New York Knicks 2015-16 Season Preview
2014-15 Record: 17-65, No. 5 Atlantic Division, No. 15 Eastern Conference
Roster Additions: C Robin Lopez, G Arron Afflalo, F Kyle O'Quinn, F Derrick Williams, C/F Kristaps Porzingis (No. 3 Overall Pick in 2015 NBA Draft), G Jerian Grant (No. 19 Overall Pick in 2015 NBA Draft, traded to New York), G Sasha Vujacic, F Kevin Seraphin
Roster Subtractions: F Andrea Bargnani, F Jason Smith, G Shane Larkin, G Tim Hardaway Jr., F Quincy Acy, G Alexey Shved, C Cole Aldrich
SBN Affiliate: Poasting & Toasting
2014-15 Recap: Year One of the Phil Jackson era at Madison Square Garden was quite a flop. Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher watched their team finish dead last in the NBA in scoring at 91.9 points per game, 29th in rebounding, 21st in defense, and suffer a 20 win free fall from the previous season. Star forward Carmelo Anthony threw any basketball that came within reach at the hoop (only Russell Westbrook averaged more shots per game), before ending his year on the disabled list. From December to January, the Knicks went on a 16-game losing streak, or six more games than Jackson's Chicago Bulls lost all season in 1995-96. That was just one of four different streaks of eight losses or more for New York.
New York sold off as many assets as they were able, sending away Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Pablo Prigioni. With Anthony out for the rest of the season after the All-Star break, the Knicks ran with a ragtag roster that fell apart at the seams. Young guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Langston Galloway provided some entertainment, as Galloway traded 25% shooting performances with multiple 20 point games. With the youth playing so well, the Knicks even won four of five in April before ending the season on a four-game skid.
2015-16 Offseason: Only five players played more than 60 games for New York between injuries and a roster being remodeled during the season. Of the five, only Hardaway Jr. put up anything resembling decent numbers. Naturally, Jackson traded Hardaway this offseason, sending him to Atlanta for the draft rights of Jerian Grant. Once Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell, and Jahlil Okafor were off the draft board, New York went for the highest rated international prospect in Porzingis, who drew comparisons to both Pau Gasol and Darko Milicic. With the draft out of the way, the Knicks threw everything into the ring to lure a top flight free agent to the Big Apple. However, the biggest names all declined, leaving the Knicks to settle for above-average players. New York raided Portland's kitchen, walking away with Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo before snaring Derrick Williams from the Sacramento Kings and Kyle O'Quinn from the Orlando Magic.
Projected Starting Lineup: Galloway/Jose Calderon, Afflalo, Anthony, Williams/O'Quinn/Seraphin, Lopez
2015-16 Outlook: There is no doubt this roster is stronger than the one that ended last season for the Knicks. The question that remains is if this roster is stronger than the one that New York started last season with, a roster that contained trade pieces like Shumpert, Smith, and Stoudemire. If Afflalo returns to his dominant form from when he played with Anthony in Denver, he will be a solid contributor while setting the table for Grant. Calderon led the team in assists last season, and should be in a strong spot to increase those numbers, even if Anthony and Afflalo are trigger happy. Asking Galloway to start at point guard is a bit much, since that would create a shooting situation in which both guards and the small forward want to shoot at first opportunity. The young point guard will likely be a scoring threat off the bench.
Power forward looks to be an open competition between Williams, Seraphin, Lou Amundson, O'Quinn, and Porzingis. Williams appears to get the nod at the moment due to his upside and his strong second half with the Kings last season. Seraphin was a solid bench contributor for the Washington Wizards last season, but outside two impressive games has not shown the consistency needed to be an NBA starter as of yet. O'Quinn recorded a staggering amount of DNPs last season for the Magic, though he has shown flashes of talent when he does find the court. Porzingis is a raw talent, but made a smart decision in not entering the 2014 draft. The extra year of work overseas has greatly improved his defensive game, and it would not be surprising to see him in the starting lineup by season's end.
Fortunately for the Knicks, the team does play in the Eastern Conference. Divisional rivals Brooklyn and Philadelphia are still rebuilding. Toronto has been predicted to take a step back due to roster changes. Boston will improve with another year under Brad Stevens, but there are plenty of games that are up for grabs in the Atlantic Division.
Final Prediction: It is not outside the realm of possibility for the Knicks to get to .500 this season. As long as Anthony stays healthy and Lopez, Galloway and Afflalo play to the level to which they are capable, New York can take advantage of a weak division to get close to a playoff spot. However, everything would need to break right for the Knicks to get there. It does not seem likely that New York will get there just yet. 29-53, 4th Place in Atlantic Division.