Despite what sports-books, pundits, or others in sports media want you to think, this team is objectively better than the current Vegas line at 27/28 wins for the 19-20 campaign. It can be hard to believe, but the goal of this series is to allow Knick’s fans to be hopeful again for this next season.
Entering this season, there will be four preseason games with the first two against the Wizards (WAS). They look like throwaway games with the injury bug-riddled team. They can serve as confidence boosters or deflating games if disappointing, but playing the Hawks (ATL) and ending the preseason against the Pelicans (NOP) really set up the Knicks (NYK) to hit the regular season running. ATL would serve as a wake-up call against another up and coming team to see where NYK stands. Putting too much stock into it would be a mistake as it is preseason, but this and the following game are must watch to see how serious we should treat media day statements on earning your spot.
Offensively with Young on the court, the Hawks are going to be dynamic. Defensively as an entire team, they’re much closer to paper than rock. Winning or playing well against them is going to be dependent on how the team does on D. How quick are we pulling players for poor/tired/lackluster effort? These questions could be yielding initial answers and results as early as this game.
Now on to the following game which deserves to be over analyzed. Going back to a past piece the chasm between talent and overall perception is not greater than between NYK and NOP. These teams from an object standpoint are similar to one other. While similar they are not equal, but they are not eleven wins level of difference. How it pans out, who plays, and for how long is unknown because it is preseason. Rather than dive into that, the regular season is the reason for this season, but before we jump to that, lets take a breath.
Season Opener vs. San Antonio Spurs (SAS)
- Is Murray full healthy and does that make him a break out candidate?
- Will Aldridge at 34 begin to show more drastic signs of aging?
- Is DeRozan able to maintain his health?
*Dennis Smith Jr. has mild back strain and did not participate in the open practice on October 5th, won’t play in first pre-season game on October 7th*
Line-up Goals: The one name of notice missing would be RJ Barrett. The reason for that would be trying to avoid the potential for a slow-paced game and putting the pressure on the rookie. Against one of the most deliberate and patient teams in the league, it has the effect of making all possessions count for that much “more”. Avoiding the pressure of the first NBA start, along with the season opener is good enough reason. Adding on top of that is their opponent, historically very solid on opening night would serve RJ well to not have ALL that pressure.
Prediction: Loss (0-1)
Series Opener vs. Brooklyn Nets (BRK)
- What is their forward rotation, specifically at the four (PF) spot?
- Outside of Kyrie, who is going to beat you?
- How much of the time at center will be given to Jordan over Allen?
Line-up Goals: Frustrate Kyrie. Annoy Kyrie. BRK’s achievements this year are going to lie with Kyrie and how he performs. LeVert has some great upside, but he is not Kyrie. DSJ is an underrated defender and paring him with Ntlikina will give him the most frustration the roster can muster at the guard spots. Morris could be an understanding of how Kyrie likes to play and his individual frustrations from being a former teammate. Lastly, it would be hard to bring up that hasn’t already been said, Mitchell Robinson.
There’s a couple interesting thing about Kyrie too that makes the situation rather hopeful for the series start against BRK. One, Kyrie last year in October had his worst month of play but before celebrating, Friday was one of his most efficient days of the week. He was converting three-pointers at a 49% rate (on 11 Friday games) which is as good as one can be. Perhaps the defense won’t work on Kyrie, but there’s no one outside of Allen who will be able to contain Randle on BRK, let alone stop him. Along with with their forward suspensions, and the time of year (based off last) gives NYK the edge on a team basis.
Prediction: Win (1-1)
Home Opener/Series Opener vs. Boston Celtics (BOS)
- Can this be the second coming of “FIBA Frank”?
- How up to speed is Hayword? Is he at full health w/o minutes restrictions?
- Who is playing next to Kanter, and does that create a spacing issue?
NYK A.R.C.E. starting line-up: Ntilikina, RJ, Morris, Randle, Robinson
Line-up Goals: Similar to Brooklyn, they will win or lose on the play of their floor general. The different thing in this situation is that Ntilikina seems to be a real menace to Kemba. He’s even gotten respect from Donovan Mitchell after giving the Knicks a cool 30 (that’ll be an 0-2 series anyway). Hayword has had more time to recover at this point, but how healthy and game ready is he? Has his skills diminished? How different or similar of a player is he now to what he was prior to his injury?
Now there’s the fun little bit about Kanter and Randle. It really isn’t so much him dropping 45 on him as it is the entire Portland team. Portland won the game and we should take note, but are Kemba, Hayword, and Kanter the same as Lillard, McCollum, and Nurkic? He already feels very comfortable playing against Kanter. This time his support cast is… well he’s a starter and Nurkic/Collins (POR) are superior defenders and Randle was carving them up too. Julius Randle playing against teams with little or no forward depth like BOS/BRK might force the team to play perfectly to win and will they play perfect four times?
Prediction: Win (2-1)
Series Opener vs. Chicago Bulls (CHI)
- The eye test told us Thad Young was an amazing defender last year, was this an effect of Turner or himself? Are their line ups equal or comparable defensively?
- Is Zach LaVine going to pick up defensively? He has a decent body but if he doesn’t have he really becomes a better passer as was a self-proclaimed focus of the off-season?
- What can we glimmer from the injured season from Otto Porter Jr.?
NYK A.R.C.E. starting line-up: DSJ, Ntilikina, Morris, Randle, Robinson
Line-up Goals: A new fun thing to say might be saying how CHI might a dark horse for a low seed in the playoffs. That is not unfounded, but it would rely on Otto Porter Jr. While he was injured and couldn’t maximize his time in CHI, in 15 games he had quite a split: 17.5/5.5/2.7 shooting 49% from three (see Kyrie). Thad Young ought to upgrade to their defense if Porters assists continue to uptick and Zach can become a better decision-maker, they’re not going to be a pushover. At the beginning of the season, any player at the healthiest and they could surprise some teams.
Prediction: Loss (2-2)
Series Opener vs. Orlando Magic (ORL)
- What is the situation with Fultz?
- Can we throw away their playoff performance?
- Was their defense real and going to continue?
*After the open practice, we saw Trier alongside Payton. Removing some of the excess dribbling and scoring more efficiently allows him to force teams to keep the floor spaced in theory.*
Line-up Goals: A team with mixed reads, from a solid surprise to regressing out of the playoffs in the East. If you find yourself closer to the latter, that can be swayed on whether Fultz is even 70-75% of his projection. He was an excellent smart creator, had a decent jumper but overall his craftiness with the ball can really create some distribution this team lacked last year. In all seriousness, he could be the final cog the magic need to maintain postseason relevance for the next couple of years. If we throw away their playoff performance last year which can be due to playing the eventual champs does that change their perception? Unlike BOS and BRK, they have very good forward depth and Vucevic himself was an excellent defensive presence. You put Trier and Knox in to space and with Payton and Randle running the offensive and if they’re moving on all cylinders, this could turn into NYKs favor.
Prediction: Loss (2-3)
Keeping things as objective and focusing on roster strengths and weakness, NYK could be “winning games they shouldn’t.” In reality, they’re pretty misunderstood in the context of matchups.
A.R.C.E. Win Prediction: (35-47)