In the offseason, your New York Knicks overhauled their lineup for the hundred-thousandth time this century. This go-round, Phil Jackson and company made compact alterations that brought in legitimate position players and potential studs to create an actual depth and identity around Carmelo Anthony. There are a few risky fliers in the bunch, but they either didn't get significant contracts or aren't on long term offers. One of the two long term free agent contracts handed out was to former Orlando Magic big man Kyle O'Quinn. At around 4 million a year for the next four years, the expectations on O'Quinn shouldn't be feverishly high. With any luck, as the cap rises, O'Quinn's value will outweigh his contract by a few million metric pounds sterling.
Last season the Magic struggled to identify just who they were and how they wanted to play. In part they were a young team that just needed an incubation period. Firing Jacques Vaughn was a fallen domino of progress. Going a little smaller created havoc on both ends. Elfrid Payton made a significant leap after the All Star break, and the Magic quietly figured some things out and seem to be on a good path.
On the front line, Nikola Vucevic and our old pal Channing Frye had the lion's share of the minutes with 34 and 25 respectively. Tobias Harris soaked up 35 minutes at both forward positions. When healthy and in the lineup, Aaron Gordon and Dewayne Dedmon also commanded minutes, and as the season wore on, Kyle slowly faded from the lineup, unable to distinguish himself as part of the Magic's plan at the time.
This year's depth chart should be a little easier to crack open, because the Knicks will be inclined to win every game. New Knick Robin Lopez averaged over 30 minutes per game in his career only once and last season was squarely under it at about 28. Kevin Seraphin has broken the 20-minute average only once in his career and that was three seasons ago. Lance Thomas, Lou Amundson and Derrick Williams will probably fight for minutes, but it's hard to see any of them actually outperforming O'Quinn because of the ways they struggle to fit the Triangle. Of course this Kristaps Porzingis fellow is a dark horse, but he is going to be a lawn chair for a few seasons. It might be a gorgeous teak lawn chair that will wear in and become the epitome of NBA lawn extravagance, but the point is- he's gonna get folded. You might want to create a little buffer zone, so nobody scratches up that beautiful chair before you get to sit on it.
This is where O'Quinn comes in. The Knicks seem adamant that Carmelo Anthony will play small forward. So the Big O'Quintessential actually might get a chance to start from day one! Kyle's skill set really shows him to be a center. He is a little shorter than your average NBA center, but has very long arms and the bulk to stand his ground. Plus you can float him out much higher than Lopez, and with any luck that keeps your floor balanced. Thusly he can easily co-exist with a true blue center.
"Why the hell would they start O'Quinn?" you ask. Simple. He's a staunch enough post defender that he can block shots and clear the defensive possession. He is not elite, but he is exactly one of those guys that makes sure everything is in working order on the court. O'Quinn's a smart high-low and backdoor passer that can keep the defense honest with a consistent stroke on little touch shots and set jumpers. New York fans will also love the way he crams everyone behind dastardly screens. Is he going to amaze a casual viewer? No, I would guess not. He is, however, poised to help the Knicks' gears start turning. Here, my dear, let's you and I take a look at some highlights from a completely normal game, against a talented Washington Wizards squad from last season.
Whew! Love that laser to Tobias Harris and I really love how he blasts Otto Porter on a high screen to give Willie Green about 75 feet of space. The open water scares Nene's tired ass into some of the laziest defense you ever get to see on this level. It's the little things that help your team succeed. Oh, and he shows some 3-point range to cap it off!
Not convinced just yet? Well, what is it you like? Do you like to compare certain things you might enjoy to certain things you definitely despise? Do you want those things to be perfectly wrapped and poetic somehow? I have an idea. Let's compare Kyle O'Quinn to Jason Smith.
So that right there is what those fools did last year per 36 minutes. Assuming the younger guy gets a little better at the things he's been working on (namely 3-point range), which one of those dudes would you want on your roster playing significant minutes? Oh you said Jah? High Larry us. With a ball dominant scorer in the fold, I'd rather have the guy that needs fewer shots to score the same amount of points. The assists were the same, but O'Quinn has more awareness and vision, with a grounded game that keeps all his options in play. He'll be able to zip a crafty pass into a small space, reverse it with the temerity of a gunslinger, or loft a precious watermelon into space for some Gallagher to spike it home. Plus he'll be surrounded by far superior players than Jah was. You want it to be a little more poetical? No problemo. Adieu, Magic asshat.
With O'Quinn and Robin Lopez (who was a top ten offensive rebounder last year) teaming up at times, the Knicks might actually be a bunch of O-board bullies in 2015-16. The Triangle Offense gives you a lot of high-low scenarios. You can't leave Lopez. If a double team or rotation comes from O'Quinn's man, good luck keeping his heft and those terrifically long arms off the glass. Not to mention Melo, whose second jump in the paint is far too quick to contain. They'll just punch it off the glass until the defense caves in completely. Demoralized and embittered.
Why else should we think this guy has the gusto to be a breakout pest? Well, he certainly seems to know a good opportunity when he sees one. As a Queens native, he got one college scholarship offer, from Norfolk State University. He seized it and made the absolute most of it. Basketball wasn't even his first or second sport. He's just more motivated than your average beast. At 25 years young, he should be just about ready to take on a real workload. Factor in that he's got a big heart -- just ask Phil Pressey. He's universally considered a great component for your locker room and I think he'll thrive in his hometown. He won't suddenly become a 20-10 behemoth, but don't be surprised if in 25-30 minutes O'Quinn is nailing those per-36 numbers with a bump up in the assist column. 13-8-3 with a couple blocks and a steals, anyone?
Hey look, maybe I just like him too much, and my vision is clouded. But I know what I know, and I'm certain that the entire organization is going to be pulling for this guy to succeed. I firmly believe that he'll be up for the challenge. Maybe he can make this sorta stuff more the norm...
And the beard is illustrious.