By trying to build a contender as quickly as possible, the New York Knicks seem to be cuffing themselves to limited achievements. Forget the max contract given to Carmelo Anthony two years ago: Adding Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to the mix seems like something that helps championship aspirations four or five years ago, not in 2016.
After a 32-50 season which was actually an improvement, the Knicks want to end their playoff drought, lasting since 2013. That year they made their first conference semifinals in a decade, but weren’t able to build on that. Phil Jackson was brought to fix things, and he’s help built a better team around Anthony, but it does seem that this summer was more about the now, sacrificing a bit of the future, and not by actually putting the team in a position to win a title.
Rose was brought over from the Bulls via trade to play one season before he’s a free agent. Rose needs a good year and a healthy one to show he’s still a $20 million dollar man (per season), something he hasn’t been since his injury riddled season of 2011-2012, followed by the knee injury that changed the trajectory of his career. From MVPs and titles on the horizon, to something quite mediocre and frustrating most of the time.
While Rose is a one-year rental if he doesn’t work out, giving Noah $72 million over four seasons isn’t just a projection of the rising salary cap, but also of the big gamble by the Knicks. Noah, healthy (played only 29 games last season), is a terrific defender and rebounder, and also a pretty smart passer. But he has 0 range and is often someone the offense doesn’t even move the ball through, or at least knows the defend isn’t worried about him shooting. In today’s NBA, it’s getting more and more difficult playing someone for so many minutes and getting so little offensive production from.
The Knicks are hoping that Kristaps Porzingis, averaging 14.3 points per game last season, doesn’t disappear or take a step back with players like Rose and even Brandon Jennings vying for shots and points. If there’s one player on this team the Knicks see as a future foundation, it’s Porzingis, but the moves made by Jackson this summer suggest it’s not exactly the plan to give him the keys to the car now. Anthony is still dominant, even if it’s not helpful, and Rose isn’t exactly the kind of point guard to sit back and simply feed other scorers.
A weird combination of players, but maybe Jackson just felt pressure to start making win-now kind of moves. The Knicks should be a better, stronger team should everyone stay healthy, and Porzingis does well under Jeff Hornacek and continues to add to his impressive arsenal of moves on both ends of the floor. But until he gets the chance to take center stage, and Anthony slightly moves into the shadows, which is difficult for him to do, the Knicks will remain a team building the wrong way towards a goal they’ll never reach. This offseason, it looked like they’re moving towards that goal by doing something that lost its relevance four years ago.