The New York Knicks are not an Eastern Conference Contender


The New York Knicks have been busy this off-season – that’s for sure. The team has acquired former league MVP Derrick Rose, former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, shooting guards Courtney Lee and Justin Holiday, Brandon Jennings, and they might not be done yet. These acquisitions, while impressive in name value, are exactly the same kind of mistakes that has gotten the Knicks into trouble so many times since the Pat Riley and Patrick Ewing years.

For one, the Knicks have given up a lot in order to get these players. The Knicks traded away their starting center (Robin Lopez) and point guard (Jose Calderon,) as well as their 2015 1st round pick Jerian Grant in the Rose trade. Those players accounted for 10.6 win shares, and were major parts of last year’s team. While Rose put up the impressive box score stats of 16.4 points and 4.7 assists per game. He proved unable to contribute to team success with only 0.4 win shares.

This was a very bad sign, as it was also the most games Rose has played in a season since 2010-2011. Even so, Rose managed to miss as many games (16,) as Lopez (0,) Grant (6,) and Calderon (10,) combined.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Derrick Rose proved unable to play off the ball with Jimmy Butler as the number one option, how is he supposed to play with Carmelo Anthony: an even more notorious ball-hog with 5.3% more usage? Even Kristaps Porzingis (24.6%) had a higher usage rate than Butler (24.4%,) and that was as a rookie; Porzingis is going to be even more aggressive this season with an extra year of Triangle offense knowledge in his belt.

Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Justin Holiday was a good throw-in to the Rose trade for the Knicks, but even Holiday is, at most, a 20 minute per game reserve. He will probably get more in the 10-15 minute per game range for New York.

Courtney Lee was, admittedly, a great acquisition for this team. Lee is though an arguable down grade from Arron Afflalo: a member of last year’s Knicks and this upcoming year’s Kings. The Knicks will use Lee to play off the ball from Rose, Melo, and Porzingis, and it is no given that Lee will shoot as effectively as Affalo’s 44.3% from the field and 38.2% from three. Still, Lee’s offensive and defensive ratings of 108 and 105 are significantly better than Afflalo’s of 105 and 112, even if Lee had the advantage of playing for better teams.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Jennings, on the other had, was a horrible decision for the Knicks. They needed to replace Calderon with another Calderon-type player: a pass-first team player to get the team in the offensive sets (Triangle.) Instead they got an inefficient (36.6% from the field,) shoot first point guard to back up another one in Rose. Between Rose and Jennings, neither of them can make a three pointer at a high clip. Rose shot 29.3% from three and Jennings shot 32.9%.

A player like Calderon, on the other hand, led the Knicks at 41.4% from three. That and his team-leading 4.2 assists per game are why he led the Knicks in offensive rating at 114 even as an aging 34 year old point guard in a league full of athletic ones.

Joakim Noah‘s signing was less obviously horrible. On surface value, it sounded like a good signing; the Knicks got a hustler, a rim protector, and someone who has experience playing with Rose for a modest (relative to this free agent class) 72 million dollars over four years. Noah, however, has regressed every year since 2014, and he is coming off a season ending injury. Even before his injury, Noah’s 38.3% from the field from the center position is awful, and he is even older at the age of 31 next season. Noah was unable to have a positive net-rating coming off the bench for the Bulls, before his injury, god knows what he’ll be able to do after the season ending injury.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Statistically, the additions of Rose, Noah, Lee, Jennings, and Holiday, with the losses of Calderon, Lopez, Grant, Afflalo, and their unsigned free agents Lou Amundson, Cleanthony Early, Kevin Seraphin, Langston Galloway, Sasha Vujacic, and Derrick Williams make New York a worse team after looking past the name-value of Rose, Noah, and even Jennings. The Knicks are going to add role players to their new core – even though they already are three million dollars over the salary cap. Here is their projected depth chart:

PG: Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings

SG: Courtney Lee, Justin Holiday

SF: Carmelo Anthony, Lance Thomas

PF: Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle O’Quinn

C: Joakim Noah

The Knicks line-up is decent. They have more talent than a lot of teams, but their chemistry disadvantage is not helped by their lack of depth, three point shooting, and injury-prone history.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

All in all, the Knicks have added 6.9 win shares from last season, and lost 10.6 in the Rose trade, and another 7.5 in free agents they haven’t re-signed. There is a very real chance that New York has a worse record this season than the 2015-2016 team did.

History would suggest that too. The New York Knicks of the mid-2000s added big name after big name to their team, only to see it get worse. Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry, and Zach Randolph were just a few of the poor-fitting stars added to a once-playoff team. By the 2007-2008 season, they were 23-59 with the league’s 2nd worst defense.

Instead of trading Carmelo Anthony for young talent to surround Porzingis, they surrounded Melo with damaged goods in moves that hurt the Knicks badly long term. If New York can add more depth, they may be able to win 35 games, but otherwise, don’t expect much from the Knicks unless Rose, Noah, and Jennings all rejuvenate their careers by playing efficiently.

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