Is This 2018 NBA Team Any Good?: New York Knicks

by Fox Doucette

Oh man, talk about your questions with obvious answers. We’ve had a few of those in these 27 episodes so far (three more until the season starts!) For the New York Knicks, it’s Kristaps Porzingis’s team now. Carmelo Anthony is plying his trade in Oklahoma City along with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, so all that remains is to see whether the big Latvian can do anything to restore this wretched franchise to respectability.

Or, maybe, Adam Silver might just have to force James Dolan to sell in order to avoid having the league’s biggest joke franchise in its largest media market. There was already a joke team in the second-largest market, but that was before Donald Sterling decided to spout his racist garbage where people could actually hear it.

Someone tell Jeff Bezos. He’s one of the few ultra-billionaires left who’s not got a prestige toy to play with.

Besides that, this squad has Doug McDermott, Enes Kanter, the wonderfully-named Lithuanian Mindaugas Kuzminskas (seriously, naming a Lithuanian kid Mindaugas is a bit like naming an American kid George Washington or a German kid Otto von Bismarck), and…Michael Beasley, Ramon Sessions, and Jarrett Jack?

Hoo boy. What’s the over/under on this lot?

Stats via Basketball Reference, over/under via Sports Insights, if you can’t make it there, you’ll screw up anywhere:

2016-17 record: 31-51
2018 over/under: 29.5

Porzingression

Are we absolutely sure Kristaps Porzingis is good?

If we’re not, we should be. He was the only regular starter to even so much as hit .100 Win Shares per 48 minutes. He was second on the team (behind Kyle O’Quinn) in VORP. And he managed to be fourth on the team in three-point percentage (35.7) despite that number being not much more efficient than if he’d just stayed near the rim.

Of course, if he’d stayed near the rim, he might’ve actually been a half-decent rebounder; a guy who’s 7’3” and only pulls down 11.8 percent of the available rebounds is hardly a center at all. He’s listed at, and played 79 percent of his minutes at power forward, but let’s instead use modern positions and call him what he is, which is Dirk Nowitzki plus three inches in height.

Not that there’s a thing in the world wrong with a guy whose game is clearly in that mold, only to say that if you’re seven foot three, you should get the rebound once in awhile.

Still, it’s troubling that his PER and WS/48 actually went down last year after his rookie season. His BPM and VORP barely moved, and his defense got worse even relative to league averages as offense exploded.

Porzingis gets to be The Man. It is a wide-open question whether that is a role befitting his talents.

The Mighty O’Quinn

Speaking of Kyle Brandon O’Quinn, the whitest-named brotha I’ve seen in sports since Troy O’Leary played baseball for the Red Sox, can we talk for a minute about that 20.5 PER, .151 WS/48, 3,5 BPM (including 3.7 on defense), and seriously-how-did-he-do-this-in-1229-minutes 1.7 VORP that led the team?

79 games. 8 starts. A 114 Offensive Rating and 105 Defensive Rating. 52.1 percent shooting and 77.1 percent from the line, all while being a beast on the boards as the team’s true rim protector despite being five inches shorter than the guy we just discussed at length when slagging his ability to hit the glass?

Please don’t tell me they’re going to start Kanter in front of him. Just don’t. O’Quinn has the potential, if he ever gets on a team that doesn’t suck, to be a genuine starter. I mean, he’s no Myles Turner, but in five years in the league, O’Quinn’s never been anything worse than a solid role-player, something it looks from the advanced stats like he’s outgrown.

Keep Gettin’ Dem Checks, Joakim.

Joakim Noah is making $17,765,000 to play basketball this year. Oh dear gods, make it stop, someone needs to put the grown-ups in charge of the Knicks’ front office. And that’s only the second year of a four-year, $72 million deal.

On the other hand, Noah is first among active players and 10th since they started tracking the stat in offensive rebound percentage for his career. But, of course, they didn’t track that stat in Wilt Chamberlain’s day.

Courtney Lee Is Legit, At Least

Lee put up a .456/.401/.867 slash line as the most efficient offensive player on the Knicks last year. He might be better than Melo at this point in Melo’s career; if you’re as sour on Carmelo Anthony and his Dark Ages approach to basketball that got left in 2003 when LeBron and D-Wade evolved and Mike D’Antoni invented basketball that doesn’t suck as I am, that’s probably not even saying much.

Lee’s going to play shooting guard and he’s going to shoot the hell out of the ball and then just like last year, he’s going to conveniently forget how to defense even after spending his first eight seasons as a mostly average to slightly above average defender before he got Knicks stink all over him.

On the other hand, his career high in PER is 13.8. League average, by design for that stat, is always 15. He also takes way too many midrange jump shots, as 35.4 percent of his attempts came between 10 feet and the inside edge of the arc last year. It doesn’t matter that he made about 46 percent of them; that’s an efficiency level akin to shooting 30.7 percent from beyond the arc, where when Lee stepped out there, he shot 40.1 percent.

Someone needs to explain the concept of shot selection to him, then get him the ball on the perimeter.

A Serious Question For Lance Thomas

Dude. How the hell do you shoot 44.4 percent on three-pointers and 37.1 on two-pointers? .398/.444/.843 is a flipping bonkers slash line.

The guy’s somehow made it six years in the league with a career VORP of minus-2.6, and at no point anywhere in his career has his overall stat pack been better than just replacing him with a good player from the Letter League.

He’s nominally a power forward but has a career rebounding percentage of eight. His best year for WS/48 was as a rookie, and he’s put up a negative number in that stat twice. His defense is an absolute horror show. He had a nearly eight point negative on/off Net Rating split last year.

And yet the Knicks gave him 968 minutes, over 20 a game considering he only played 46 games.

What the hell, guys. You’ve got a guy who shoots 44.4 percent from three on nearly two attempts a game and still manages to suck at basketball. What. The. Hell.

THE VERDICT!

I could go on all day, but the simple fact is that unless Kyle O’Quinn actually becomes the starting center and an All-Star, unless Porzingis puts up the advanced stats to justify the eye test, and unless James Dolan signs the goddamn Monstars, this team is well-advised to just tank the crap out of this season and enjoy the last lottery in NBA history rigged by failure. Good flipping luck.

Are the Knicks any good? Please. Get that weak sauce outta here. Busted, busted, BUSTED.

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