With a 3-9 record in 2017, the Knicks certainly aren't looking like the contenders Phil Jackson intended to build them to be last offseason. Still only three games out of a playoff spot, there's still plenty of time to make a worthwhile run. Nevertheless, momentum hasn't been in the team's favor for a number of reasons.
Thus, decisions need to be made. Is it worth scrapping together an effort to squeeze in as the eight seed, in effect losing out a solid draft pick to help build upon the future with? The players may appreciate some clarity one way or another.
Some players are assets that can be moved. For those that can't be dealt seamlessly, it's up to the Knicks to utilize their talents full on and go from there. Here's a look at a few things effecting the current state of the Knicks.
Late game failures:
The Knicks have an unfortunate case of deja vu with regards to coming up short when a game is on the line. This can be extremely demoralizing to a team's overall mentality, making such a skid difficult to snap.
Of course, New York's defensive vulnerabilities continue to put them in a place where they have to work hard to catch up, essentially fighting tooth and nail for victories that continue to evade them. Continuing to come up short has to be exhausting. If they can shore up some defensive holes early on, things will be easier down the stretch. What's more, they need to continue (or resume) embracing Carmelo Anthony as the potential late game hero. His late game heroic shots will start to fall again sooner than later. Despite not getting a reasonable foul call on two different late game drives (against Atlanta and Phoenix) last week, Derrick Rose has to keep being aggressive. One would like to assume those calls will come as well. It's easy to get discouraged at a time like this, but New York has to stay level headed if the goal is to continue competing.
Is the pressure coming off Joakim Noah?
Through nagging injuries, an inconsistent defensive effort, and proving to be a liability on offense, Joakim Noah has received a lot of flack for not playing up to the expectations of how someone signing a $72 million contract should be performing. Still, with a new year has also come a seemingly revitalized Noah.
Averaging 11.3 rebounds in January, Noah has found some consistency in offering a double-digit rebounding effort in relatively limited minutes. He's been productive. He might not be providing the Knicks with the full package, but they've been able to get the most out of him while at the same time, subbing in Kyle O'Quinn for his physicality and steady mid-range jump shot. Kristaps Porzingis has also logged key minutes at center when a more agile big man is needed to stay in front of people. Either way, Noah is being put in a place to succeed. He is doing what he can, and the Knicks are finding other ways to supplement his efforts. With that has come less talk about Noah being overpaid. His contract may not be moveable, but at least New York has been benefitting from his services as of late.
Motivating Brandon Jennings:
At the beginning of the season, there was talk of Brandon Jennings competing for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Fast forward to late January, and he's finding himself having to compete for the backup point guard minutes for the first time in his career.
Despite showing fantastic chemistry with Porzingis early on, Jennings has fizzled out as a very inconsistent part of this rotation. He's not attacking the basket as often and there's been little effort to set guys up on offense. Jennings has been outspoken about the recent lineup shakeups, so the Knicks need to find better ways to motivate him. He has the potential to give this offense a spark and perhaps even more importantly, be an irritating and spunky defender on most opposing ball handlers. If he can't give the Knicks what they need, it may be best to move his expiring contract to a contending team for a future asset.