The NBA world has not been short of topics to make fun of the New York Knicks about.
In an offseason that began with such high hopes, things once again did not go to plan.
Nabbing Zion Williamson by winning the Draft Lottery was only an appetizer for an offseason that could have brought Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to Madison Square Garden.
Naturally, as the story has been for the Knicks in the James Dolan era, they whiffed on all of them.
The Knicks got the No. 3 pick in the draft, resulting in Williamson’s Duke teammate, RJ Barrett, while Irving and Durant opted to sign across town for the Brooklyn Nets.
It turned out that the Knicks didn’t even make an offer to Durant, who will miss the 2019-20 season with a ruptured Achilles.
They also opted not to pursue another prized free agent in Kawhi Leonard, canceling a meeting that was scheduled for earlier this month.
Instead, the Knicks made a series of smaller signings, headlined by power forward Julius Randle on a three-year, $63 million deal. The 24-year-old is coming off a career year with the New Orleans Pelicans in which he averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
GM Scott Perry and president Steve Mills proceeded to add more depth to the frontcourt, adding power forward Bobby Portis, power forward Taj Gibson… and power forward Marcus Morris.
See the trend there?
The influx of power forwards prompted plenty of questions from fans and pundits alike on management’s ability to build a well-rounded roster.
And then came the jokes.
“The Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis and replaced him with four power forwards,” Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News wrote. He must have forgotten that New York also came away with promising guard Dennis Smith Jr. and a pair of first-round draft picks.
“It feels like the Knicks noticed that the Nets don’t have any power forwards and decided to sign all of them as payback for Brooklyn taking KD and Kyrie to the other side of the East River,” wrote Michael Lee of the Athletic.
“The Knicks would have $59.9 million devoted to the power forward position,” Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway wrote. “Their four highest-paid players will be power forwards. LONG LIVE KNICKS INCOMPETENCE.”
Given their track record, the Knicks would normally be deserving of such ridicule.
The problem is, no one has bothered to do their research on any of these signings.
Portis, on a one-year, $15 million deal, played 77-percent of his minutes last season with the Washington Wizards as a center (591 of 768 minutes), per NBC’s Tommy Beer. Averaging 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds, it’s a solid supporting talent to pair with the developing young 5 in Mitchell Robinson.
Marcus Morris, also on a one-year, $15 million deal, was the Detroit Pistons’ starting small forward from 2015-2017 before taking on a reserve role as a power forward with the Boston Celtics. For a player that averaged at least 13 points per game in each of the last four seasons, Morris is a competent veteran to work alongside 19-year-old Kevin Knox and, if needed, the rookie winger Barrett if he struggles at the 2.
While Randle is slated to be the Knicks’ starting power forward, he also split his time evenly between the 4 and 5 with the Pelicans.
Gibson meanwhile, on a two-year, $20 million deal, is expected to return to a reserve role after experiencing heavy starting time with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Suddenly, the Knicks have solid veteran support amidst a starting five that will be laden with youngsters and growing pains. Should head coach David Fizdale decide to roll out a lineup of Smith, Barrett, Knox, Randle, and Robinson, the entire starting group will all be under the age of 25.
Suddenly those “power forward” signings might not seem so ridiculous for an organization that’s been forced to rebuild through its youth and the draft.