Over the last four games, the Knicks have averaged an impressive 112.3 points per game. Unfortunately, the problem is that they've lost all four contests.
Friday night's poor showing against the Nuggets was the latest proof that this team lacks energy and motivation on the defensive end. Denver ran circles around the Knicks, doing whatever they wanted as they pushed the pace. New York failed to contest shots or, at the very least, make things difficult.
It has been especially true on the defensive end as of late, but even generally speaking, the Knicks have not played with much effort, intensity, hustle or any other fiery emotion of the like. The starters aren't getting the job done. Not only do they play the bulk of minutes, but the first unit is also responsible for not setting the necessary tone to put New York in a winning position. Thus, it's time for a change.
Now losers of nine of their last 12, the Knicks, as currently constructed, aren't built to win as expected. A clear-cut change in direction won't happen until Phil Jackson deals Carmelo Anthony. Other trades could follow. Derrick Rose's contract will expire.
In the meantime, New York can still look toward the future. NBA first-year players like Ron Baker, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez have all displayed a certain eagerness and relative fight when they take the court. Each one has potential worth exploring, especially when considering they can play a role in whatever comes next. They can be part of the future.
Through a tenure of negativity, Kyle O'Quinn has emerged as one of Jackson's most underrated acquisitions. He shoots the mid-range jumper well and provides a physical presence the Knicks' fan base continues to crave from this team's frontline (a reminder of such an attitude came this past week with the drama surrounding Charles Oakley). After coming into his own as a basketball journeyman, Justin Holiday is filling an always-key role as a reliable 3-and-D guy. They, too, deserve more playing time.
Of course, Kristaps Porzingis figures to be the centerpiece of New York's future plan. Anthony will demand minutes as a superstar talent. If the team embraces a future movement with a look towards the draft, they can still cap the star forward's minutes around 30 per game and turn to the youngsters. Slowly but surely Jeff Hornacek should decrease the playing time of guys like Rose, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings. Joakim Noah's minutes are already an underwhelming nunber. That's the way it should be.
The Knicks have failed to meet expectations. However, they can't waste any more time. This team has pieces that need to be developed and nurtured if they figure to play key future roles. What's more, as New York looks to improve, snagging impressive talent through the draft could be a big step towards that. It's time to begin putting themselves in position to do all of this and more.