After a fast-paced and non-stop NBA offseason, it’s almost unreal to think that a new season could be upon us. And yet here we are, and the preseason has just begun!
We’ve got precious little time left to do something “offseason-y,” so what better way to go out with a bang than to predict a bunch of crap that probably won’t happen?
Without any further adieu, here’s some fuego takes to munch on:
Joe: Willy Hernangomez will change the spelling of his name to “Billy” Hernangomez.
Then he will shock the entire league by announcing that he is also changing the pronunciation of his name to “Willy” Hernagomez.
Matt M: Frank Ntilikina & Kristaps Porzingis will miss 40+ games combined...and that’s OK.
Nagging injuries have dogged Ntilikina’s brief Knick career, starting with a sore knee that kept him out of summer league and now a sore groin that made him his practice earlier this week. 19-year-olds have a steep hill to climb adjusting to NBA physicality, and Frankie Knicks has a bigger challenge than most: not only is he slighter than pretty much everybody he’ll match up against, he played less than 600 minutes last year for Strasbourg and in three seasons of European ball played 890, total. Everyone drafted ahead of Ntilikina except Jonathan Isaac played more than that last year alone.
I don’t know how Frank’s playing time translates, since he was going up against bigger, stronger opponents in the Ligue Nationale de Basket. But the combination of his youth, his upside, and the Knicks’ public emphasis on developing their young core — on the heels of the NBA’s lottery reform juicing the odds of mid-lottery teams winning a top-four pick — means New York may treat its latest young cornerstone the way its baseball teams have or have not treated promising young pitchers: as investments to be protected while developing, all the while hoping the big payoff comes down the road, when it’s finally time for winning time.
Here is an ESPN graphic on how NBA Draft lottery odds change in 2019 pic.twitter.com/Jk8X7q0J3Z— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 28, 2017
Porzingis has missed a combined 26 games his first two years. “So what?” you say. Patrick Ewing missed twice as many his first two seasons, then only 20 the next 10+ years, until Andrew Lang happened.
KP noticeably upped the muscularity heading into this season, but the less punishment he faces, the better; what with the Knick roster being basically 50% centers, it’d seem he should be spared the night-in night-out banging that goes on at the five-spot (insert pun here). But while everyone knows he prefers playing the four, what this take presupposes is...maybe he doesn’t? By which I mean, maybe the organization prefers him at center.
Of the seven coaches hired under James Dolan, six failed to last more than two years. Jeff Hornacek is due to reach that hurdle after this season. Hornacek is 84-129 his last three seasons as a head coach; if this year’s some 28-54 dud, he may never get another NBA head coaching job. He needs to press whatever advantages he can; for a team whose weaknesses includes subtleties like “guards who can shoot” and “defensive rebounding,” one potential advantage is going small and pushing the pace. The Knicks are younger and maybe more athletic than they’ve been in years. They can’t run nearly as well with KP at power forward as they can with him at center. Playing him there now may win them today at the cost of tomorrow.
This season should be all about Ntilikina, Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, Tim Hardaway Jr., Damyean Dotson and (fingers crossed) Ron Baker, but the Frenchman and Latvian promise the greatest upside and biggest questions regarding their physical limits. My guess is the Knicks need more than one try at cracking that nut. The good news: with nothing at stake this year beyond that, they can set some innings limits for the current future while keeping the future future in focus by staying in play for a top-four pick in next June’s draft.
Stingy: Kurt Rambis will be head coach by March.
Currently big Kurt is merely an associate head coach. His status is sure to change if the Knicks can’t get in gear early on. Scarily enough, the 2017 leg of the season should be pretty rugged for the Knicks with nearly two-thirds of their games coming against playoff teams from last season. Jeff Hornacek is already on a slippery slope after demonstrating an inability to incorporate Phil Jackson’s acid flashback for the team. Now he has a chance to install the fast paced, guard heavy offense that gained him some notoriety in Phoenix. The trouble is he has to do that with a largely inexperienced team that has a frightening lack of depth and a shocking lack of versatility. It also came to light that Kristaps Porzinigis may have a certain distaste for Hornacek’s approach. Of course that’s probably equal parts media bluster, spooky Knicks PR insanity and a vague spirit of the truth. Nevertheless, with Carmelo Anthony out of the frame, the young Latvian’s feelings will be a high priority for a volatile franchise that burns the candle from both ends via the middle. Add to all this, the trade deadline is being moved up and a lot of teams may be pressed to decide how they want to approach their future sooner than expected. So while Hornacek has shown that he can toe the company line- he is just another in a long line of coaches installed by a different management team. Kurt Rambis may very well be this generation’s Herb Williams.
Alex: Enes Kanter and Willy Hernangomez will both average a double-double.
These two fan-favorite Knicks were the last duo to both average double-doubles in the same season (minimum 20 games played — sorry, Earl Barron).
If you said “Who are Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley?”, then you are correct!
(If you didn’t answer in the form of a question, you lost 5,000 P&T dollars. Sorry, rules are rules!)
Pat (25.4 points per game, 11.2 rebounds) and Oak (11.8, 11.8) were glass-dominant in the 1993-94 season, gobbling up rebounds as the rough-and-tumble squads of the ’90s were wont to do. Fun fact: Ewing and Oakley actually hold the last three double-double-double seasons for the Knicks.
So to predict that a Knicks duo could do something that hasn’t been done in almost 25 years, and on a team that figures to not be very good, no less? Pretty bold, right?
Well, I have my reasons, and they can be excavated from the pit of advanced stats where Willy Hernangomez and Enes Kanter have set up shop in in their NBA careers.
Kanter is an advanced stats darling. Seriously, look at this noise:
In summation: Kanter has averaged a double-double per 36 minutes in every season of his career. Those numbers are obviously flawed — if a guy goes six seasons in the NBA and can’t find a way to get more than 31 minutes per game (Kanter’s career high in his first half-season with the Thunder), then there’s usually a reason for that. In Kanter’s case, it’s his atrocious defense, which limited him to just over 20 minutes per game backing up Steven Adams in Oklahoma City the past two seasons.
But — and hear me out here — with a solid rim protector in Kristaps Porzingis, maybe the big Turk’s defensive deficiencies can be hidden enough that he can finally play starter-level minutes consistently. Advanced metrics like win shares per 48 (a robust .183 a year ago) and Player Efficiency Rating (an equally robust 23.7) seem to suggest that Kanter could provide elite production in the right situation.
Similarly, Willy Hernangomez put up some crazy advanced numbers in his first season:
I think that the big man rotation will be almost exclusively Porzingis, Kanter and Hernangomez this season, and if it is, all three guys could conceivably get around 30 minutes per game. If that can happen, I think Kanter and Hernangomez will become the first double-double duo in a while.
Make sure to bookmark this page and laugh at us in April!
What’s your bold prediction? Let’s pontificate in the comments!