With the advent of real, actual NBA preseason basketball, fans get to flip their calendars to the 2017-2018 season and start gearing up for one of the more anticipated campaigns of the last decade. As always, at Knicks at Night, we look ahead and break down the upcoming year, not by the quality of each team’s roster, but by how entertaining each should be to watch on a nightly basis. With nearly half the league’s All-Stars changing homes over the summer, there’s a lot more variability in these rankings and a lot of exciting, new situations to monitor. There’s never been a better time to plunk down that 100 bucks or so for the league’s premier subscription service, but also never a harder time choosing who to watch on a given night. To help answer that question… here are your Fourth Annual League Pass Watchability Rankings!
Within what seemed like minutes of opening up his list of potential destinations to include Cleveland and Oklahoma City, Scott Perry and the front office pulled the trigger on Carmelo Anthony ending six and a half years in New York City and opening countless debates about the forward’s complicated legacy as a Knick. While I could spend the entire preview talking about the move, and will definitely come back to it later, this trade really signals one thing to all Knicks fans out there. It’s Porzingis time in Gotham!
There shouldn’t be a basketball nerd alive who hasn’t watched the grainy footage from Euro Basket and salivated over KP’s role as a featured scorer on a talented team. With the 7’3″ unicorn making a concerted effort to bulk up during the summer, and heading into a pivotal third season as the unquestioned number 1 option for the Knicks, all the pieces should be in place for a monster year. While last season was an unquestioned disappointment for the fans, it’s worth noting that Porzingis was vastly improved in nearly every single statistical category and did so while largely standing around as Derrick Rose pounded the ball into the ground. Kristaps has already embraced the challenge of being the go-to man in the basketball mecca; now all us fans get to watch how it plays out. With how bad the East is this year, this guy should be heading to Los Angeles in February for his first All-Star game.
The rest of this team is going to be weird, to be sure. Outside of Porzingis, New York’s starting 5 is completely overhauled. Willy Hernangomez should figure to be the team’s primary option at center, but he was regularly yanked in and out of the lineup last year by head coach Jeff Hornacek and is somehow one of five true center’s on this team’s roster after Oklahoma City sent over Enes Kanter in their Melo-Heist (so much for small-ball). Who starts at the 1 and the 3 is really anyone’s guess as the team has both high-profile youngsters in Doug McDermott and this year’s eighth overall pick Frank Ntilikina and more veteran steady role players like Lance Thomas and Ramon Sessions. The one thing for certain? After doling out the most laughably awful contract of the offseason for the second year in a row, OAKAAK Tim Hardaway, Jr. will be suiting up at shooting guard.
I’m cautiously optimistic about Hardaway, however. I know the contract is an absolute joke, but he flashed real potential down the stretch with Atlanta last year and ended the season with the best net rating of any player on the playoff-bound Hawks. While he was fairly terrible in his first stint with the Knicks, he is still only 25 and will no longer be flanked by fellow pull-up, me-first specialists like Carmelo and J.R. Smith. With some premier spacing coming from Porzingis and McDermott at the forward positions, and literally no pressure or expectations in New York, it wouldn’t be a surprise for Timmy to take a huge leap attacking the basket and become a top 10 scoring 2 guard in the league.
The real question, though, is Ntilikina and what he can provide for New York. With a Summer League knee injury and the explosion of Dennis Smith, Jr. (taken one pick after the Belgian), it’s fair to say that Frank is as under-the-radar as any top 10 pick can possibly be. While it’s unfair to expect a 19 year old rookie contributor to be a positive contributor to winning basketball – and Ntilikina may not even start with the low risk contracts dealt out to Sessions, Jarret Jack, and fan favorite Ron Baker – how he looks this season will go a long way towards determining the Knicks’ future going forward. This figures to be a team right back in contention for another top-10 selection next year, and if Frank and Timmy impress next to Porzingis, New York may finally be on track with putting the pieces in place for that next successful Knicks team. Whenever that might be…