Additions: Kevin Knox, Mario Hezonja, Mitchell Robinson
Subtractions: Michael Beasley, Kyle O’Quinn,
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Frank Ntilikina
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr
SF: Kevin Knox
PF: Lance Thomas (Kristaps Porzingis when healthy)
C: Enes Kanter
Key Bench Players: Courtney Lee, Mario Hezonja, Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, Mitchell Robinson
With Kristaps Porzingis just starting to resume basketball activities, the Latvian unicorn will begin the 2018-19 NBA season on the disabled list without a timetable for his return. Without their face of the franchise, this Knicks team will struggle immensely without a true number one option and rim protector. This team has an abundance of role players and young players yet to meet their potential. This is not a playoff team, especially without Porzingis, and they will look forward to next offseason where they will have close to $39 million in cap space.
Porzingis is a top-twenty player when healthy with his sweet outside shooting stroke, athleticism, and mobility for a 7’3 big man. In the 48 games he played last season, the Unicorn was averaging 22.7 points on 43.9/39.5/79.3 shooting with 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. He is the unquestionable leader and face of this franchise, and in order to compete, the Knicks need him on the court.
Outside of Porzingis, the Knicks do not have a lot of immediate talent, but a lot of players with potential that they have not reached quite yet. Frank Ntilikina flashed potential in his rookie year with his playmaking skills and defense thanks to his 7’1 wingspan to go with his 6’6 height. If he can become a more consistent scorer from all three levels, he has the potential to be a star after being the 8th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Mario Hezonja and Emmanuel Mudiay were the 5th and 7th overall picks in the 2015 Draft, respectively, but neither could find their niche in Orlando and Denver. Hezonja is a 6’8 wing with a solid shooting stroke and athleticism but could not gain enough playing time to maintain consistency. Still only 23, Hezonja has an opportunity to live up to his potential on a Knicks team with no future at the shooting guard position. Mudiay is an athletic playmaker from the point guard position but has not flashed a reliable shooting stroke in his first three years in the NBA. The Knicks would be smart to have these two be the primary guard backups off the bench rather than Courtney Lee and Trey Burke. Who knows? Maybe with a change of scenery, the two of them could live up to their potential.
Kevin Knox is the prized possession of the Knicks’ offseason. The 9th overall pick in the 2018 Draft and 2018 SEC Co-Freshman of the Year, Knox brings 6’9 size and scoring from all three levels to Madison Square Garden. With Porzingis out, new head coach Dave Fizdale could use Knox’s versatility to show different lineups throughout a game. Fizdale could use the Kentucky product interchangeably between the 3 and 4 positions depending on matchups and team needs. In 32.4 minutes per game at Kentucky, Knox averaged 15.6 points on 44.5/34.1/77.4 shooting, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. As long as Porzingis is sidelined, Knox should be their top scoring option with a bright green light.
Mitchell Robinson could be the diamond in the rough that the Knicks need. After initially committing to Texas A&M out of high school then decommitting and committing to Western Kentucky, Robinson left the program prior to the start of the season to train for the 2018 NBA Draft. As a senior in high school, Robinson was a five-star recruit and the 11th overall prospect in the class of 2017 after Kevin Knox. In his senior year of high school at Chalmette in Louisiana, the 7’1 athletic big man averaged 25.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 6 blocks per game. He is an otherworldly athlete from the center position with prime DeAndre Jordan type of potential. Robinson was then drafted 36th overall by the Knicks in the 2018 Draft after falling out of the first round. Luckily for the Knicks, Robinson flashed his five-star recruit potential in summer league, averaging 13 points on 67% from the field, 10.2 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 24.8 minutes per game in 5 games. He could end up being a steal for New York and could form a dominant rim protecting duo with Porzingis in the future.
This Knicks team has virtually no shot at making a postseason run this upcoming season without Porzingis. Their best bet is to give their youngsters as many minutes as they can handle in an attempt to bring out their potential. The team needs more young stars to surround Porzingis to become a competitive team in the near future. Right now, especially with a sidelined Unicorn, the Knicks will be in the bottom three teams in the Eastern Conference where they can hopefully find a third young guy to form a Big Three with Porzingis and Knox.
*For yesterday’s article on the New Orleans Pelicans, click here
Up next tomorrow: Oklahoma City Thunder
University of South Carolina ’21