Sometimes even being just above terrible is an improvement. The Los Angeles Lakers kept making less than impactful additions by signing Lou Williams and Brandon Bass. The New York Knicks have already made improvements by adding Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Kyle O’Quinn and Derrick Williams. It’s not really making them great again.
But for these two franchises, one of them second on the championship list with five titles between 2000 and 2010, while the other is mostly known for doing terribly over the last 15 years, are always in the headlines, for good and bad reasons. The Knicks, despite their lack of success in the last 15 years and being 42 years apart from their last NBA championship, are the basketball team of the biggest city in the country, and people care about them a lot more than they do about the Brooklyn Nets.
Being the crappier team last season and overall, the Knicks made more moves. They traded away Tim Hardaway Jr. while adding Lopez, Afflalo, O’Quinn and Williams. Surprisingly, they’re all pretty good deals, going for players who need to prove themselves. Afflalo signed a two year, $16 million contract. Williams, a constant underachiever since entering the league, signed a two-year contract for just $10 million. O’Quinn, a big man who felt underused in Orlando, was signed for only $16 million over four years.
Lopez was the only one who cost big money, but he’s a starting center in the NBA, which pretty much makes him worth the $54 million over four years, or at least he will be once the salary cap rises to around $89 million.
The Lakers, meanwhile, made two signings that one of them they might not be able to afford, unless the salary cap rises to $69 million. Bass, a veteran power forward who just below average might be the best way to describe him, and Lou Williams, who is going to help Kobe Bryant set a new record in contested jump shots, unless Bryant gets injured.
The Knicks got better, although the drafting of Kristaps Porzingis means it’s going to be a patient build, not a quick one. The Lakers had more to start with: Bryant (for one more year), Jordan Clarkson, hopefully a healthy Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell, probably the leading candidate to win rookie of the year at the moment. They got better, but not by much, and their signings aren’t done yet, considering the cap situation complications. Roy Hibbert is coming, and that might mean not being able to afford one of their free agent signings.
The Lakers won’t make the playoffs, not even close. The Knicks? You never know in the Eastern conference, as the last two years clearly showed us. Who knows, maybe missing out on all those big-name free agents, which the Knicks knew they weren’t getting (the Lakers were a bit more delusional), was actually good for them. The Lakers? Until Kobe Bryant is off the books and away from the team, true progress won’t be made.