I will be perfectly honest with you – I felt that even though the New York Knicks looked like huge losers in the whole free agent race, since they were not able to land Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving, they still came out of the process as an improved team, because they acquired a number of players who gave their roster some “texture.”
But there is a glaring weakness that still needed to be addressed, and hasn’t been with any satisfaction. They don’t have a “quarterback” on the floor and that is one of the issues that is biting at them as they head into Monday night’s action with an 0-3 record.
They’ll be at home as they play host to the Chicago Bulls, as NBA action gets underway at 7:05 PM ET at Madison Square Garden. BetAnySports customers can place wagers on the game as it is happening with Live Betting Ultra.
Please understand that I am not kidding you when I say the following: that when they went out and signed the likes of Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris and Wayne Ellington, not to mention a forward who could become their big scorer in Julius Randle, then draft an obviously talented Duke alum (and we use that term loosely for the one-and-done guys) RJ Barrett, there was cause for optimism.
Not to win any titles, mind you; we’re not THAT silly. But with those players, and what the Knicks had left over in the persons of Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson and a couple of others, it’s not inconceivable that in a conference like the East, where there will once again probably be five or six teams battling it out for the three bottom-rung playoff spots, that they could be one of those teams.
The one thing I saw was that somebody had to emerge as a point guard. And so far that has been a problem. There’s some time to correct it, but it might require some personnel moves to do it.
In the NBA betting odds for Monday night’s game, the Knicks are the home underdog to the Bulls:
Chicago Bulls -1
New York Knicks +1
Over 222.5 points -110
Under 222.5 points -110
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When a team gives up a first-round draft pick after two seasons it can carry a red flag. A lot of people had criticized the Dallas Mavericks for drafting Dennis Smith, but the Knicks liked him, so he came over in the trade for the unhappy Kristaps Porzingis.
He may have a lot of athleticism, but he’s becoming a dangerous liability on the floor. Going back to the pre-season, he’s made just four of 28 shots, and opponents are giving him a lot of room on the perimeter, concentrating on others. On a per-100 possession basis, the Knicks are at minus-45 with him out there. In Saturday’s 118-95 loss to Boston, he was booed off the floor.
Now Smith is going to be gone from the team for a few days, as his stepmother has died. It’s a tragedy, but perhaps fortuitous in a sense for the Knicks, who may now have to give more time to Frank Ntilikina, their top pick in 2017. The problem there is that while the previous regime, including Phil Jackson, was very high on him, the current guys like GM Scott Perry and coach David Fizdale don’t have a lot of confidence in him, and have not played him much.
But if nothing else, Ntilikina has some promise on the defensive end, which may help him stick and maybe even improve those plus-minus figures. The starter at the point is Elfrid Payton, who is serviceable but still considered to be a first-round disappointment who is already with his fourth NBA team in a six-season career.
Fizdale himself is going to be under a certain amount of scrutiny if he doesn’t get the point guard situation under control. It’s pretty easy to be considered an assistant “on the rise” when you’re riding the Big Three’s success in Miami. But Fizdale, after a brief homeymoon period, lost the locker room in a big way when he became head coach in Memphis. He’s in the Big Apple now, where there’s no place to hide. And although we understand that there is a certain amount of “recycling” in the profession, this may be a Last Chance Saloon for him as far as head honcho positions is concerned.
On Monday night, we’re thinking he may benefit from a little “addition by subtraction.” So let’s watch the Knicks put a “W” up there for a change.
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