The Surprisingly-Competent New York Knicks Off-Season

*knocking on wood intensifies*


Aside from possibly Golden State, it's difficult to highlight a team who's had a better off-season so far than the New York Knicks. Former-MVP Derrick Rose and former-Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah were undoubtedly the marquee signings, with reliable two-way guard Courtney Lee and backup-PG Brandon Jennings additionally joining the party. Bench player and fan-favourite Lance Thomas re-signs for a very favourable deal, and former Spanish league player (and a former teammate of Porzingis) Willy Hernangomez rounds out the list of acquisitions made so far by New York. Realistically, the biggest bummer was losing back-up guard and owner of the greatest name ever Langston Galloway to the Pelicans.

On paper, this looks like a highly capable, if not injury-prone, team capable of making the playoffs in a weak Eastern division and maybe even scraping 50-plus wins when the regular season is all said and done. For a big-market franchise that hasn't sniffed the playoffs in 3 years, that's an extraordinary thing for fans to look forward to. Which would probably explain that hollow, percussive noise you've been hearing all week; the sound of thousands of Knicks fans simultaneously knocking on wood.

It goes without saying that health concerns will be absolutely justified for the Knicks, in particular Rose and Noah. But this isn't an article concerned with pooping on the party before it even starts. Knicks fans haven't had a productive off-season since, what, we signed Amar'e Stoudemire? Let us have this one brief moment of optimistic fantasy, before it all comes crashing down courtesy of the usual misfortune (whatever it may be this time) that befalls this franchise whenever things start to go right for it.

Starting things off, Derrick Rose and Courtney Lee are, whether or not they seem like it, are huge backcourt upgrades over Calderon and Afflalo, both offensively and defensively. Their respective numbers may not blow you away, but in terms of their individual play style, they could not be better fits. What Derrick Rose will bring to New York has already been covered here, so I won't repeat it, but it is worth mentioning one fact from that article; that Rose's best attribute post-injury is his ability to attack the basket from the perimeter; something the Knicks have been absolute dreck at for a while now.

You know what else the Knicks haven't been very good at? Three-point shooting. You know who is a very good three-point shooter? Courtney Lee. 

It's almost as if the front office is having off-season conversations like, "Hey, you know those things we aren't terribly good at? Maybe we should bring in some players who are good at those things, so WE become more good-er at those things". If this sounds incredibly childish and asinine, it's because only a few years ago that off-season discussion would've simply been a whiteboard that had 'TRADE FOR BARGNANI' in bold, underlined letters on it. We're just not used to competency.

In all seriousness, players who do what they are told, play good defence on their opponent and hit threes when asked are a valuable commodity in today's league. Courtney Lee is about as great as an example of this as you can get, and would fit right in with what Coach Hornacek wants from his shooting guard. In comments made to the Wall Street Journal, Hornacek highlighted the need for a guard who would "run the offense, maybe get some kick-out threes... not necessarily creating a bunch of plays". After all, they have Melo and Rose for this.

Price tag and injury issues aside, Noah is still a good pick up for the Knicks too. As a center who can rebound, play post/perimeter defence as well as facilitate an offense, all at an above-average rate, would no doubt make Phil Jackson's mouth water. It's no secret that Phil values versatile players, which is probably the biggest reason why he put his own personal 'Do Not Trade' iron-on patch on Porzingis last season. Amongst all these off-season acquisitions though, Noah's contract is probably the most albatross-y. Put it this way, if the Rose experiment fails, or he becomes injured again, all that means is it's just this season with him, then he's gone. Brandon Jennings is on a one-year deal worth $5 millions; mere pennies in the context of the new cap. If Noah continues to pile up injuries, then we have another four years and $72 million guaranteed to him.

But like I said before, there are a lot of 'if's' with this team, so let's at least wait until the first player goes down before we all turn into grumpy curmudgeons, each one claiming that we KNEW this would happen. Tremendous, albeit extremely cynical foresight is the curse of all Knicks fans who have suffered under Dolan. We know too well to just expect good things to happen. Gloominess aside, the fact is this; this roster has been assembled with care, taking into account cap flexibility, improving on weaknesses and balancing the team. New York has surrounded franchise leader Carmelo Anthony with talent that can contend in the playoffs without expending rookie star Kristaps Porzingis in the process, and they should be rightfully commended for it.

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