The Knicks Tank?
The Post-Melo era Knicks started the year 0-3 and it looked like #LoseForLuca was in full effect. While Kristaps Porzingis shined in his new role as the #1 option the rest of the team looked lost. The $75 million dollar man Tim Hardaway Jr. couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat, Willy Hernangomez was glued to the bench, and Ramon Sessions was playing. . .like a lot. So with the path for the season seemingly already determined I sent out this tweet:
— Anthony (@De_Italiano) October 27, 2017
Then last Friday the Knicks defeated the Nets 107-86 to get their first win of the season. Moments after the game ended the camera caught rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina, AKA “The French Prince” AKA “Frankie Smokes” AKA “Frankie Nicotine”, telling his teammates, “Let’s start a streak, let’s start a streak”.
Seconds after the Knicks first win if the season, Ntilikina says:
“Let’s get a streak now… Let’s get a steak now.” pic.twitter.com/KAg5z8R45W
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) October 28, 2017
Knicks Three Game Win Steak
Guess what? The Knicks haven’t lost since. In the three games since my infamous tweet the Knicks have bested the cross-town rival Nets, demolished LeBron and the Cavs in Cleveland, and knocked off a very talented Nuggets team on the second night of a back to back. So it begs the question, are the Knicks too good to tank?
Astoundingly the answer to that question may actually be yes and that is due in large part to the fact that in his third season our giant Latvian unicorn angel has transformed into a rim protecting, net swishing, fire-breathing, unguardable Pegasus of destruction. You hear NBA talking heads constantly referring to “the leap” when discussing young talent that they expect to ascend to another level of dominance. Well Knicks fans if you haven’t noticed Kristaps has taken that leap and he still hasn’t landed.
Our giant Latvian unicorn angel has transformed into a rim protecting, net swishing, fire-breathing, unguardable Pegasus of destruction.
During the first two years of his career (138 games) when he served as Melo’s sidekick KP amassed a total of three games where he scored 30 points. In his first six games as the team’s #1 option he’s reached the 30 point mark five times. At this moment Kristaps is averaging a video game-esque 29 points, eight boards, and almost two blocks per game. He’s also creating jaw dropping highlights on both ends of the floor, sometimes in back to back possessions.
Get you a unicorn who can do both pic.twitter.com/mlPPk2c24W
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) October 31, 2017
Last night against Denver he scored a career high 38 points while simultaneously holding perennial All-Star Paul Millsap to 2-13 shooting. Porzingis has now flambéed elite interior defenders in Millsap and Tristan Thompson on back to back nights. It’s early but if KP continues playing near this level, the list of players that will be able to handle him one on one will not be long.
— 💪🏼 (@Gym2Lift) October 31, 2017
In his worst game of the year against the Celtics Kristaps scored only 12 points on 3-14 shooting. He spent most of the night matched up against Al Horford. But it was Celtic’s coach Brad Stevens constantly sending help to make KP uncomfortable. Learning to take his time and handle these double teams better will be the next step in KP’s progression. It will likely come in time, but for now it looks to be the only way to slow him down.
Celtics have a lot to throw at Porzingis and showed that well. Baynes and Horford roughed him up. Here's Brown battling after a switch: pic.twitter.com/33V85fcGrC
— Reinis Lācis (@LamarMatic) October 25, 2017
Knicks Real Expectations
This iteration of the Knicks isn’t going to win the title or even make a deep playoff run but with Porzingis playing at an All-NBA level, Tim Hardaway Jr. beginning to warm up (34 points against CLE, 13 4th quarter points against DEN), and young Frank Ntilikina showing signs of elite court vision and defensive ability it’s hard to imagine these Knicks losing enough games to finish near the top of the lottery. While I am still of the opinion that the young players showing marked improvement while still losing enough games to get another top-3 pick is the best case scenario for this years team I am not going to lament these kids for playing above their heads.
Not winding up with another low cost, high talent lottery pick is going to put pressure of Steve Mills and Scott Perry to nail a pick in the mid to late lottery range because until the Noah and Kanter contracts come off the books this team is a bit hamstrung by the salary cap. But overarching organizational issues notwithstanding the Knicks, for at least a three game stretch, have been really fun.