Jake Brown | Twitter |
The 2017-2018 Knicks did not enter the season with many expectations. The thought was that this would likely be a rebuilding year as they try and start fresh with Kristaps Porzingis as the franchise player. After a 17-14 start and wins over some good teams, that thought became "well this definitely looks like a playoff team."
Then, the season got away from them at almost the exact same point of the season it did last year. Since that point, the team is an abysmal 6-22 and 7.5 games behind the eighth seed. From three games over .500 to 13 games under .500 in a knick of time. On top of that, their franchise player tore his ACL during that stretch.
At 23-36, with 23 games remaining and the playoffs nowhere near sight, why should we even be watching the Knicks the rest of the season? Well, here are five reasons why you should stay tuned...
1. Development of Frank Ntilikina
First off, will Ntilikina get the chance to start? Jeff Hornacek has refused to start the rookie point guard this season. Now that their playoff hopes are toast, Ntilikina should really get the chance to play 30-plus minutes every night and start. Why not start him at this point? He needs to go up every night against the best players, and having him come off the bench does him no good at this point. He needs confidence in his jump shot more. He almost never looks at the basket, and starting might instill some more confidence.
2. Emmanuel Mudiay's growth
I'd like to see Mudiay play alongside Ntilikina a lot in the backcourt. Mudiay has been inconsistent throughout his career, but he can make plays. I think he's more fit right now to play the two guard while Ntilikina plays the point. Mudiay is undoubtedly a better shooter than Ntilikina and both should see a ton of minutes in these final 23 games together. This is the Knicks backcourt next season, and the fans should get a preview of the 19-year-old Ntilikina and the 21-year-old Mudiay. This could be their future, so why not see them 30-35 minutes every night?
3. Can Trey Burke be a factor?
The minutes have come and will continue coming for Ntilikina and Mudiay. Now the question is can Hornacek fit Burke in for some more minutes. Burke has showed promising signs, but he's not getting much playing time. The Knicks need to see what they have in Burke and whether he will be a part of the team next season. The guy was dynamic at Michigan, a lottery pick, and showed signs with the Jazz of being a capable scorer. The Knicks need to see if he can consistently put up points, because they need it.
4. Can the Knicks rely on Tim Hardaway Jr.?
Tim Hardaway, Jr. has been unbelievably bad since January 31. He's missed a ton of shots and it's alarming at the rate he was missing. 1 for 10, 1 for 14, 4 for 13, 4 for 14, 4 for 16...and that's not even getting into how abysmal he's been from downtown. The Knicks gave him a big contract that many doubted. He was great and then got hurt and has not been the same since. They are stuck with him, but it's important to see down the stretch here if he can be a consistent scorer, and not a streaky one. His role has now become pivotal next season with Porzingis out for half the year.
5. Lottery status
The Knicks have their first round pick this year and their position in the lottery is now a huge factor. As of now, they have the ninth-worst record in the NBA. The teams below them are struggling to put wins together, so it could be tough to get much higher. If they do, though, with the rate the Knicks are losing, they might be able to sneak into the top five. Six of those teams have 18 wins, so it's not crazy to think the Knicks end up in the top five. A mix of seeing the youth grow combined with ending up with losses is not a problem now. The tank is here.