Looking back, the Knicks are currently nowhere near where anyone thought they'd be. Carmelo Anthony is facing a fourth straight year without a playoff appearance. With his own fate/success as an executive seemingly tied to that of his team's star forward, Phil Jackson has failed amid the continued pressure to put a consistent product on the court. He went all in last summer, spending on veterans and proven contributors. New York's inability to meet expectations has led to trade speculation all around, which ultimately prevents this group from creating and maintaining the positive culture Jackson aspired to develop.
All of this has given way to a very underwhelming 6-19 record in 2017. The Knicks had to put forth a really strong comeback effort just to defeat the 9-40 Nets last week. Here's a look at some of the questions facing New York as they look for stability.
If Anthony goes, will Derrick Rose follow?
Trading Anthony before the annual deadline would obviously signal a very big change in direction for this franchise. Would his departure spark a fire sale of other fellow veterans? Rose is on an expiring contract that will provide the Knicks with substantial flexibility in the offseason. Nevertheless, he too is a player that can help a contending team right away. If the Knicks can somehow net a couple of assets while not taking something back that will hinder their own future, Jackson should jump at the chance. Having traded away both Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant, it'd be nice for the team to have something to show for it, in the event they plan to let Rose go.
Rose is expected to return against the Lakers on Monday and the deadline is steadily approaching. This forthcoming stretch of games is an opportunity for him to prove he can still play at a competitive level and make contributions, especially if the Knicks aggressively shop him.
What should the Knicks do at center?
Joakim Noah's inconsistencies in orange and blue seemed to begin as soon as he hit the hardwood. The difference between now and the beginning of the season, however, is that the team has promising alternatives while Noah fails to perform.
Getting the initial nod at more minutes with Noah struggling, Kyle O'Quinn proved he could flirt with a double-double almost on a nightly basis. While his minutes have evened out as of late, O'Quinn continues to emerge as an ever so reliable backup. In his last ten games, he's averaged 5.1 points, 5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in just 12.8 minutes per game. He's been super efficient and remains ready whenever called upon. The Knicks couldn't be asking for anything else.
All the while, Willy Hernangomez is cementing his place as a real key part of the team's future. He's a gem. Talking about double-double threats, the youngster has logged 10.7 points and 9.7 boards over his last ten. Hernangomez's minutes have been closely monitored, but it's time to take the cuffs off. Regardless of whether the Knicks want to make an immediate run or build for the future, he can have an impact either way.
But alas, Noah's biggest threat to a starting role and respective minutes has been his own shortcomings. His body has failed to hold up as he deals with one pesky injury after another. The veteran center has played more than 20 minutes just once in his last eight appearances. As Hernangomez's steady climb continues, Noah's limited role may be better suited for him to be productive off the bench.
Is an offensive potent Courtney Lee here to stay?
Along with Hernangomez, Lee has quietly been a rare bright spot for this struggling squad. The guard has averaged 14 points over his last eight games and is shooting a career-high 42% from downtown on the year. His increased confidence level has been a welcomed bonus, as Lee's offensive swagger has been really encouraging. This type of prowess is exactly what the Knicks need at that position.
Can Lee continue playing at this high level? He's shown maturity during this uncertain time for the Knicks. The guard's contract is a reasonable one. New York can hold onto him and plant future seeds, but his strong play should be enticing for contenders that he could fit more appropriately on.