Welcome back friends to the third annual installment of my NBA League Pass Rankings. For those new to the process, forget power rankings. Forget Vegas Over-Unders and salary cap gymnastics. Here at Knicks at Night we dive into the teams one by one to answer one simple question. If you’re shelling out the money for a League Pass subscription, which of these teams are worth that top 5 night-in, night-out slot and which of these guys are absolute, unwatchable garbage people?
I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve seen my boys play. And, while I wrote a little piece over the summer on the Derrick Rose trade, I largely checked out during the warm weather, relaxing as a casual basketball fan and enjoying the absolute madness that was the Knicks’ offseason.
Again, Rose trade aside, this was a real mixed bag for any fan. You had the excellent, underrated signings of Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings. You had the uber team-friendly Lance Thomas contract and the bizarre decision to renounce Langston Galloway’s $2.7 million qualifying offer. And then, you got to go ahead and just shoot yourself in the foot with the Joakim Noah contract.
Now Noah should be able to help the Knicks a good deal this year. I feel pretty confident he’ll bounce back from injury and play much closer to his 2014 defensive player of the year campaign than last year’s horror show where he got demoted to the bench for Pau Gasol and appeared in only 29 games. Kristaps Porzingis is the center of the future, but he hasn’t bulked up enough yet to play the position for 30-35 minutes a game and the team’s rebounding numbers swing wildly based on whether or not he’s playing at forward next to another traditional big man. KP was already one of the best rim protectors in the league last year next to Robin Lopez; if Noah can regain his defensive form, this should be an incredible defensive front line.
Where the Noah contract is going to start getting really ugly is towards the back-end of that 4 years and $72 million. This would ideally be the time that Porzingis had fully come into his own as a third/fourth year player in the league, but between Noah, Lee, and the bloated final year of Carmelo’s contract, these guys are going to have a really hard time building around him. That doesn’t really take anything away from this season, and the Knicks do have a couple of intriguing younger players in Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez who should be around on affordable contracts, but it’s always worth noting as a New York fan how thoroughly, and consistently, this team mortgages its future for the present.
So what present-day scenario have the Knicks doubled down on? Carmelo Anthony had an all-around year last season with his highest career assist rate and looked happy to share the Gotham spotlight with the gangly Latvian. If Derrick Rose is healthy, he’ll be the best point guard the Knicks have had next to Melo since the Allen Iverson Nuggets stint and Lee should be able to provide some of the low-usage, 3 and D spacing this team has desperately needed. Still, even with all of that, it’s hard to project this group as a playoff team unless everything breaks completely right.
Health is a huge concern first and foremost, between both of the Chicago pickups and Melo who hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year. The spacing should be cramped also, as the Knicks plan to start two terrible outside shooters in Rose and Noah. Rose in particular might have a lot of trouble, playing next to the two traditional bigs as it makes it harder for him to slash into the lane. There’s also the goofball/distraction factor here with Rose and Jennings (though Noah should do a good job of keeping this team in line) and there’s even the potential for a GASP Porzingis regression. These guys are just going to need so many things to click for them to improve on their 32 wins significantly enough to get into the postseason.
Orrrr, fuck all of that because these guys are going to be playing in April! My boy Kristaps is going to light the league on fire, Melo should have a much more efficient season (especially from 3) with less of a burden to create every single lick of offense, and the Knicks’ point guard situation should go somewhere from 28th to league average. This team has a better starting five, a deeper bench, and THEY DIDN’T HIRE RAMBIS! With Jeff Hornacek looking like a real NBA head coach who might actually be allowed to let these guys run some non-Triangle bullshit, it’s possible that he starts to maximize what could be one of the more unguardable forward punches in Melo and KP. The road ahead won’t be easy, and these guys will have a target painted on their backs with all of the big names and big apple lights, but with just a little imagination, it’s not too hard to see my boys having one of the most memorable seasons since 2013.
Last year’s ranking: 5 (+2)