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 Knicks fans to be hopeful again for this next season. You can find the last one here, but for those who read, let’s continue. Also RJ should start every game, I wasn’t so sure he’d be so composed.
Preparing this after two preseason games shouldn’t be so different, but certain things look brighter than thought, and others dimmed. There is a silver lining in that getting a complete rotation may be a little clearer in some ways, it also seems a little more complicated. There’s a lot of reasons and you can read about them here. The format will be the same more or less, so lets take a deep breathe and begin the dive. There’s been a new development in A.R.C.E. and instead of listing a starting five, there will now be a list of their five primary contributors. Going along with that, duplicates will be aggregated. See DAL as an example and before we dive back in, breathe.
Series Game 2 vs. Boston Celtics (BOS)
- Is Frank healthy, and if he is, will he still have Kemba in his grips or will Kemba and Boston figure a way to counter it?
- 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?Kanter has not started in preseason and Brad Stevens named
- Who’s playing Center and how are they defensively and rebounding?
Line-up goals: A question answered, another improved, but one left unanswered. The focus here is to create three ways to attack on three levels with quite a few play options, to use common NFL-isms. It works in a similar way, and it’s why Frank’s aggressiveness is key. While his shooting has been a struggle take it from someone who has seen a lot of Frank Ntilikina… this is a HUGE improvement. He plays a winning brand of basketball and conquering (fingers crossed) his confidence issues at just 21. The book is not written on him, or anyone on this starting list. It’s preseason and only two games but Morris averaging 19/6/1 on about 25 minutes shooting 56% FG and 54.5% from three. God that can’t continue but the efficiency continues to trend upwards from his last year, it’ll make it even better.
Enough distraction; the play action, how it works, and why it works. First Randle can handle the ball and play-make off a rebound or a PnR. From there he can drive and from there it’s whatever the the cooks making. He’s never afraid to post or draw contact and if the defense commits, his dishing seems like a true part of his game. Frank seems willing to drive on match ups he’s looking for, and he’s always trying to make the right decision. RJ’s conditioning and body control means he’ll outwork your defense or find a way to move his body to give him a chance, he’s aggressive. His game isn’t the quickest but isn’t slow either… opportunistic, surgical even. He’s going to find the most efficient way to attack and then let loose once he gets a step. Not afraid of the moment or of making the right basketball decision. Not only a willing passer but even excels at it. Knox’s jumper looks smooth, and Morris is a career above average shooter not afraid to create himself. Less of a play maker, but with his efficiency, it could work. Even if you merge Frank and Morris into “one” because there’s one ball, that’s not really the point. At each level of attack, there’s the option to space, reset, or move the ball. This line-up has it’s flaws but should be skilled enough offensively to battle and abuse smaller line-ups. Despite all of this, first home game for BOS in the season series. They will get up, impress, and as a bonus their big rotation in preseason seems deeper than previously believed.
Prediction: Loss (2-4)
Series Opener vs. Sacramento Kings (SAC)
- Is there anything of concern that Marvin Bagley III height drop from 6’11” to 6’8″ an area for concern?*
*Context is most players should have lost an inch or two based on the new NBA rules. Any greater losses or similar heights beg at least a question.*
- Can Fox bring his game to another level?
- Defense has been the issue to those familiar with the team, are those concerns valid or have they been overblown? (shout out Rafe Wong @rafnation)
Line-up Goals: Dewayne Dedmon not being listed under primary contributors could be due to saving him for the regular season. He’s just hitting 30 but is also coming off a career year. He’s the center equivalent of “three and D” completing 38% from three on a little over three attempts per game. He wasn’t a lock-down defender, but he’s got decent size and contests well. More of a negative is the transition game that was SAC bread and butter won’t be as dynamic with him rounding out their rotation (more than likely a starter). Despite the level of play in the West, the Kings, much like NOP and DAL are getting buzz vying for a bottom playoff spot (in general in the NBA media world). They’re more complete and complimentary and on a level of cohesiveness, the primary contributors were all there the 18-19 campaign unlike the other teams they’ve been grouped with.
Prediction: Loss (2-5)
Series Opener vs. Detroit Pistons (DET)
James L. Edwards III (Edwards) on Oct. 16th released his starting lineup rotations, and questions for the season. His breakdown differed slightly from my own, however he’s much closer to the pulse of DET. We shared similar questions. If you have the Athletic, recommend reading his article here. This will not be formatted the same way as others.
- What about load management specifically with Blake Griffin? (Edwards)
- On October 22nd, Griffen out, reevaluated first week of Nov
- How will the front-court rotation look? (Edwards)
- Can these team reliably distribute the ball with Griffin off the court?
NYK A.R.C.E. starting line-up: DSJ, RJ, Morris, Randle, Robinson
Line-up Goals: One of the poor match-ups for our best player in Randle, the feeling of this match up is bleak if DET is killing NYK with Blake on the floor which they should. Drummond will be a poor match up for Robinson until he gets stronger and Drummond begins to decline. Point being that Drummond, Embiid, these players will be problems for Robinson until he grows into his body. Beginning of the season, Blake should be his healthiest and that will spell problems. Perhaps he’s off this game but nothing short of that makes the path to victory very clear.
Prediction: Loss (2-6)
Series vs. Dallas Mavericks (DAL)
- How 100-110% is Porzingis? Are Preseason inefficiencies the outlier or the standard metrics for him going forward?
- Is Doncic turnover prone, or is that overblown for his production?
- If Doncic is off the floor, can there be enough ball movement to not have the offense stagnate?
NYK A.R.C.E. starting line-up: Ntilikina, RJ, Morris, Randle, Robinson
Line-up Goals: The story lines write themselves. Narratives a plenty, the only person capable of getting remotely close to blocking him is Robinson, and his release is so high, if he gets into foul trouble, it’ll be hard to contest his shot. Doncic showed the league he’s capable of carrying a down team through his play with upgrades needed last year. They’ve got a better supporting cast, though no true standouts not named Seth Curry and NBA favorite in Boban. They do lack some passing and without Doncic on the floor, it’s hard to find who’s capable of creating for others. Outside of Hardaway Jr. in a limited sense and Porzingis, there’s a lot of players who are not consistently able to create for themselves. In a sense there’s two different ways this team is going to play with Doncic on and off the floor. Sticking Frank to him can see if Doncic is as turnover prone as his freshmen year and preseason have shown. If he is, their offense will struggle to run. Likewise, Porzingis and Luka can both drop a deflating 25-30 a piece. The fairest evaluation for the season series playing out within a week of each other is split.
Series Prediction: Loss and Win (3-7)
Half-Series vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (CLE)
- Is Love back and what does that look like now?
- Is Sexton ready to take his game to the next level, and what would that level be?
- Does Garland show his worth on CLE gamble?
NYK A.R.C.E. starting line-up: Ntilikina, RJ, Morris, Randle, Robinson
Line-up Goals: Sexton has the ceiling of a high offensive player and this year is huge for him. Can he maintain, or even have a slight uptick while expanding his passing game? The hope for NYK is that CLE is as it was last year, struggling to create for others, but having some players capable of reliable self creation. That being said, NYK is going to want Ntilikina on Sexton to contain him as he is currently and deter a level of comfort from the jump. Love being their best player offensively, but lacking in athleticism, Robinson should be able to contain him in a manageable way. He may score 15-20 but it should be inefficient or doing so on tough shots. Having the rest of their team try and force NYK into playing a more choatic game would help them level the playing field. The issue for CLE is on a talent, depth, and on the defensive end, NYK can really force them to struggle on both ends. Feeling down after a slower start could motivate NYK to focus on execution and to put them away early and keep the pressure on. Considering the upcoming month and team expectations to compete defensively, one dimensional teams will struggle especially at the Garden.
Half Series Prediction: Two Wins (5-7)
So far through three games has shown little time for Frank. DSJ regression with the reports of his step-mother passing piling on, thoughts and prayers go out to him. Despite that, if there’s more time sprinkled to Frank for perimeter defense in the spurs or Brooklyn game and NYK could be 1-2 instead of 0-3 about to play CHI. Please see part two coming out 10/31 (will be linked after it is posted).