By: Rossy Pasternak
All stats for this article are provided by http://www.basketball-reference.com/. Defensive and Offensive Rating are the points scored against/points scored per 100 possessions.
Kristaps Porzingis was considered a wildcard before the draft – someone with a lot of potential, but also someone who many didn’t know, or hadn’t seen play a lot. The Knicks went ahead and picked him fourth overall in this past year’s draft anyways. According to Stephen A. Smith, Knicks star Carmelo Anthony felt “betrayed and hoodwinked by Phil Jackson” after the pick was made. The Knicks fans in the crowd at the draft – there were a lot of them – booed the pick. It was wondered whether Porzingis could adjust to Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, and their triangle offence. Also, there was immense pressure on him as the Knicks first top-5 pick in a long time. With Melo not getting any younger, this pick was considered to be a franchise-changing pick, as the player added would be the main sidekick to Melo. Porzingis didn’t let the negative talk get to his head however. Instead, he turned all of the negative comments about him into a chip on his shoulder, and let it all out in one of the most insane series of putback dunks in league history. It seems like Porzingis is a man on a mission to prove his doubters wrong, and to prove Phil Jackson right for having faith in him. Porzingis already has four double-doubles, averaging 11.4 pts and 8.4 rbs, and has started every game so far. Not only can Kristaps slam home rebounds, but he can also score in other ways, such as this Tim Duncan like post move, or this waved off game winning three, that was released just barely after the buzzer.
The Knicks are sitting in 12th in the East, with a 5-6 record, but have played much better than expected. Carmelo Anthony is back, and scoring in bunches, averaging 23.5 ppg so far this season. The defence has also been much improved, with Derek Fisher and staff getting the team to 15th in the league with a defensive rating of 103.5. The Knicks made a run at big-time free agents, LaMarcus Aldridge especially, but were denied. The so-called big market Knicks lost out to smaller markets like San Antonio and Memphis. Once considered a huge advantage to be in New York, the immense pressure and media attention seems to be scaring off big name free agents recently. Despite losing out on the stars, the Knicks won free agency in a different way – by bringing in cheap players who fill a specific role. Players such as Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams, Sasha Vujacic, Kevin Seraphin and Kyle O’Quinn. All of these players play a specific role that was needed by the Knicks. Afflalo and Lopez are excellent defensive players, and a huge upgrade on Langston Galloway and Amar’e Stoudemire. Williams and O’Quinn provide the Knicks with players who can stretch the floor, as well as provide a spark off the bench. Vujacic is past his prime, but can still shoot the basketball. All of these players are contributing alongside Carmelo, Kristaps, and fellow rookie point guard, Jerian Grant. The biggest difference between this year’s version of the Knicks and last years – other than Melo being healthy – is that there is a supporting cast capable of contributing every single night.
Do not discount the effect Melo has on a team’s offence. Last year, without him, the Knicks were 29th in offensive rating. This year, they are 13th in the league so far.That massive improvement does not only come with Melo’s scoring, but the effect he has on the opposing defence’s gameplan. With Melo on the floor, usually playing the 4, but sometimes the 3, the other team has to respect the Knicks shooting. Once Melo has the ball, help defenders start floating towards him, and sag off their own marks. Once this happens, the Knicks can start passing the ball around and making plays. Unfortunately, Fisher and Jackson insist on playing the Triangle offence, which is known as a slow offence that is iso-centric. The Knicks had the 28th slowest pace last season, and have only improved to 24th this season – mostly because Melo and Porzingis like running the fastbreak. If Fisher realizes that a different style offence that is more focused on ball movement and cutting is more likely to work – and with the athletes the Knicks have, it will – than the Triangle, then these Knicks may just have a chance at making the playoffs, as Charles Barkley says they will.
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