Dishin’ and Swishin’ – Keys to a successful Knicks season
Welcome boys and girls to the very first edition of Dishin’ and Swishin’. As most of you Knicks fans know, this is one of the many rhyming phrases that the great Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier uses during MSG’s telecasts. Being that this Knicks season is starting Wednesday night, there’s no better time to do a quasi-season preview.
The Knicks have a brand new man at the helm, David Fizdale, and Fizdale is looking first and foremost to change the culture that surrounds the Knicks. It’s been a culture of despair, losing, and embarrassment. If Fizdale can make small changes around the locker room and have these young Knicks believing in themselves, this season is a success already.
However, the games are played on the court, and the Knicks are severely lacking in talent compared to many other teams in the Eastern Conference. They’re not going to win the NBA Championship this season, but a successful season may be quantified in other ways. Let’s take a look at the keys to a “successful” Knicks season.
Continued progression for The French Prince
The jury is still completely out on Frank Ntilikina, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 draft. Ntilikina struggled to adapt to the NBA style last season, averaging only 5.9 PPG, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. The French Prince didn’t light the statsheet up, but did play decent defense in 78 games last season.
New Head Coach David Fizdale is starting Ntilikina to start the season, but is using him as a 2 guard instead of at point guard. Frank’s biggest issue seem to be his inability to facilitate an NBA offense. He’s a very good passer, but he can’t create offense on his own, something that’s vital in today’s NBA.
If Ntilikina can play excellent defense throughout the season, improve his offensive instincts, and take more chances while also not being reckless, it will be a successful season for the second year player. There’s going to be plenty of opportunity for Frank to play, so he must take advantage of it.
Competent perimeter defense
The Knicks were one of the worst teams over the past five teams in regards to perimeter defense. They were losing games by 15+ points every night because they refused to defend the perimeter. Being that the NBA is essentially a three point shooting league at this point, it’s not ideal to not defend the three.
David Fizdale is a defensive oriented coach, so he’ll make sure to whip these Knicks into shape. Having young guys like Kevin Knox, Trey Burke (yes he’s still young), The French Prince, and second round draft pick Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks will most definitely be more dedicated on the defensive end.
The Knicks’ biggest issue on defense was their tendency to collapse too early on a pick and roll, leading to a wide open shooter behind the three point arc. If the Knicks can use their length to their advantage and not try to cheat to the middle, they’ll be much better off.
Finding a primary scoring option (not named Kristaps Porzingis)
The Knicks are going to have trouble scoring this season, mostly due to the loss of Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis tore his ACL midway through last season, and isn’t slated to return until at best the All-Star break this season. With Porzingis being out, they do not have a primary scoring option.
They have Tim Hardaway Jr., who is a very talented scorer but super streaky. They have sensational rookie Kevin Knox, who has the potential to be a star in this league. They also have point guard Trey Burke, who has experienced a career renaissance in New York, is looking to become THE guy.
Who will step up and become the top guy in a Porzingis-less offense? If any of the three aforementioned guys step up, it will be a successful season. Obviously this can’t go on forever, so maybe a certain Golden State Warrior can help out next season and make the Knicks a contender.
The Knicks have a lot of work to do if they’re going to be a perennial contender. They are not a good team right now, but they do have a lot of good, young pieces. The Knicks are the youngest team in the league and have a lot of room to grow. If Fizdale can get the most out of his guys on the defensive end, this can be a very talented team in a few years.
For now, Knicks fans just have to be patient and make the most out of what seems to be another down year. Good times are coming, eventually. If good times aren’t coming, then it’s just more of the same. It’s never easy being a Knicks fan.