The Knicks have rounded out its roster with a couple of fringe moves that brought its total number of new faces to 10.
But with all due respect to the recently signed European players like Maurice N’dour, Willy Hernangomez, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and the re-signing of Sasha Vujacic, the Knicks’ prospective starting five has been all the talk this offseason.
Two-fifths of the projected starters got a head start on building chemistry, last week, as point guard Derrick Rose and power forward Kristaps Porzingis joined newly-signed backup point guard Brandon Jennings and Vujacic in a 90-minute workout in Los Angeles.
The remainder of the starters will undoubtedly join Rose and Porzingis sometime later this summer, to build camaraderie and begin to gel. And when that finally happens, the Knicks will commence on building themselves into a legit Eastern Conference contender.
On paper, New York’s starters don’t take a backseat to anyone in the east – and that includes the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Metro takes a look at the assumed top contenders in the east and compares their projected starting fives to the Knicks’ outfit.
1. Cavs: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and Iman Shumpert.
Any starting unit that begins with James is already at the top of the discussion. And adding Finals hero Irving, the rebounding machine in Thompson, the maligned but useful Love, and the streaky Shumpert makes Cleveland’s five the best in the conference. But the Knicks aren’t anything to sneeze at, because Carmelo Anthony has historically given James fits on the offensive end, Porzingis is ascending, and, if healthy, Rose and center Joakim Noah can do damage, too. But there’s too many “ifs” for the Knicks to say their starters are better than the Cavs just yet. Edge: Cavs.
2. Boston Celtics: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Al Horford, Jae Crowder, and Amir Johnson.
The Cs are one of the better rosters in the league, top to bottom. But other than All-Star point guard Thomas and newly-inked former All-Star power forward Horford, there’s no real star power on the starting unit. Together, they mesh as well as any team in the league, let alone the conference, but it’s hard to give their starters the nod over the Knicks. Edge: Knicks.
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3. Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowery, DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, and Jonas Valanciunas.
The Raptors’ All-Star backcourt of DeRozan and Lowery may be the best in the conference, but their frontcourt isn’t overwhelming. Valanciunas is a steadying presence, but he’s not better than a healthy Noah. Anthony and Porzingis team up with the intense pivot to provide New York with arguably the conference’s best frontcourt and gives the Knicks’ starters the slight advantage. Edge: Knicks.
4. Indiana Pacers: Paul George, Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner.
George is arguably one of the top-10 players in the league. Teague is a borderline All-Star, who came over via trade from the Hawks and has customarily given Knicks point guards fits. Ellis is a streaky gunner, who can get hot at a moment’s notice. Young, the former Brooklyn Net, is a jack of all trade who does a little bit of everything well. And Turner, 20, is a budding star in the pivot who shocked many last season during his rookie campaign. And that’s not even mentioning Al Jefferson, who signed as a free agent from Charlotte and could see starter’s minutes off the bench. The Pacers’ starting five can compete with anyone in the league and will be a sneaky threat to the Cavs for conference supremacy. Edge: Pacers.
5. Chicago Bulls: Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Robin Lopez.
This unit is a question mark, as like the Knicks, chemistry will be the backbone for success. Going by just star-power, the Bulls’ Big Three of Rondo, Wade, and Butler is as good as any in the conference. Gibson will likely get the first crack at starting power forward, replacing Pau Gasol, but the Brooklyn product has never seen starter’s minutes, so the jury is still out on him. Lopez comes over from the Knicks, as a part of the Rose trade, and is taking over the spot that was once furiously manned by Noah. That’s a big downgrade for Chicago. Ultimately, it comes down to the Knicks having too much talent in the frontcourt and a relative push at point guard that helps them. Wade is the only surefire advantage Chicago has in head-to-head matchups. Edge: Knicks.
- The supervised session in California was conducted by Rose’s personal trainer Rob McClanaghan -- who is also Lee’s personal trainer and used to be Jennings’s training guru. McClanaghan has been Rose’s offseason trainer since the former Bulls point guard starred at the University of Memphis in 2007.
- Vujacic, Rose, and Jennings have agreed to periodically work together in California into August. Shooting guard Courtney Lee will reportedly join the trio in workouts sometime next month as well.