2014-15 IN REVIEW
5th in Atlantic Division
15th in Eastern Conference
We could sit here and talk about everything that went wrong with the Knicks last season, but since literally everything went wrong, I'm not going to do that to you. You don't deserve to relive that. It was awful.
SUMMER OF 2015
Key Additions - Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant, Kevin Seraphin, Derrick Williams, Kyle O'Quinn
Key Losses - Andrea Bargnani, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jason Smith, Shane Larkin
One of the biggest issues with the Knicks, especially since trading Tyson Chandler last summer, has been lack of paint protection. Last season's bigs were revolving combinations of Quincy Acy, Cole Aldrich, Louis Amundson, Andrea Bargnani, Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith and Amare Stoudemire. Most of them were either injured half of the season or traded, as well, and New York couldn't stop anybody from demoralizing their defense with ease.
This summer, they addressed that by bringing in a brand new cast of bigs, lead by veteran center Robin Lopez, who signed a four-year deal with the Knicks worth $54 million. Lopez has elevated his impact to a completely different level since joining Portland in 2013, and the active seven footer has averaged 10.5 points and 7.8 rebounds while blocking 1.6 shots per game over the last two years. Like any quality defensive big, Lopez comes with a hefty price tag but he is certainly an excellent upgrade at the five.
To add depth up front, the Knicks also signed former Wizard Kevin Seraphin for one year at $2.8 million along with Magic free agent Kyle O'Quinn on a four-year, $16 million contract to provide toughness and energy as the new backup center. O'Quinn approaches the game with a physical demeanor and certainly is not the kind of guy that gets pushed around in the lane.
Derrick Williams will get a fresh start and a new chance to prove himself, as well. The 24-year-old was the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, and has yet to put together a high-impact season. At the very least, he gives the Knicks a spectacular athlete that can alternate between both forward positions. In 74 games for Sacramento last year, Williams put up 8.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in just under 20 minutes per game.
The most promising newcomer up front, however, is sixth overall draft pick Kristaps Porzingis. The agile seven footer is a bit raw at 20 years of age, but possesses an extremely intriguing set of attributes that creates a unique combination of size, length, mobility, craftiness on the block, a good-looking jump hook and a soft touch with the ability to step out and knock down jump shots. Porzingis' long-term potential is something Knicks fans should be excited about, and hopefully one day they will eat their draft night boos.
The Knicks came away with another quality prospect on draft night, moving Tim Hardaway Jr. in a deal that landed them 19th overall pick Jerian Grant. The former Notre Dame star is a tough and competitive 6'5" combo guard that makes an impact on both ends of the floor and will have a chance to play a key role right away as a rookie. Grant put up 16.5 points, 6.6 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game at Notre Dame last season.
Grant is the son of former NBA player Harvey Grant, making him the older brother of current Philadelphia 76ers forward Jerami Grant and the nephew of NBA champion Horace Grant. That's one heck of a family.
New York also brought in one of the most underrated free agent acquisitions this offseason when they signed Arron Afflalo to a two-year, $16 million deal, with the second year acting as a player option. The 6'5" seven-year veteran will help New York on both ends of the floor, as Afflalo does a little bit of everything as a wing who can shoot the three, defend his position, create space out of the triple-threat and play the game with a high level of both toughness and intelligence.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
C - Robin Lopez / Kyle O'Quinn / Louis Amundson
PF - Kristaps Porzingis / Derrick Williams / Kevin Seraphin
SF - Carmelo Anthony / Lance Thomas / Cleanthony Early
SG - Arron Afflalo / Sasha Vujacic
PG - Jose Calderon / Jerian Grant / Langston Galloway
X-FACTOR - Robin Lopez
Of course, the Knicks can't turn anything around if Carmelo Anthony misses half the season like he did last year, but Robin Lopez brings a new dynamic that the team simply did not have in 2014-15. He's no Kevin Garnett or Dwight Howard as a defensive quarterback, but he's better than most in the league today and he can really help change a lot about how the Knicks perform on that end of the floor.
The effort and activity Lopez plays with is contagious, and that kind of culture will be expanded on with the addition of guys like Afflalo, Grant and O'Quinn.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2015-16
The Knicks improved their roster this summer, but they need a lot of different things to go well in order to get back into the playoffs. They may have an outside shot at the eighth seed, but there is probably a better chance that they wind up back in the lottery.
Knicks fans should be more optimistic than they were during last year's catastrophic faliure of a season. They should defend, shoot the ball and compete at a higher level, but I wouldn't set your expectations too high. It's tough to turn a 17-win season around to the point where you are a serious threat.
PROJECTED 2015-16 STANDINGS
3rd in Atlantic Division
13th in Eastern Conference
Additional Knicks Previews:
Last year, Carmelo Anthony played just 141 more minutes than Quincy Acy. Goal #1: getting Carmelo back to the top of the list. Other individual goals: health and a return to form for Jose Calderon; competent consistency from Cleanthony Early; for one of the Wesley Saunders/DaJuan Summers/Thanasis Antetokounmpo trio to mirror the recent good WTF!-ness of Chris Copeland/Jeremy Lin/Langston Galloway; for Jerian Grant to be closer to "precocious" than "prospect"; for Kristaps Porzingis to be closer to god than man.
Last but waaay not least -- it was impossible to pass fair judgment on Derek Fisher last year. This year, his judgment cometh and that right soon. Both the coach and his team need to establish an identity. His persona is strikingly quiet compared to those of his star player, his bright and shiny stud rookie, his larger-than-life president/GM and his messier-than-life owner. On the eve of 2015-16, I still don't know what to make of Derek Fisher. For the Knicks, mediocre is good enough this year. For Fisher? Gonna need something more.
I think the Knicks will be better. I mean, of course they'll be better. Assuming good health, Melo will be fine and a healthy Melo means they'll be respectable at the very least. We have no idea if Fisher can coach and I wouldn't presume either way. What gives me pause are the offseason additions: Robin Lopez will be good, no question, and I love Kyle O'Quinn, but Arron Aflalo hasn't been good for a few years and Derrick Williams has never been good in the pros. I look at them and I see a 30-win team. That's not nearly good enough, even in the East.