With the Knicks winning three games in a row against solid competition, fans of the team may find themselves feeling a bit unnerved in these uncertain times. We here at Knicks Film School understand your plight, and are ready to help. For your convenience here is a helpful FAQ to help you navigate these choppy waters. If you get to the end and still feel faint, please call a medical professional. We hope you enjoy.
What is happening right now?
The Knicks are winning games. Please remain calm.
Is this a thing that NBA teams do?
Yes, occasionally. It actually happens quite regularly in other cities.
Is winning a good thing for the Knicks?
It depends on who you ask. Some people feel that winning games improves culture, makes your franchise look more attractive to prospective free agents, and generally begets more winning. Others feel that it just takes away ping pong balls heading into lottery night.
Which is the right answer?
There is no right or wrong answer, really … it’s all a matter of perspective.
No, really … which is the right answer?
The ping pong ball people are wrong.
This is especially true under the new lottery rules, where the team that finishes with the worst record in the league is guaranteed a top-five pick, but only has about a 50% shot at a top-four pick in what everyone seems to think is a four player draft. Even if the Knicks win some games, the way things are lining up, they’ll still likely finish with the fifth-worst record in the NBA, which gives them over a 40% chance at a top four pick.
Why are ultimately meaningless wins worth even a slight decrease in the odds?
Because they’re not meaningless. When you’ve been a dumpster fire of an organization for the better part of two decades, you need to show certain basic competencies before you move on to loftier aspirations … walk before you run, basically. Taking talented but flawed players into your program and helping them play the best basketball of their lives is an important step in that process, and that’s what’s happening now.
But I thought none of these players will be here next season … why does it matter if they help us win games? Isn’t that what happened early last year?
One thing at a time. Regarding players staying or not, there’s basically two scenarios. If they’re not here, that almost certainly means that Kevin Durant is here, in which case, scotch and Cheetos for everyone!
If, however, Durant says no, and the Knicks had shown zero progress this season, there would likely be some pressure on the front office to sign a max player in July just to save face, even if that max player wasn’t really a max player. Having players on the current roster succeed not only lessens that possibility, but opens up the option of bringing several of these guys back on one-year deals at inflated salaries. This not only allows you to field a competitive team while awaiting Anthony Davis’ free agency in 2020, but it gives you a roster full of intriguing trade chips should the right deal arise.
It’s a three game winning streak, but are the Knicks actually … kind of good?*
*legal note: relative to their age and development cyclehttps://t.co/fZTIw7ahrf
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) November 26, 2018
Regarding whether it matters, see the proceeding question. Also, winning games with young reclamation projects that still have upside (Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, Noah Vonleh) is very different than winning games with vets who are already known quantities (Jarrett Jack, Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas). It shows that your player development program is working, which other players around the league notice.
If the Knicks do sign Kevin Durant, why will a bunch of these guys be gone?
As Knicks fans use a recent skirmish with Draymond Green to dream of Kevin Durant, let’s take a look at what it would require from a cap standpoint for them to even sign him. https://t.co/nahEXwhBTc pic.twitter.com/0RO6FowcQ5
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) November 13, 2018
In this scenario1, the Knicks would need to renounce the cap holds of Mudiay, Kanter, and Hezonja, and almost all of their exceptions, to make room for Durant2.
When you renounce a player’s cap hold, that means you lose the eligibility to exceed the cap to sign them using their respective Bird or non-Bird rights. If the Knicks were to create enough cap space to sign Durant, they can’t have money tied up in cap holds.
However, if the Knicks do trade Lee and take back no future money, they will have a few million in cap room to spare, along with the room exception, which is roughly $4.6 million. Still, if guys like Mudiay and Vonleh keep producing, it’s easy to see another team making a more sizable offer for their services.
Back to this team: we were lead to believe that Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson made up the Knicks’ future core, and that this season would be all about their development. In Memphis, they played a combined 33 minutes. Shouldn’t I be concerned?
You’re probably going to be concerned regardless of what I say.
Ok fine … no, you shouldn’t be concerned. This is where we get into nuance that can’t be properly expressed in 280 characters. If David Fizdale was burying his young players on the bench and we were watching them rack up DNP-CD’s, that would be a major cause for concern, but that isn’t happening.
Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson are arguably two of the five rawest rookies in their class, yet Fiz is still finding a way to give them 17 minutes per game, on average. The fact that Robinson, in particular, is playing in the NBA at all at this point, and hasn’t been relegated to the G-League, is a minor miracle in light of his summer league performance. Knox, meanwhile, was clearly slowed by the injury that kept him out for over two weeks.
These numbers will only go up as the year continues, but right now, they’re more than fine. Playing guys more minutes then they’re ready for and letting bad habits develop is worse than not playing them at all. Ntilikina and Trier, meanwhile, are at 24 minutes per game, while Dotson is at 27.
But Dotson hasn’t even played in four games?
Yeah, that’s a problem.
I thought this was supposed to make me feel better?
Sorry. I’m honestly not sure what’s up with Dot right now, because he has been largely excellent in his minutes so far this year. He does continue to be the first guy off the bench to high five his teammates, though, so that’s a good sign. I’d bet that Fiz let him know his time is coming and that he’s giving Mario Hezonja one more look before relegating him to the bench or out of the rotation entirely. With the team winning, it makes a change that much tougher.
Back to Frank … he’s never the only point guard on the floor anymore.
Is that ok?
This is the question that’s hanging over this entire Knicks season, and tons of smart people have tons of different opinions about it. Some think he needs to get a certain number of minutes at point guard come hell or high water. Others just want him to get time on the floor and not be relegated to the corner when he’s out there.
Frank Ntilikina has lost his spot in the starting lineup, for now.@JCMacriNBA wonders if development and playing time follow a linear path
(+ Frank might see the same number of minutes whether he starts or not, but perhaps less pressure helps?)https://t.co/Ja0cZcURG5
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) November 14, 2018
Of late, despite fewer minutes and shared time with Burke, Frank has looked more confident and assertive on offense, which has always been the knock on him. He’s taking control of the offense in spurts, but also not forcing it – a balance he thus far hadn’t been able to achieve, including during his stint as the starting point guard earlier this year. So whatever Fiz is doing seems to be working.
One more point on this: if we assume David Fizdale is a rational actor, he knows that the best case scenario for his future as a coach is figuring out a way to get a 6’7″ kid, with an All-Defense ceiling, on the floor as much as possible in as advantageous a role as possible. Not prioritizing his development would harm Fiz more than anyone, which wouldn’t seem to make any sense. So question Fizdale’s development methods if you will, but questioning his priorities seems to be a bit silly.
So we’re winning games … the team is playing hard, playing unselfishly, and playing for their coach. If you’re to be believed, they’re also still keeping their eye on the future as the ultimate prize. What do we have to complain about as Knicks fans?
You’re a New Yorker. You’ll find something.