Commentary

Finding Kristaps Porzingis His Supporting Cast

Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Knicks shipped Carmelo Anthony off to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and the Chicago Bulls 2nd round draft pick, it marked the end of the Carmelo era and sparked the beginning of the Kristaps era. Through 23 games the New York Knicks have a surprising 11-12 record for a team that many analysts picked to be one of the bottom five teams in the league. While there are a couple factors that have led to this team wide success; the improvement of Kristaps Porzingis has been far and away the biggest reason this Knicks team has been competitive.

With KP being the Knicks cornerstone player, the Knicks’ front office should do everything in their power to keep their star player happy and surround him with a supporting cast the brings the best out of the 22 year old 7-footer. While the current players on the team have played well, this team is a fringe playoff team and 6-8 seed at best and will need to improve via the draft or free agency in order to get over the hump and become respected contenders. Ignoring the Knicks’ terrible cap situation for the moment (thank you Joakim Noah), let’s take a look at this year’s upcoming free agents and see how they could fit next on the team and next to KP.

The Unrealistic Stars That Won’t Sign

Kevin Durant and Lebron James

Kevin Durant and Lebron James are the two best players on the planet and neither will sign with the dysfunctional franchise that is the Knicks. It just won’t happen and this is the most Knicks’ fan not going to happen thing imaginable.

The Possible Stars

Paul George: Paul George signing would be the absolute best scenario for the Knicks. PG-13 is an absolute stud and a top 15-20 players in the league depending on whom you ask. Will he sign with the Knicks, or will they even have enough cap room to sign him, it’s unlikely. PG wouldn’t take his talent to a team with so much perennial drama, but if the Thunder’s season goes south, or if he doesn’t like his role, he becomes the most interesting free agent on the market. With Frank Ntilikina and PG guarding the perimeter and Porzingis swatting away attempts at the rim, the Knicks could be a top 5 team in both steals and blocks.

DeMarcus Cousins: Any team in the league would love to have Cousins on their team. He’s the best center in the world and can single-handedly win against any team in the league. He obviously has maturity issues and causes any team he’s on headaches, but almost every team in the league who can afford him will be throwing a max contract at Cousins. Just imagine a KP and Cousins front-court. It’s possible KP complements better the Anthony Davis and that would be downright scary for the league. Enes Kanter being on the team obviously makes this unlikely, but he has a player option he could choose to be a free agent if this season goes south.

Chris Paul: CP3 would be the perfect point guard to feed Porzingis and is one of the last few true point guards in the league who would rather get an assist than a bucket. Houston is on absolute fire so far this year and unless there is some sort of nuclear collapse in Houston, CP3 isn’t going anywhere.

DeAndre Jordan: DJ is an interesting target because he would be the perfect complement the Kristaps. KP struggles with interior defense and DJ is one of the best low post defenders in the league. His presence would give KP room to prowl around for blocks and focus more on improving his perimeter defense. The guess here is whatever team DeAndre gets traded to (the Clippers are imploding) he’ll end up resigning with, unless he goes to a terrible situation. The prediction is he goes to the Bucks and he would be the perfect fit for the Bucks, giving them a scary starting lineup of Bledsoe, Middleton, Parker (if healthy), Giannis and DJ.

Avery Bradley: If not for the Tim Hardaway signing, Avery Bradley would have been the perfect addition to this team. Hardaway’s solid play so far has pretty much solidified himself as the Knicks Shooting Guard of the future.

Realistic Options

If you’ve followed the Knicks for the last 15 years then you would notice they have always been a win now team that wants to sign players past their primes to long-term contracts. These contracts hamper the franchise’s future cap space and makes it hard to improve their roster for the future. Some of these contracts have gone to the likes of Amar’e Stoudemire, Joakim Noah, Allan Houston and Carmelo Anthony just to name a few. What the Knicks should do this upcoming off-season is try to dump Noah’s contract and trade away quality role players such as Kyle O’Quinn and Lance Thomas for draft picks or expiring contracts. But it’s the Knicks we’re talking about so they’ll probably trade their young prospects for some player past his prime with an injury history who is signed to a long-term deal. Hoping that Steve Mills and Scott Perry are changing the Knicks culture and make smart front office decisions when it comes to free agency signings, options for the best options for the Knicks this summer are as follows:

Rodney Hood: Rodney Hood is a 3-D small forward who would fit perfectly next to KP and would occupy the starting 3 role for the Knicks. He’s a restricted free agent this year and seemed like a lock to resign with the Jazz, but injuries and the recent play of Donavan Mitchell and Alec Burks have the Jazz thinking about their future cap space to keep those two players on the team, which might leave Hood the odd man out. If he’s not too expensive the Knicks should have him as their top priority in free agency.

Marcus Smart: Probably one of the most underrated players in the league, Marcus Smart is an amazing defensive guard that sets the tone for their entire team on the defensive side of the floor. He’s typically a SG, but if he wants more of a playmaking role, the Knicks could convince him the play Point guard and teach Frank Ntilikina the ropes. He would also bring perimeter defense to this Knicks team that drastically needs to improve its 3-point defense. He’s not a player that will need to take a lot of shots to be happy, and will help KP grow as a go to scorer.

Rajon Rondo: Similar to Chris Paul, Rondo is one of the few pass first players who is the embodiment of a true point guard. He has always thrived as a playmaker that is borderline elite at setting his teammates up and would love feeding Kristaps the rock. Also similar to a previously mentioned player, Rondo is like DeMarcus Cousins and has been referred to as a team cancer that brings the locker room’s morale. He should be able to be signed to a short-term low value contract.

Kyle Anderson: Strictly by virtue of being a small forward, he could instantly start for the Knicks and shouldn’t cost an outrageous amount of money to sign. He’s a bit of a mystery, as all Spurs players are, if he’s a genuinely good NBA player, or that the Spurs system brings the best out of him. He would provide tremendous value and could potentially be a breakout candidate if given the freedom to run the show as a go to scoring option behind KP.

Whatever the Knicks choose to do this off-season, the hope is that Kanter stays with the team, or if he wants out, the front office can at least can get a first rounder out of him at the deadline. Also Willy Hernangomez has been growing restless on the bench, even with his upped playing time of late. He’s Porzingis’ best friend and if the Knicks were to trade him, would create a huge problem with KP. The hope here is that the Knicks proceed to create a team of young, talented players on affordable contracts. Now if only we can find someone to take that Noah contract.

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