After floundering during the first two seasons of his tenure as president of the New York Knicks, Phil Jackson finally made some progress over the offseason.
For a change, the Madison Square Garden faithful have reason to be excited as the additions of point guard Derrick Rose, center Joakim Noah, shooting guard Courtney Lee, and projected sixth-man Brandon Jennings appear to be solid compliments to Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.
Clearly, this team has plenty of talent. But New York’s starting five is injury prone, which has rendered many Knickerbockers aficionados (myself included) apprehensive about getting their hopes up. I mean after all, these are the Knicks we’re talking about here.
With that said, the season will be here before we know it, and it’s never to early to start discussing what is in store for New York in 2016. With that in mind, here’s a look at five bold predictions for the New York Knicks in the 2016-17 NBA season.
Derrick Rose Stays Healthy, Plays In 70 Games
Considering Derrick Rose has missed so much time in his career, playing in 70 games would be a huge win for the Knicks. Rose has every incentive to do so in a contract year, as he’s unlikely to get an overwhelmingly lucrative free agent deal if he spends half his time in New York on the bench.
As a former player, new head coach Jeff Hornacek should be able to sense when Derrick needs his rest, and with some luck, he’ll stay fairly healthy for the Knicks.
Kristaps Porzingis Makes The All-Star Team
When Kristaps Porzingis was drafted out of Latvia in 2015, many Knicks fans booed Jackson’s decision, as they had never heard of him or seen him play. It didn’t take long for Porzingis to win the hearts and minds of New Yorkers in his rookie campaign, however, as he ultimately tallied 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in 72 appearances.
Having Joakim Noah as his partner in crime on defense in the paint should help Kristaps conserve energy to spend offensively, and defenders won’t be able to send as many double teams his way now that the Knicks have a backcourt that also commands attention. Thus, expect Porzingis to flourish with 18 points and 10 rebounds per game on his way to his All-Star honors.
Phil Jackson still hasn’t been able to draw any superstars to New York since he took over in 2014, but you can bet your bottom dollar he hasn’t given up on the idea. Thus, don’t be surprised when the Knicks are connected to guys like Chris Paul, DeMarcus Cousins, and Blake Griffin this winter.
While I’m not certain New York has what it takes to land a player of that stature, I do think it’s a near guarantee that Jackson will acquire a major rotation piece (think Tyreke Evans, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) that could be re-signed next summer.
As Jonathan Lehman of the New York Post reported, Jackson recently expressed regret about failing to trade for Jae Crowder in 2014, so I firmly believe Phil will be willing to land players like the aforementioned Evans and Caldwell-Pope despite the fact that they are blocked by Courtney Lee on paper.
Carmelo Anthony Makes All-NBA Third Team
Carmelo Anthony gets a bum rap at times for not having an incredible amount of postseason success. But in fairness, he’s played with inadequate teammates more often than not throughout his 13-season career.
With the exception of Porzingis, the Knicks will showcase a starting unit laden with experienced veterans this season in a cast of characters that includes a former MVP and one of the top frontcourt defenders in the league. With less to worry about on both ends of the court, Anthony should be able to play much faster and looser than he has in years. Expect a monster showing from Carmelo as a result of the reduced pressure.
New York Knicks Win 50 Games, Make Eastern Conference Finals
While the East is not the pushover that many uninformed NBA fans claim it is, it is incredibly top-heavy, with the juggernaut Cleveland Cavaliers and underrated Toronto Raptors leading the way.
If everything goes according to plan, the Knicks should have no trouble cementing a No. 4 seed at minimum, and could easily make a surprise trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
[Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]