After the first and second posts of this series, what we now need to do is begin to evaluate the playing staff of the Knicks, and look at which players are going to be the key building blocks moving forward, and who is going to get playing time this season. As I said in the previous update, one of my major focuses this season and moving forward is going to be the development of young players I’ve either signed/traded for, or drafted. This approach will clearly affect who I give minutes to this year, rather than simply just start the ‘best’ players with the highest ratings on the team. This is a long term plan and for that reason, I need to play players who either have room to grow into foundation pieces for us, or players who need to prove whether they are going to remain with us. In this update, I’m not going to run down every single player under contract at the Knicks (there’s a fair few players who just won’t get playing time), but I will discuss the major players.
The first player I want to talk about – quite rightly – is Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis is a 7″3′ big man, with the ability to score from anywhere on the court, and has the potential to be an offensive freak – even more than he already is. I’ve already stated that I won’t be trading Porzingis as the Knicks did in real life – he’s coming up to being an unrestricted free agent – because I’m not looking to suddenly jump to being a superteam by signing KD and Kyrie. My main question is whether to play him at the 4 (Power Forward) or the 5 (Center), and I’m going to test this by giving him a month at each position at the start of the season, before then evaluating his performance at both positions and the impact this had, before planning our moves around Kristaps moving forward.
The next important question is who is going to start at the 1 (Point Guard) this season. We currently have 3 PG’s who could start for us in Trey Burke, Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay. All 3 are former high draft picks, with only Ntilikina being drafted by the Knicks themselves. Burke is by far the better offensive player, but is also poor on defense and is older than the other two, and therefore doesn’t quite fit our rebuild timeline like Mudiay and Ntilikina do, although I do very much see Burke as being an effective bench player for us moving forward. In the end, I’ve decided to start Ntilikina at PG, as he’s potentially an elite defender (standing 6″6′ too), which would give us that Gary Payton-esque defensive guard I’m looking for, and he’s a marginally better shooter and driver than Mudiay. As a result, there’s a likelihood that Mudiay is traded through the season to a team willing to take on his expiring contract and take a shot on him.
We also have Enes Kanter at Center. He’s 80 overall, and in the last year of his contract. I actually think that Kanter would likely be helpful as a backup to a playoff team, so will most likely be shopping him around to see what I can get for him, ideally either someone young/promising, or a pick. Shooting Guard Courtney Lee is also another useful role player that I think may be worth something to a contending team, so again is likely just trade capital for me. Aside from that, we have a lot of young players that we need to develop. Ninth overall selection Kevin Knox will need considerable minutes in order to develop his game early on, and second round selection (Center) Mitchell Robinson will also need some minutes off the bench to develop, hopefully forming a nice backup frontcourt alongside Noah Vonleh. Undrafted rookie Alonzo Trier will also come off the bench at the 2, largely as a result of his shooting. If he develops well, Trier could well outperform our starting SG Tim Hardaway Jr. in a few years time. Aside from that, there’s former high draft pick Mario Hezonja, who will come off the bench this year, and I’ll be assessing his performance in order to ascertain whether he’s worth keeping around moving forward.
This will be our starting lineup at the beginning of the season. Ntilikina will start at Point, with Tim Hardaway providing vital scoring and spacing from SG. Kevin Knox will start at Small Forward, but will have a similar number of minutes to Hezonja on the bench, meaning Knox isn’t overplayed. Porzingis will spend his first month at Power Forward, and at least for the first few games of the season, Enes Kanter will start at the 5. It’s hardly a great starting lineup, but for what I want moving forward, it’s a decent start, and at the very least, we’ve got a plan. Trey Burke will also be our Sixth Man, getting a good amount of minutes and leading our bench unit. Again, I’m going to be tracking my players’ performances moving forward, so I’ll be able to see whether certain people need to move in or out of the starting lineup. I’ll cover this approach in the next update, which will be the beginning of the season. Until then, thank you for reading and supporting this blog. Should you have any questions about the Knicks/basketball in general, please feel free to ask in the comments section, or contact me via Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you again, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.