Saturday, October 10, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: New York Knicks

NEW YORK KNICKS
[] 17-65
[] Offensive Rating: 100.9 (29th)
[] Defensive Rating: 111.0 (28th)
[] Net Rating: -10.1 (30th)
[] Last playoff appearance: 2013
[] Coach: Derek Fisher

There are still holes on the roster, but the Knicks front office did a good job this offseason of adding more reliable players to the lineup.  Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez won't help Carmelo Anthony carry the team, but they're more capable of being active contributors than the players they're replacing from last season.  Along with the true additions to the roster, the Knicks should also improve with the return of Carmelo Anthony.  Anthony chose to have knee surgery after the All-Star game last season, ultimately missing a total of 42 games in 2014-15.  Anthony's nearing the end of his prime, but the Knicks desperately need him to stay healthy and provide the team with much-needed offensive firepower.  It was okay for the Knicks to be bad last year, as they turned that season into the 4th pick, which they used on the ultra-talented Kristaps Porzingis.  That's not the case this year, as they owe their pick to the Toronto Raptors.  New York will be shooting for the postseason this year, but I don't think they have the ammunition to get it done.


Projected Starting Five

PG: Jose Calderon - 6'3, 210 - 11th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
42
9.1
11.3
16.1%
51.9%
41.5%
.401
90.6%
.090
25.6%
16.9%

Once an efficient scorer and distributor, Calderon's game has taken a serious tumble in the last two years.  He still shoots the three ball well, but he doesn't score efficiently inside the arc, and his passing numbers have gone in the tank over the last two seasons.  He started every game he played in last year, which is the only reason he's listed in this space.  I would expect that Jerian Grant or Langston Galloway occupies this spot by the end of the year.

SG: Arron Afflalo - 6'5, 220 - 9th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
78
13.3
10.7
19.0%
53.3%
35.4%
.377
84.3%
.224
8.2%
10.7%

Afflalo had a career year in a high-usage role for the Magic two seasons ago.  Last season, he took steps back in just about every category as he split his time between a poor environment in Denver and being a role player in Portland.  Afflalo is nearing the end of his prime, but I really like the deal he signed with the Knicks this summer.  It's a fit for player and team, and puts him in a role where he'll be the Knicks' secondary playmaker and scoring option.

SF: Carmelo Anthony - 6'8, 230 - 13th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TRB%
40
24.2
21.5
32.2%
53.1%
34.1%
.222
79.7%
.294
18.0%
10.7%

Melo sat out the second half of last season, after playing in the All-Star Game, to have surgery on his knee.  That move rubbed some folks the wrong way, but it was probably the right choice.  He should be fully rehabbed by the start of training camp, and ready to lead this team like his paycheck says he should.  He'll have more help this year, but he's going to need to shoulder a massive load if this team is even going to sniff the playoffs.  He's got the talent, but there are a lot of miles on his body and he's approaching the end of his prime at age 31.  He's still one of the premier scorers in the league, but that means less with every year that he misses the playoffs.  I enjoy watching Melo work on the offensive end, so I'm hoping he stays healthy and has a big year.

PF: Derrick Williams - 6'8, 240 - 5th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TRB%
74
8.3
12.8
18.9%
54.0%
31.4%
.322
68.4%
.404
5.6%
7.8%

Williams is probably the starting PF on opening night, because the other options are a rail-thin 20 year old, Lou Amundson, Lance Thomas and Kevin Seraphin.  If Derek Fisher gets creative, we could see Kyle O'Quinn here, but my money is on Williams at the 4 on opening night.  He's got the talent to be at least passable here, but he's yet to put it together.  In year five, if things don't start to click soon, they just aren't going to.  One encouraging note from his statistical profile: he got to the FT line frequently in 2014-15.

C: Robin Lopez - 7'0, 255 - 8th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
59
9.6
16.2
15.5%
57.4%
12.9%
12.7%
13.1%
77.2%
.291
1.8


Robin Lopez may not be the flashiest option, but I liked the Knicks picking him up too.  He should be a steadying defensive presence for one of the league's worst defensive teams, and he's certainly passable on the offensive end.  The Knicks opened 2014-15 with Samuel Dalembert as their starting C.  Let's call this position upgraded, significantly.

Bench
PG: Jerian Grant - 6'5, 200 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
FT%
38
16.5
3.0
6.7
47.8%
78.0%

Grant had a dynamic senior season for the Fighting Irish, which earned him first round status.  When the Knicks saw that Grant was still on the board at 19, they were willing to move an asset to get him.  Phil Jackson sent Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Hawks for the Wizards' pick and snagged Grant.  He'll have a bit of an adjustment to make based on an iffy jump shot, but his athleticism and floor skills should earn him plenty of minutes.

G: Langston Galloway - 6'2, 200 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
45
11.8
12.3
19.2%
48.9%
35.2%
.344
80.8%
.153
17.6%
10.1%

Galloway's emergence as a pleasant surprise was one of the few bright spots of the 2014-15 Knicks season.  His efficiency numbers aren't great, but he was productive by raw measures, and at 23 years old there's still some growth to be seen.  Galloway earned second-team All-Rookie honors, not a minor feat for a guy who started the season in the D-League and had to play his way onto the Knicks' roster through a pair of 10-day contracts.  He could challenge for the starting PG spot coming out of training camp.

SF: Cleanthony Early - 6'8, 220 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
39
5.4
8.4
19.6%
44.7%
26.2%
.393
75.0%
.224
9.1%
14.5%

I liked Early coming out of Wichita State, ranking him 26th on my 2014 Big Board.  Year one was a clunker though, and he needs to show more this year to look like a viable option off the bench behind Carmelo Anthony.  He needs to be better all-around, but he just can't afford to shoot 41.5% inside the arc again.  He should still factor into the rotation though, because the Knicks don't have many other viable options behind Melo.

SF: Thanasis Antetokounmpo - 6'7, 205 - Rookie (2014-15 D-League stats)
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
3P%
47
13.9
6.2
1.7
45.9%
23.2%

The older brother of the Greek Freak, Thanasis doesn't have nearly the upside of his brother Giannis.  A hustle player who earns his keep on the defensive end, he's a complete non-factor on the offensive end at this point.

F: Lance Thomas - 6'8, 225 - 5th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
62
7.1
8.0
17.0%
45.6%
7.3%
4.8%
9.9%
72.7%
.224
0.2

Thomas is also a hustle player who struggles on the offensive end of the floor. Minutes may be more scarce for him this year, after playing nearly 24 MPG for the Knicks in 40 contests.

PF: Lou Amundson - 6'9, 225 - 10th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
53
4.9
11.8
17.4%
44.2%
16.5%
11.3%
22.0%
47.1%
.341
2.0

Amundson is yet another hustle player who struggles offensively.  The presence of Porzingis and the addition of Seraphin means his minutes will also likely decline this year.

PF: Kristaps Porzingis - 7'1, 220 - Rookie (2014-15 Liga ACB/Eurocup stats)
GP
PPG
RPG
BPG
FG%
3P%
FT%
50
11.0
4.6
1.0
49.6%
35.9%
75.2%

The 4th pick in the 2015 draft comes to the United States shrouded in mystery and upside.  He's incredibly long, a good athlete for his size and skilled like a perimeter player.  He's also incredibly thin and hasn't played against competition anywhere near what he'll see this year for 82 games.  There should be plenty of ups and downs this season, but the most important thing will be putting some muscle on his frame and acclimating him to the NBA game.

F/C: Kevin Seraphin - 6'9, 270 - 5th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
79
6.6
12.5
21.5%
53.5%
13.1%
8.1%
17.9%
70.7%
.182
1.7

Seraphin is an okay backup big man who does a few things well, and nothing at an elite level.  The last two seasons, his TS% has been right around the league average, he's an okay rebounder and he's going to protect the rim.  Considering who last year's frontcourt backups were (Amundson, Thomas, Quincy Acy, Jason Smith), Seraphin is an upgrade.

F/C: Kyle O'Quinn - 6'10, 250 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TRB%
51
5.8
14.8
17.7%
55.0%
27.9%
.178
77.2%
.236
11.3%
13.6%

Seraphin looks like an upgrade, and so does O'Quinn.  He's only 25, protects the rim, is a decent rebounder and is working on developing an outside shot.  Even if what he put up last season is the best he'll give the Knicks, you'll take it.  Based on his age, I think there's still time for him to keep rounding out his game.

Outlook

The return of Carmelo Anthony and the addition of several passable veterans greatly improves the depth and quality of the Knicks roster.  However, it only does so much for a team that won 17 games last season.  There's no easy answer at the PG and PF spots, and although the frontcourt depth is better, there are few reliable options behind the starters on the wings.  The development of Kristaps Porzingis will be an important storyline all season long, and the Knicks will also hope for signs of life from Jerian Grant.  If the rookies can outperform their expectations and Carmelo Anthony is in the hunt for a scoring title, the Knicks just might find themselves competing for a playoff spot come March and April.  I don't see those two items occurring though, and I think a 28 win season is much more likely.

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