Knicks fans played like a broken record this Summer, praising Kevin Knox for inefficient numbers in meaningless Summer League outings. Okay, he looked good, but this good?
The hyperbole Knicks fan spoke in was a direct representation of the garbage heap James Dolan has piled on.
So when Dolan was being rumored to sell his Knicks team, the fans waited on their edge of seats, popcorn in hand. That never happened though. At least changes happened; just from the top down, not bottom up.
If the blood is on Dolan’s hands, Hornacek was merely the fall guy. Like Derek Fisher before him, the former NBA player was fired after a couple of disappointing seasons.
To rub salt in the wound, Kristaps toppled with a heart-wrenching ACL tear and Tim Hardaway was signed to a roof-raising contract only to be torn down by the dunk of the year.
There were a few embers of hope though. The backcourt showed potential as Frank Nikitina was a defensive spider and Trey Burke looked like Allen Iverson hopped in a Delorean Time Machine for a few games (he averaged 20 points and 6.9 assists on 52.8% shooting in 8 games from late March to early April!).
Kevin Knox (11th pick)
Mitchell Robinson (39th pick)
Mario Hezonja (one year, $6.5 million)
Noah Vonleh (one year, $1.6 million)
Taking a flyer on Hezonja
The Knicks are trying to turn the page on a what’s morphing into a losing culture. By doing so, they drafted and signed low risk, high reward players. Getting Mario Hezonja on a one year $6.5 million deal is a cap hit, but one that lasts for only one year. If he plays well in a limited role similar to what Michael Beasley did last year, Hezonja could turn the short-lived contract into a longer deal. Until then, New York plugs him into an outlet where his talents are exerted as a microwave scorer off the bench.
Staying within himself is key for Hezonja. That’s something he’s not familiar with, averaging an unhealthy 1.18 assist/turnover ratio in his volatile career thus far.
His ability to sneak past defenses far outweighed his self-creation on an efficiency and eye test scale. In order to extract his 69.1% shooting at the rim, Fizdale needs to Porzingis — whose talent demands gravity of the defense like Vucevic on steroids.
If the Knicks use him in an off-ball role, his talents will be mined. Orlando hacked into the efficient version of Hezonja by utilizing him as a small-ball-4 — something Fizdale may not adopt.
Despite being extremely dysfunctional, Orlando found a way to acclimate Hezonja into their offense. New York should be able to do the same.
Adding young talent in the draft
Kevin Knox is the chosen one for a faltering Knicks franchise. Transition play is paramount to his first season, being that it will take some time to adjust to the lateral movement of defenders. Knox’s dribbling is not all that refined, so getting out in transition to employ his speed and strides will foster high point totals.
He averaged 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds last season despite low-usage for a stacked Kentucky team. Those statistics are not representative of what he could be for the Knicks. In a larger role, his efficiency will wane but talents will slowly strengthen.
For Mitchell Robinson it’s boom or bust. In the case that he booms, he could be one of the best big men in the entire draft. Let’s not forget there was a point in time where he was ranked ahead of Jaren Jackson in the ESPN Top 100 rankings.
There is an even higher chance that he busts, which could make him look like Thon Maker, never realizing his niche in an ever changing league.
There were flashes of that boom potential when he flew from rim-to-rim with a vengeance.
Robinson’s raw fundamental means he will find himself improving in Westchester. As the season comes along, New York will most likely try their hand at calling him up, for a barometer of his improvement. He doesn’t need to define himself as a star in the G-League or the NBA, for that matter, but any improvement will be a boon for New York.
Contracts courtesy of Spotrac. Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.