Friday Night (Preseason) Knicks! The Knickerbockers open up their scrimmage slate with two consecutive against the Detroit Pistons with both games in the Little Caesars Arena. Tonight’s game is at 7:00pm eastern.
For the second offseason in a row, the New York Knicks have largely rebuilt their roster from the ground up. Many of the established veterans from last season; Taj Gibson, Moe Harkless, Damyean Dotson, and Bobby Portis have moved to greener pastures. The team, under new head coach Tom Thibodeau, is going through the youth movement that so many Knicks fans have been crying out for throughout the eight year rebuilding process that has gripped the blue and orange. Thibs made his mark on this league as a defensively oriented coach who runs his guys high minutes to get the most out of his stars, and there is no reason to believe that won’t be what happens in New York.
The New York Wildcats
In an offseason marked by change, the most notable signing may have been a part of Coach Thibodeau’s staff. Assistant Coach Kenny Payne comes to the Knicks after spending a decade on the bench next to John Calipari at Kentucky. The Knicks currently have six Wildcats (Nerlens Noel, Kevin Knox, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Julius Randle, Skal Labissière, and Immanuel Quickly) on the roster, all of whom played under Kenny Payne and Coach Cal at Kentucky. All six were taken in the first round when they made the leap from the amateurs to the pros. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Knicks are committed to player development. A free agency plan and draft strategy has aligned with the coaching staff and franchise’s vision. Like a real life organization! They’re doing it!
An Honest to God Point Guard
Lets take a trip down New York Knicks point guard memory lane:
- Allonzo Trier 2019-2020 – Played about 6 games last year
- Trey Burke 2018-2019 – A “flier” contract who ended up being traded
- Ramon Sessions 2017-2018 – P U
- Derek Rose 2016-2017 – Declared the Knicks a SuperTeam, abandoned the team for a couple games, left the next year
- Jose Calderon 2015-2016 – Yuck, Thanks Phil
- Shane Larkin 2014-2015 – Couldn’t remember if he started or Shumpert, either way, less than memorable
- Raymond Felton 2013-2014 – The second time Felton has been on the team
- Jason Kidd 2012-2013 – 43 year-old Jason Kidd might be the best point guard of my post-college life.
- Toney Douglas 2011-2012 – GROSS
- Raymond Felton (again) 2010-2011
This offseason the team signed Austin Rivers. When Rivers came into the league after a one-and-done at Duke, he may have been the worst player in the NBA. Over the last eight years, Rivers has turned himself into a viable, all-star caliber point guard. The Knickerbockers signed the 28 year-old to a three-year team friendly $10 million deal. Rivers father, Doc, played for the Knicks between 1992-1994. Austin should be the day one starter and by virtue, be the best option the Knicks have had in over a decade.
Play the Kids!
This is a make or break season for many of the youngsters populating the Knicks roster. Frank Ntilikina has the chance to be the first Knicks rookie too be offered a second contract since Heisman Trophy Winner and New York legend, Charlie Ward. Kevin Knox hasn’t been able to throw a basketball into the street in his brief Knicks career. Immanuel Quickly may be the back up point guard of the future. Obi Toppin is coming into the league as a mature four-year college player with unreal bounce and has shown to be coachable. Mitchell Robinson should thrive under a defensive head coach in Tom Thibodeau. Can RJ Barrett use that he failed to make the All-Rookie teams as motivation to take the leap to be the offensive centerpiece of this Knicks team? Can Dennis Smith be a viable NBA guard or will he go the way of Brandon Jennings? Can Myles Powell make the jump from Seton Hall sharpshooter to the NBA? Will Iggie Brazdeikis be able to break through and join the big boys on the roster for a full season? All these questions should have answers by the end of the year, if not sooner.
Can Julius Randle Settle into His Role?
In order for this Knicks team to be more watchable, if not more successful, Randle simply cannot be the turnover machine he showed last year as point forward. The emergence of Barrett to help handle the scoring load as well as Rivers bringing the ball up the court should help Randle develop into the player they believe they signed last offseason. Randle showed what he is without help or with developing players. It’s up to the team and the coaching staff to get that spin move out of his repertoire and get him on the block or spotted up to where he can succeed.
Thibodeau, Woodson, Payne and their Rotations
Mike Woodson served as the last successful New York Knicks head coach, leading the 2012-2013 Knicks to over 50 wins and to the second round of the playoffs. Will Woody, a former fan favorite, put pressure on Thibodeau to perform better than expected? Does Thibs have the kind of relationship with new team President Leon Rose to survive a notoriously success starved fanbase?
Both Scors and I wrote about why we believed the ex-Timberwolves and Bulls coach will turn out to be the right move. I believe Thibodeau is more of his Bulls tenure, a developing team that grew together around a young star, than his T-Wolves tenure, Jimmy Butler demolishing young stars who aren’t trying hard enough. Coach Thibs will have to get the most out of Barrett, Robinson, and Toppin the way he got the most out of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Joakim Noah. I have faith that he will do just that. This team may not be the Bulls of old, but it does have the pieces we have seen the coach be successful with in the recent past.
The biggest issue I can see is how to cycle all these young kids through the lineup as well as drive up the trade value of some of the older veterans. Tom Thibodeau is famous for his small rotations playing big minutes. We will have to see whether or not he can adjust to being at this stage of the rebuilding process.
What Should We Expect?
The New York Knicks should be better this year with a real, genuine head coach. The team seems to be moving in a manner familiar with successful rebuilds elsewhere in the league. I believe they will be more entertaining this year, as well as more successful in the win column. We’re looking at mid-to-high 20’s win team, which should have slim playoff hopes post-all-star break.
Fake ending, Knicks win 37 games and serve as the 7 seed. GO NY GO NY GO.