I never thought I would see the day where the Knicks would be the hot topic of conversation in anything but discussions of a losing season, or the latest Melo drama. I was happy to see the saga with Carmelo Anthony’s contract come to a close for this team, and I’m very interested to see what develops over the course of the next few seasons.
It’s old news that I believe Melo is a cancer, and a black hole for ball movement so I won’t waste any more time explaining why I firmly believe he was the Achilles’ heel of this New York team. Instead, I want to focus on the talent the Knicks do have, focusing on the unicorn himself–Kristaps Porzingis.
I vividly remember when Porzingis was drafted. It was the summer of 2015, and the Knicks had the 4th overall pick. They stunned their fans by selecting Porzingis out of Latvia, and many were so upset by the pick that they were reduced to tears. Two years later, “The Unicorn” has become a household name for NBA fans as Porzingis has blossomed into a truly unique player that transcends traditional basketball roles. Porzingis stands at a towering 7’3″, but possesses the speed and agility of a point guard. He even beat some of the most skilled guards in the league to win the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at NBA All-Star Weekend 2017.
This season, Porzingis has been able to step out of the shadow of Anthony and truly showcase his abilities. The Knicks are 3-4 to start the season, but things are looking up and maybe just maybe they’ll have a winning season for the first time in a long time. Porzingis is frequently scoring 30+ points per game followed by double digit contributions from Enes Kanter, Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kyle O’Quinn and Doug McDermott. Double digit points for more than two players on the offense means the ball is moving, and ball movement always shows a positive correlation with winning games. Jarrett Jack shows to be the main facilitator on the offense, and his veteran experience (especially from the Golden State Warriors when they were just starting to bud) will prove useful for the Knicks this year.
On scoring, New York is averaging a respectable 50% from the field, and a meager 30% from distance. In the last 3 games they’ve generated 50+ points off assists, and they’re averaging around 52 rebounds per game in the last 7 games. Turnovers show to be an early problem also, but if they can learn to protect the ball while improving their shooting accuracy they will have no trouble getting wins quickly.
Early on, the Knicks were even able to blow out the Cavaliers in Cleveland 114-95 giving NBA fans hope that yet another Eastern Conference team might be ready to challenge the monarchy that the Cavs hold at the moment. The lineup of Jarrett Jack, Courtney Lee, Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Kristaps Porzingis played a total 25:24 minutes together in that game bringing in a combined 64 points at 50% from the field and 41.7% from 3 with a +/- of 15, and a team +/- of 19. With depth and versatility, this group has abandoned the outdated Triangle Offense, and is embracing the more modern style of play where players fill multiple different roles when the situation deems necessary.
With a fresh start in the rotation, and the front office, the Knicks should be able to get back to at least .500 in no time. If they place a priority on keeping Porzingis at the foundation of the team they will likely have many years of success. Fortunately, New York is a large market so keeping superstar players around isn’t an issue, and even more special for them, they’ve drafted and created their own superstar in Porzingis. It’s a little early to be saying this, but I see The Unicorn going down as one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game in New York. Finally, this city has someone to put their hope in as they rebuild and look to make a run in the East.