Can the Knicks make the Playoffs?


A photo posted by Courtney Lee (@courtneylee) on

Last season the Knicks just barely missed the playoffs. And by barely, I mean they were twelve wins out and finished bottom three in their conference. With a surplus of salary cap thanks to the new television deal and a plethora of moves, are the Knicks in better shape next season? I don't think so, but, of course, I could be wrong.

A standard disclaimer, of course, the Knicks can make the playoffs. If a bunch of stuff goes right, anything is possible. However, based on the current roster they have constructed based on recent performance and what we've usually seen in NBA players I'm not expecting much. Let's review.

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The Knicks have had a busy offseason. The traded away their two best players in Robin Lopez and Jose Calderon (yes, I'm fine getting flack for calling them the Knicks best players. Reminder, the Knicks won 32 games last season!) for Derrick Rose, who was bottom five in the NBA last season! They also acquired Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah, and Brandon Jennings. Here's how their roster currently stands.

Name Pos Age 2016 Wins 2016 PoP48
Joakim Noah FC 30 2.8 3.5
Kyle O'Quinn C 26 1.9 0.7
Carmelo Anthony SF 32 6.0 0.5
Courtney Lee SG 30 5.6 0.5
Brandon Jennings PG 27 1.4 -0.7
Justin Holiday GF 27 0.9 -1.4
Lance Thomas GF 28 1.3 -1.6
Kristaps Porzingis FC 21 1.7 -1.9
Derrick Rose PG 28 -2.4 -4.8

Alright, so based on 2016 numbers the Knicks are currently at ... 19.2 wins! And, at this point, they're out of cap space. So barring a major trade, they're not signing another big name free agent. But let's try and look at some upside. Here I'll construct what I'll be calling my "optimism pile."

The Optimism Pile

Noah wasn't healthy last season and played 635 minutes. Let's say he comes back healthy. His peak was in 2013-2014 when he was worth 16 wins! It's more likely he'd be closer to his 2014-2015 numbers (and that's if he comes back healthy) which would put him at 8.3 wins, or roughly what Robin Lopez put up last season. Let's put +5 wins on the optimism pile.

Kyle O'Quinn is one of the few productive players the Knicks have, and he's still young. He could both see improvement in performance and minutes. His cap so far is 1,188 minutes in an NBA season. If he could hit +1.5 PoP48 and around 2,000 minutes, that could be worth around six wins. So, let's throw another +4 wins on the optimism"pile.

Brandon Jennings has played above average in the past and is still under 30. So I'd do a similar thing to Kyle O'Quinn. If he improves and gets more minutes (more on that in a second) then I could see him be worth around six wins. So, another +5 wins on the optimism pile.

This last one is going to be the most outlandish. Last season, for a brief period, Kristaps Porzingis looked amazing. Of course, by the end of the season, his numbers had settled to below average. Sure, he's young and has upside. What if he pulls a Durant and has a significant jump in production? Maybe he could be star level and be worth ten wins? Let's put them on the pile +10 wins.

Using my optimism the Knicks are at 43 wins, which would be just good enough to miss the playoffs last season. And I should stress, the optimism pile not only includes a lot of optimism (duh) but I'd argue the odds of everything going right is slim to none.

The Reality Pile

Let's also look at some realities facing the Knicks

Melo is in his 30s now. He's put up with injuries the past several seasons. I don't expect his ceiling to go up. In short, what you see is what you get with Melo. And that is a slightly above average player. And that would be fine if the Knicks weren't spending over 25% of their cap on him.

The same applies to Courtney Lee. He's an average player in his 30s. Now, at $11 million a season he's not as hurtful to the Knicks cap. Regardless, what you see is what you get.

Derrick Rose is done. Listen I get it. In 2010-2011, when Rose won the MVP, he looked great. Sure, he didn't deserve the MVP, but he played very well. And when you factored in his age, the future looked bright. Three billion injuries later and Rose has played terrible in the past three seasons. Not only do I not expect Rose to make a difference, but he could also hinder the Knicks. The Bulls missed the playoffs by two games last season, and Rose gets part of the blame. If Rose gets in the way of more productive players like Brandon Jennings, the same could happen to the Knicks.

Kristaps makes this list too. I like naming things a lot, and one of my favorite things is "the Jeremy Lin fallacy." Now, Jeremy Lin has been a fine NBA player. That said, for a brief period in NBA history he was getting compared to Michael Jordan! Porzingis, so far, has the same issue. He didn't have a great rookie season, but he did have a brief stretch where he looked great. And I get viewing that and wanting to be optimistic. But there have been rookies like Michael Carter-Williams that also showed flashes and then didn't immediately turn into stars.

Summing Up

The reality is the Knicks, at best, shuffled some chairs, and they were already a bad squad. To expect them to contend based on their current roster is ludicrous. It requires some very optimistic thinking to hope they'd make the bottom of the playoffs. Now, this shouldn't be anything new to Knicks fans. Of course, based on some of what I've read on Twitter the delusion that the Knicks don't look so bad is also nothing new.