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Five Major Questions For 2016-17 New York Knicks

Kristaps Porzingis (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Kristaps Porzingis (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)


The 2016-17 NBA season is upon us. The New York Knicks spent a lot of money this off season to retool and reload. Phil Jackson dealt from his team’s greatest strength (the frontcourt) to shore up his team’s greatest weakness (point guard) when he traded Robin Lopez (and Jose Calderon, and Jerian Grant) for Derrick Rose (and Justin Holiday). In practice, the Zen Master turned what seemed at first to be a simple salary-dump deal into one of the defining moments of his presidency.

To replace of Lopez, the only Knick to start all 82 games last season, Jackson signed Joakim Noah away from Chicago. The former Defensive Player of the Year has battled injuries and shooting woes over the past few years, but should provide a fearsome defensive partner for Kristaps Porzingis.

On paper, the Knicks should be better than the 32-50 record from last season. With so much new players and a new head coach, Here are the five key questions concerning the 2016-2017 New York Knicks.

1. Can Carmelo Build From His Summer 16 Performance?

It was the Summer Of Carmelo. He won a gold medal as the leader of Team USA; he teared up on NBC; he became a distinguished social activist; he convinced Phil Jackson to get him some help. Now it’s up to Anthony to lift New York out of its three-year playoff drought, because he’s still the player who commands the ball, the attention, and dictates the offense.

Melo will be able to generate points. His most important contribution to the future of the Knicks franchise, however, will be the influence he has on the development of Porzingis.

In response to charges that he did not enjoy sharing the spotlight with the marvelous rookie, Anthony publicly embraced Porzingis, becoming his mentor. The Knicks are in a great spot with Melo. This summer was a blessing in disguise.

While Anthony’s numbers have slowly declined the past couple of seasons, he’s starting to get his teammates move involved. All signs point towards Melo being a better teammate and leader going forward.

2. What Can We Expect From Jeff Hornacek?

Hornacek wants the Knicks to play fast in an attempt to get easy baskets and will run aspects of the triangle in the half-court. But he’ll also employ more pick-and-roll. The Knicks also have 10 new players and are learning a new system under new coach Jeff Hornacek, so they need time to jell.

When Hornacek coached Phoenix, he ran a fast-paced offense that relied heavily on three-pointers, pick-and-rolls and drive-and-kicks. But he often played small with multiple point guards on the floor at the same time. On some occasions during the preseason, Brandon Jennings has pushed the pace to help get easy buckets, which is something the Knicks are hoping he brings to the table this season.

Hornacek could play two point guards with Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings in the back-court, but he said he didn’t expect to do that much. He has said he would try to exploit the Knicks’ versatility, playing Kristaps Porzingis at center at times to try to create mismatches.

3. Will D. Rose Stay Healthy?

Derrick Rose is heading into an interesting place this season. He is playing for more than a new contract. D.Rose is playing for respect from his peers. Rose missed out on valuable time with his new team, new coach and learning a new offense because of his civil sexual assault trial in Los Angeles. Rose will have to learn on the fly and may need time to return to basketball shape.

Never mind the civil trial stuff, the point guard has missed 224 of the last 394 games. The former league MVP has a lot to prove. With the trial behind him, look for Rose to play at an all star level, not just for the Knicks, but for himself. Sometimes leaving home is best for your evolution.

4. When Will This Team Become Porzingis’s Team?

The 21-year-old is smart enough to concede to Carmelo Anthony, but the time will come for the torch to be passed. Porzingis is just too good. Kristaps Porzingis is New York’s future superstar barring two unfortunate events: 1) injury, 2) Someway, somehow, the Knicks mess it up. Please don’t do that. …One thing we’d like to see is Porzingis get on the floor with the second unit to unleash him as the featured player on offense.

Last season, Anthony was the top dog. He led New York in scoring (21.8), win shares (6.4) and VORP (2.9), but Porzingis wasn’t far behind in those categories. He put up 14.3 points (second) and 4.3 win shares (third to Robin Lopez) while totaling a 1.1 VORP (third, again to Lopez).

Kristaps Porzingis will eventually be one of the best players in the league. He can stretch the defense on pick-and-pops, which is hard to guard when you have a guy that’s 7’ 3″ and can shoot like he can shoot. While he isn’t an elite 3-point shooter, he can knock down those shots. The upside and the evolution of Kristaps Porzingis will be something worth watching in New York for years to come.

5. Will The Knicks Make The Playoffs?

Carmelo Anthony has help, as the Knicks’ top six or seven players are solid. Kristaps Porzingis is stronger and should be improved in Year 2, especially with better talent around him. Noah and Rose are ultra-competitive, no-nonsense players who experienced individual and team success in Chicago and want to find both again. Rose and Jennings are talented guards in the last years of their contracts so they’re going to want to get paid when salaries skyrocket next summer. This Knicks team will end the three year playoff drought and battle for 6th or 7th spot in the Eastern Conference.


Honorable Mention / Huge Question

Will The Zen Master Leave Or Stay In NYC?
Phil Jackson has an out clause in his contract after this season that he had included in case of a lockout this summer. That seems less likely now but that doesn’t mean Jackson won’t bolt and return to Los Angeles, especially if the Knicks are a playoff team. The Zen Master could say he left them in better shape than he found them. A lot of the Phil escape from New York talks, really hedges on the Lakers. If total power of the Lakers is given to his Fiancee Jeanie Buss.

I personally believe, Phil Jackson will want to see his legacy end with the development of Kristaps Porzingis. Phil doesn’t get the credit for the development of Jordan, Pippen, Shaq and Kobe. Not only did he gamble with Porzingis, Phil will want to end his legacy with creating another mega star talent. I hope Phil stays for the long haul but time will tell.

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