On June 26, 2015 the New York Knicks selected Kristaps Porzingis with the 4th overall selection in the NBA Draft. He was booed and one young Knicks fan cried. Now in his second season in the NBA the nay-sayers have disappeared. After finishing second in rookie of the year voting Porzingis has had a strong start to his sophomore season averaging 20 points, 7.7 rebounds, and nearly 2 blocks a game. The dynamic talent will, with the big market and appeal of New York, be able to attract premier free agents to the Knicks down the road. The future is secured. Eventually Carmelo Anthony will pass the Knicks baton off to Porzingis who will carry the franchise onward and (hopefully) upward.
The Knicks are right in the middle of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, but they need more than Porzingis and Carmelo right now. The present and very near future of the New York Knicks will be determined by Derrick Rose. The Knicks aspirations of a deep playoff run this season are on the former MVP’s back. Literally.
Derrick Rose started the first 21 games of the season before missing four of the next six games with back spasms. Granted, Knicks fans should’ve known they were due for a Rose injury. Rose starting the first 21 straight games this year without missing one was an absolute anomaly for his career. In fact this season was the first time Derrick strung together 20 games to start a season since his 2010-2011 season. He was the MVP that year. The Knicks are 1-3 without Rose so far this season. Now this may be a small sample size but Derrick Rose’s health will be the cornerstone of a Knicks playoff run.
Rose has once again found his ability to create off the bounce and finish at the rim, forcing defenses to help defend Rose and leaving the Knicks sharpshooters (Anthony, Porzingis, and Lee) open and firing on all cylinders. That trio is averaging 39% from beyond the arc so far this season. In Rose’s absence the Knicks move Brandon Jennings from his 6th man role to the starting lineup. But moving Jennings off the bench productivity, a team high 5.7 assists per game, to the starting lineup has left the Knicks with a lifeless bench. Bench points fell from 45 points to 38 points in the 1-3 stretch where Jennings was starting.
The silver lining to this whole situation is that Derrick Rose’s knees, legs, and ankles have been okay. His four games out where due to his back, an issue that hasn’t affected him since the 2009-2010 season. As long as the injury bug stays away from Rose’s meniscus and ACL’s there is reason to hope that Rose will miss 1 or 2 game periodically but never long stretches. However the core problem still remains the same. What if the next two games Rose misses come in the playoffs when the Knicks need the third piece of their puzzle to compete?
Porzingis will take the Knicks into the future but the present of the Knicks will be carried as far as the former MVP can take them.