Last Season: 32-50, 13th in the East
Off-season Gains: C Joakim Noah (free agent), PG Derrick Rose (trade), the awful karma that comes with having Derrick Rose on your team, SG Courtney Lee (free agent), PG Brandon Jennings (free agent), C Willy Hernangomez (free agent), SG Justin Holiday (trade), PF Maurice Ndour (free agent), SF Mindaugas Kuzminskas (free agent)
Off-season Losses: C Robin Lopez (trade/Chicago), SG Arron Afflalo (free agent/Sacramento), PG Jerian Grant (trade/Chicago), PF Derrick Williams (free agent/Miami), PG Langston Galloway (free agent/New Orleans), SG Tony Wroten (waived/Memphis), PG Jose Calderon (trade/Lakers [thru Chicago])
Off-season Stock: Would've been through the roof if they made these moves in 2012. Today, the only way you're getting rid of those puppies is to trade them for "JD & The Straight Shots" albums.
League Pass Team?: I'll flip them on occasionally for Porzingis alone, and sure I'm as prone to rubbernecking as anybody.
Holy transactions, Batman!
It's so perfect that the Knicks play for Gotham because truly they're being run by clowns. They seem to overhaul their roster every couple of years, like most bad organizations do, but it's not enough to simply make changes. In New York, they have to be LOUD changes, for name veterans whose best days are long behind them.
Take Joakim Noah (please!) for example. He was pretty bad two years ago. Then last year, injuries to his knee and shoulder limited him to 29 games, and he was awful in those. Centers generally don't shoot 38 percent anymore, not since the Bill Russell days. The ones who do don't usually sign four-year, $73 million contracts. Granted, Noah's not ancient --he's only 31-- and it's true enough that the Knicks won't need him to score much, but they already had a perfectly decent center in Robin Lopez, who's younger, cheaper and more durable. But you see, the Knicks needed a new center because they traded Lopez for Derrick Rose, who won the Most Valuable Player award in 2010-11 and has since played 166 games in five years. Okay, Rose's durability is trending upward --he played 66 games for Chicago last season-- but didn't anyone in New York's front office notice that he was, uh, double-plus un-good in those? The Knicks did make a couple of below-the-radar moves I liked, but the highlight of their off-season was getting the guys on the Bulls that made the Bulls stink.
I liked Phil Jackson's draft last year, but it sure looks like it was an anomalous day in what has otherwise been a disastrous tenure as president of the Knicks. I'm not sure even Isiah Thomas was this bad. Even if, for the sake of argument I'll buy Noah as a guy who can help improve the "culture" of the locker room, what's the point of trading for Rose, whose contract is up after this year, if you're immediately going to to carve up a huge slice of the cap room Rose coming off the books will create by signing Noah to a long-term deal to replace Lopez? And why give up on Jerian Grant after one year or Langston Galloway after two? All because Rose is a "name" and they're not.
And, as it turns out, he might be a villain too.
Not only have the Knicks traded for a bad basketball player whose game didn't fit the modern NBA even when he was at the height of his powers, but he has those legal issues too. First, let's deal with the less important basketball part, because at least we know all the facts there. Rose was objectively rotten for the Bulls last year, on both ends of the floor. They were much better without him on the floor, per NBA.com's stats index. He's never been much of a playmaker, his assist-to-turnover ratio sucks, he can't shoot and he's worse at defense than his lawyers. Rose ranked 75th out of 78th point guards in real-adjusted plus-minus and dead last in wins produced, at -1.53. You, sitting on your couch, helped the Bulls win more games than Rose did last year.
Now for the truly unpleasant part. You've probably read or at least heard the reports about Rose's being a defendant in a civil trial for sexual assault. Here's a link for all of Deadspin's coverage of the proceedings, including the part where Rose's lawyers wanted the alleged victim's name disclosed publicly, which, innocent-or-guilty seems incredibly cruel and callow, and the part of the testimony where she had to explain to Rose and his attorneys what consent means. Regardless of the outcome of the trial it seems clear that Rose and his friends showed incredibly poor judgment and for lack of better term "used" this woman who was in an impaired state, consenting or not. Why the Knicks would willingly want to be associated with such a person is beyond me. The good news for Rose is that he still has time to repair his image enough to run for president.
All that and we haven't even gotten to Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. They're both really good! You'll enjoy watching them play! The Knicks were -5.7 points worse in net rating with Melo off the floor and -5.4 points worse off with Porzingis, which is atypical of rookies. Neither were very good defensively, but they weren't as atrocious as their reputation suggests, and New York absolutely needed them on the floor to do anything on offense. Anthony's percentages have been consistent for years now, but I rather liked his passing chops as a point forward and would like to see that continue. Porzingis meanwhile started really well last season but hit the rookie wall by the end. I can't be more excited about year two for him. A little stronger, a bit more refinement on his jumper, and he's on his way to a 20-10 season. A lot of people want him to play the five, because Anthony's best position seems to be the four, but I like Porzingis at the four because he can get help defensively and on the glass there, like Dirk Nowitzki has had throughout his career. I really feel like that should be the blueprint with him: "What made Dirk successful?" Trying to get too cute outside of that will produce more harm than good, I feel.
It's not like the Knicks are overloaded with quality wings, anyway. Courtney Lee is a good three-point shooter, but his reputation as a good defender is totally undeserved and he's a low-usage guy to boot. Beyond him is Lance Thomas, who also shot it well from downtown and defended decently last year, but didn't rebound at all for a 6'8 guy. Justin Holiday had flashes for the Bulls, but like Rose was one of their worst defenders. Oh, and "The Machine" is still around.
Rose wasn't the only point poor-shooting point guard with a troublesome injury history the Knicks signed. They've also brought in Brandon Jennings, who struggled mightily for the Pistons and then the Magic last year coming off a torn ACL. Jennings is a better passer than Rose and more accurate from three, and I like him fine as a reserve. They're in trouble if he has to play big minutes though. The depth with their bigs is also worrisome. Kyle O'Quinn is okay, but foul prone and can't guard anybody. They signed a rookie Plumlee brother, Marshall, and he wasn't even good enough to be drafted. The one guy I'm high on is Spaniard Willy Hernangomez, who I watched in the Olympics and whose game I liked quite a lot. He's a good roll man. With Noah's injury history --he's already got a hamstring issue-- Hernangomez will probably wind up being their starter sooner rather than later, and that's a feature, not a bug.
In closing, I think it's fair to say I'm disappointed with the Knicks. They've wasted Anthony's prime, such as it was. They should be trading him for young assets to build around Porzingis, before they waste him, too. They hired Jeff Hornacek as coach, after the gasoline fire that was the Derek Fisher Era, and it looks like Jackson is still trying to shoehorn the antiquated "Triangle Offense," into the game plan from behind the scenes, and I can't fathom a point guard less capable of running it than Rose. They could've at least done smart, sensible low-key things around the two of them to sneak into the playoffs (it wouldn't have taken much in the East) but instead they've gambled recklessly in search of headlines. Their two stars might be enough to drag them to the postseason anyway, thanks to the expected declines of the Heat, Hornets and Hawks, but they'll need Rose and Noah be merely bad instead of downright liabilities, and I'm not about to bet on that.