and how can be learn to be the leader?
Jack: An emphatic yes. KP has innate leadership qualities already. He’s mature beyond his years and has shown incredible composure already in two tumultuous seasons in New York. On the court, there will be some growing pains in becoming the first option, but playing in an offense that is not the Triangle will help a lot.
Ankit: The house has been cleaned in New York City (well, aside from Joakim Noah). This is Kristaps Porzingis’ team and until anyone (here’s looking at you Frank Ntilikina) proves otherwise, it will remain Porzingis’. In a rough two years where KP has been surrounded by mediocrity aside from Carmelo Anthony, he will now be part of a young core consisting of Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Willy Hernangómez. That’s very exciting, seeing as it can truly go in any direction. Porzingis, the veteran of that group, is ready to make the leap with two years under his belt.
Steve: He doesn’t have a choice, but here’s the thing: I think he actually wants to be. He has plenty of guidance around him, from his brother to Joakim Noah (no joke). He can even reach out to the lead singer of JD & The Straight Shot! (yes joke).
Mike: I believe KP is ready. Since we’re starting a new era of Knicks basketball how about some positivity? Porzingis has been working hard all summer and on media day he confirmed he is ready to be the next leader. Carmelo groomed him for two years, teaching him the ins, outs, ups and downs of being the face of the Knicks. Porzingis’ leadership style is still unknown but you can have faith in him filling in where his mentor left him.
James: I think a perceived star (top 15–20, depending on who you ask) is always ready to lead. Doing it is an entirely different thing. In sports, you either have that leadership quality or you don’t. And it’s usually a personality trait, not something that can be learned or taught over time. So KP is the leader by virtue of his position in the franchise. But will he be a leader on and off the floor? Eh. Give it another year.
Brendan: As KP stated himself, he’s been prepared to take the leadership reigns since he joined the Knicks. But what worries me is that ‘Melo not only served as his mentor on the court but as his “bodyguard” off the court from the media and public distaste. I’m not worried about KP’s basketball I.Q.; he’s got all the tools needed for being the alpha. I’m just worried if he has the mental capacity to handle the inevitable bombardment from the media and fans once he has a bad stretch of games. He showed a bit of mental weakness by skipping out on the exit interview last season, which is not what you want to see from your leader (no matter how delusional your President of Basketball Operations is), and to be frank, it was a little immature. I want to see KP maintain that positive mentality for the sake of the team morale, even during the train wreck of a season he’s about to endure.
Kyle: Kristaps is ready to lead, if only due to his on-court workload right now. It’s a process. Being “ready” to lead doesn’t equate to one being a fit leader in the present moment, but we can hope that he continues to make strides. If nothing else, Joakim Noah is a great teammate, and having a grizzled veteran who has been on some great teams can only benefit a youthful team devoid of a true, good leader. Here’s to hoping Jo makes one positive contribution to this team.
Ty: I believe Porzingis is ready. As the young guy with all eyes on him from his first game, he’s been lucky to put off being “The Man” for two seasons. Now, after watching Carmelo and seeing how a leader can be in the face of adversity, I think he may be ready to lead in his own way. I think he could learn a bit about leadership from Jarrett Jack just as much as Ntilikina can about being a ball handler. That said, he still needs to find his own way. As winners or losers (losers is probably where this season is going), he’s going to be looked to as the leader on this team.
Jeff: There is an on-court and off-court responsibility to being “leader” of New York’s favorite basketball team. For Kristaps Porzingis, in the aftermath of the ‘Melo trade, he will likely see an immediate and noticeable change in his off-court responsibilities. He might have received a lot of media attention before the trade, but now, he will be the main target of attention. On the court, I expect to see his change in role to be more gradual. KP saw his shot attempts increase from 12.3 to 14.9 per game between his rookie and sophomore seasons. Independent of the system (Triangle be gone!), he should continue a natural progression in added offensive responsibility in his third season.
Nick: KP is mature beyond his years. You don’t worry about him off the court, and on the court, he is a competitor who possesses all the talent in the world. I think he’s ready to take his game to the next level and begin to really mold into a star. Added muscle in the offseason, combined with his tremendous work ethic, makes me optimistic that Kristaps is embracing his new role.
3. Does anyone on the Knicks make the 2018 All-Star team?
Nick: Porzingis makes the All-Star team as a reserve. I envision KP hovering around 18 points and 11 rebounds per game while improving his all-around game as the torch has officially been passed to the young Latvian to be the guy in New York.
Mike: Yes, and I’ll go one step further. Kristaps Porzingis will start for the Eastern Conference. Hot take? Maybe. But remember: he has NYC, Latvia, and likely Europe as a whole behind him in the votes department.
James: KP, no brainer. I also think THJ makes it as a reserve. Let’s face it, making the Eastern Conference team isn’t going to be all that hard for the next 2–3 seasons (lol).
Ty: If there’s any Knick who will be an All-Star, it’s Porzingis. He’s ready. The East lost Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Carmelo Anthony to the West. Even though Gordon Hayward crossed over, he’s got space as a forward. With him being the first option scorer, I see his scoring output increasing again. If his summer has gone as well as I think, he’ll have some more tricks to solidify his spot as well. Hopefully, this less stingy guard corps give him the ball more than last year. If they can share the ball, he’s in there.
Kyle: Kristaps will absolutely make the All-Star Game. There are, like, four locks in the East right now, so he’ll be in.
Steve: Not only will Kristaps Porzingis have a breakout season and make the All-Star Team, but our very own Frankie Nicotine will make the Rising Stars Challenge.
Brendan: I think this is the year KP takes the next step. He’ll have every opportunity to show he’s worthy of an All-Star nomination this season, especially after being somewhat of a fringe All-Star nomination last season as the second option behind ‘Melo.
Jack: Yes. KP. The East is massively depleted, although there is still some depth at the forward position. One of KP and Joel Embiid will likely make it, and I don’t trust Embiid to stay on the floor enough.
Jeff: Kristaps is ready to take the next step, and for him, that next step is All-Star level. Playing in the Eastern Conference should help, too.
Ankit: This is the year of Kristaps Porzingis. The Latvian big man, finally getting a team-first floor general in Frank Ntilikina and a developing big man in Willy Hernangómez, is due for a big year. I expect Porzingis to cement himself as the number one option on offense and be named an All-Star in a relatively mediocre Eastern Conference.
4. What are your bold, wild, and final predictions for the upcoming season?
Mike: Frank Ntilikina finishes top five in Rookie of the Year voting. This take is oozing butyne but I have my reasons. Frank will be the starting point guard from day one. That translates to a lot of playing time, which means a plethora of opportunities to make a mark. Lonzo Ball and Dennis Smith Jr. have received all the praise. Markelle Fultz is simply the best in class. Frank? We haven’t seen much yet which means anything he does will be amplified. I believe he will be the best perimeter defender on the team this year and be a pleasant surprise to the crowd of fans that wanted DSJ or Malik Monk.
James: My only hot take for this season is that the team remains as currently constituted. The Knicks have a history of mid-season moves where fans have to talk themselves into them being a good idea. I like the roster right now, minus Jarrett Jack. So yeah, the Knicks make it through the whole season with full roster retention.
Steve: One bold, one wild, and one final. Bold: James Dolan institutes a company-wide policy banning the word “triangle” from the organization, along with the name “Phil” and the word “fill,” just to be safe. Wild: Willy Hernangómez is in the conversation for an All-Star berth as a center. It’s a very short, and maybe peyote-driven conversation, but still. Final: Porzingis shows everyone where his potential truly lies. This season isn’t measured in wins and losses. It’s measured in the growth of a unicorn. And it’ll be a success, if he isn’t dealt.
Kyle: Kristaps will average a 25–10 double-double. As a no. 3 option, he posted 18 points with seven rebounds and two blocks. With the greenest of lights and the reigns fully in his hands? He’ll shatter the 20 PPG mark, and I think he has a special individual season.
Ankit: My bold prediction for this season is that Frank Ntilikina takes less than 30 games to acquire the starting point guard spot for the Knicks. Whether it be a lack of quality at the position or standout performances from the French floor general, these Knicks have playoff ambitions in a shambolic conference and Ntilikina brings the team closer to that.
Brendan: Scott Perry and Steve Mills have stressed the development of the young players this entire offseason. While they’ve brought in both Ramon Sessions and Jarrett Jack as veteran options at PG, I still think Frank Ntilikina averages 20–23 minutes per game. 2016 Rookie of the Year recipient Malcolm Brogdon averaged 26.4 MPG, and Frankie Midnight needs that same kind of burn to develop.
Lee, O’Quinn, and Noah will not finish the season on the Knicks roster. Courtney Lee and O’Quinn should be moved at the trade deadline to playoff teams for either youthful assets or draft picks (fingers crossed). As for Noah, I hope he realizes for himself that basketball is no longer in his future, retires, and opens up a medicinal herb and glass shop in Bushwick. That probably fits his mantra.
Finally, Damyean Dotson is going to earn himself a solid chunk of minutes, become a solid rotation player, and average 10–12 points per game. There’s a bit of a logjam at the shooting guard position with THJ, Lee, and Baker, but the Knicks have hinted at playing Lee at the three, which opens the door to competition for the backup spots at both spots. I liked what I saw from Dotson in the Summer League. He seems like a natural scorer, and the Knicks need scoring.
Ty: The wildest prediction I have is that Damyean Dotson will have a better rookie season than Frank Ntilikina. If Dotson ends up waived please don’t acknowledge this and embarrass me. It was a hot take in the heat of the moment.
Nick: I strongly believe Michael Beasley and his ankle watch will average 20 PPG and lead the Knicks in scoring this season. He will benefit a lot from the attention paid to KP. The talent is there with Beas, he just needs to stay out of trouble, which I think he will this year (despite his knack of making hilarious headlines). Additionally, Doug McDermott will be traded by the deadline. This is Doug’s third team in as many years and I don’t think he will really get the opportunity he needs to develop in New York with this team. I do believe he can one day be a solid 15 point per game type of guy, but not here. Expect the young journeyman to be sold off to a contender looking for bench depth.
Jack: Frank Ntilikina will win Rookie of the Year. I’m all in with Frank. The two gold-dust skills in today’s NBA are defensive versatility and three-point shooting. The ability to switch between multiple positions on defense and knock down perimeter shots are the most enabling skills in the NBA. Frank can do both, and he’s a teenager. He’ll get plenty of minutes and will surprise a lot of people.
Hear from the rest of our staff:
Anthony Corbo, multimedia editor: 30–52. Ntilikina is better than the rest of the NBA is giving him credit for, Kristaps will add a solid post game to his repertoire, and THJ will prove to be a more than capable secondary option, though the rest of the lineup will be inconsistent all year. Look for a trade deadline shakeup.
Bailey, associate editor: 31–51. KP shoots more and gains confidence, but his %’s will suffer as a result. Frank will outperform his current expectations.
Matt Spendley, associate editor: 30–52. The Knicks will be watchable on the offensive end, and a travesty on the defensive end. So, pretty much in line with what they’ve been for years now. KP is an All-Star lock.
Nitzan Bluvstein, social: 82–0.
Reid Goldsmith, managing editor: 28–54. KP makes his first All-Star Game, Hardaway, Jr., isn’t as bad as we think, and the Knicks are entertainingly awful.
Ryan Punzalan, editor-in-chief: 29–53. They are fun. They are bad. They are the Knicks.
trey, social media editor: The Knicks are in fact not good, they are actually bad. As the largest Porzingis stan you’ve ever read, I do think it’s fair to question how good a team can be with KP, in year three, as their best player. Their second best player is perhaps Enes Kanter, who will be coming off the bench. After all of this hard-hitting analysis, I’m here to guess the Knicks win 22 games.
Now that was some fire. Make sure you cover all your bases with Knicks coverage this season. Follow The Knicks Wall on Facebook and Twitter, and listen to the TKW Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Subscribe to Jeffrey Bellone’s YouTube series focusing on studying film. For every season preview piece, check out the 2018 Season Preview page.