As this New York Knicks season winds down, fans are taking inventory of the development of their young, rebuilding roster in 2018-19.
While names like Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson - two of the team's key future pieces - dominated most of this attention, there's another component of this rebuild that needs to be examined.
Little can be drawn from the win column in what's essentially a tanking season, but we can still dig into head coach David Fizdale's first year at the reins and the job he's done building a culture and foundations for a winning roster.
On paper, Fizdale was never given a roster that he could really build a specialized scheme around. Pieces were moved around right from the jump, there was no star like Kristaps Porzingis out there to center everything around and it was important for a lot of the younger players to get their reps.
Fizdale took this all into account building his offense, more of a free-flowing reads approach vs. structured, set plays take.
This has given a lot of freedom to whoever was on the court, a major boon for growing the young core's ability to make on-the-fly reads and create offense without a play being called. The obvious downside here is the roster wasn't very good and didn't produce very good results, but that was to be expected.
Another problem was the lack of an on-court identity. It was hard to figure out what the Knicks were trying to do on offense, other than "score," of course.
The real concern was a lack of trying out creative things for some of these neophytes. We don't know much about Knox yet, but we know he oozes scoring potential. Maybe run him some mid-post opportunities or get him in the high pick-and-roll more, like in Summer League?
He's found his way in the current offense, peeling off catch-and-shoot threes at will, but it would be cool to experiment with these dynamic talents, too.
Defensively, Fizdale ran a pretty standard scheme, which is necessary for a team that's lacking in both experience and defensive aptitude.
He did employ some trickery here at times, though. The Knicks will sometimes go into a zone, which has made a mini-comeback this NBA season, or trap pick-and-rolls a la Fizdale's Miami days with, let's call it, a more capable roster.
As far as rotations and roles go, Fizdale did a good job of getting his guys where they were comfortable. There was a point early in the season where he thought of Frank Ntilikina as an off-ball guy but that quickly changed.
Fizdale wasn't afraid to switch things up to try and find roles for guys, trust players at the end of his bench to step up or focus on getting the younger players minutes even if it meant not letting veterans get their due.
Obviously this caused some friction between him and Enes Kanter and culture was Fizdale's biggest focus over X's-and-O's this season.
But Kanter didn't handle the situation well and isn't afraid to be vocal, even if it hurts the team.
This was a miniscule blip compared to coach-player feuds of Knicks teams prior. A shakier relationship would be Fizdale and Ntilikina's.
The point guard clearly hasn't met expectations, but trust issues could be an obstacle. While other raw prospects were given room to make errors and learn from them, Ntilikina lost his starting job and was even benched for multiple games.
Ntilikina wasn't the only one.
Fizdale used the benching and DNP as a motivating tool for Damyean Dotson and Noah Vonleh as well. Many of these guys responded well, but it's not an especially common move for modern-day NBA coaches.
It may not even last beyond this season if the Knicks acquire some legitimate NBA talent. Fizdale never buries someone for good or applies one of these benchings over nothing, so it can be argued as fair, but it's a toss-up as to the effectiveness of the strategy.
On a broader view of the culture, things are looking up. Even in the doldrums of February with a historic losing streak on the books, teammates are supportive of each other and relatively upbeat.
Little things like the entire bench getting up to high-five their teammates after a nice run are often overlooked when they die by the wayside amid all the losses, but it's important to note that hasn't happened with these Knicks.
The effort has slipped at times, especially on defense, but for the most part they all want to be here and have something to prove. The ones who don't, or at least are vague about it, get dealt. Sorry, Porzingis.
Perhaps Fizdale's finest move for culture and on-court development has been pairing Robinson with DeAndre Jordan.
There were murmurs about a buyout and it seemed like the logical thing to do for a tanking team, but Jordan's impact has already been felt judging by Robinson's play as of late.
Having a guy who's played under Doc Rivers, with Chris Paul and deep into the playoffs mentor arguably your top prospect is a heady investment.
Fizdale knows better than anybody that it's not about this season, it's about the ones to come.