Can Jeff Hornacek Save the Knicks?
Phil Jackson never ceases to surprise hungry Knicks fans. After several months of Kurt Rambis speculation, the Knicks have decided to sign Jeff Hornacek as their new head coach. Phil Jackson has a history with Jeff Hornacek, including two NBA Finals battles when Jackson was coaching the Bulls and Hornacek was playing for the Jazz. Guys like Frank Isola have other theories on how Hornacek got the gig.
There is no need to speculate if Jackson was behind this signing or not, because at the end of the day we’ll never know. What does matter is the history of Jeff Hornacek’s coaching career in Phoenix and how that will correlate with the 2016/2017 New York Knickerbockers.
In 2013, the Phoenix Suns hired Jeff Hornacek. The Suns ended up with a 48-34 record, which was a huge improvement compared to their 2012 team, which finished 25-57. A lot of people would credit this improvement to the acquisition of Eric Bledsoe, a point guard with Westbrook-like athleticism. However, Bledsoe was injured for almost half of the season, only playing 43 games.
The success of Hornacek’s Suns team had less to do with star power, and more to do with coaching. The style that the Suns established in 2013-2014 was simple: run every team out of the gym with Jeff Hornacek’s quick tempo and deep 10-man rotations.
To put Jeff Hornacek’s high tempo philosophies in perspective, the 2013-2014 Phoenix Suns led the league with 18.7 fast break points per game. The Fisher/Rambis Knicks averaged 8.4 fast break points per game, which was dead last in the league.
Can Hornacek cater to Jackson’s beloved triangle?
It is important to note that Hornacek had young players who bought into a system, a very different situation from the Knicks. Phil Jackson can still get his triangle on, because it is not a dated system. In fact, the Warriors and the Spurs run variations of the triangle within their half court offenses. The fundamental difference between the Knicks and the Warriors/Spurs is that the Warriors/Spurs try to get an easy bucket before they run their respective offense.
What to expect from the Knicks
Free agency will dictate what roster Jeff Hornacek will be working with. Expect Phil Jackson and Steve Mills to go for athletic wings, and go all in on Mike Conley or Rajon Rondo. A good point guard is a must for any NBA team, let alone one coached by Hornacek.
Even if the Knicks don’t trade Jose Calderon and resign Sasha Vujacic, you can expect their minutes to diminish tremendously. Knowledge of the triangle will not be enough to play significant minutes.
Hornacek is going to give guys like Jerian Grant and Langston Galloway a lot more minutes due to their ability to run the floor. You can also expect more small ball lineups, with Carmelo Anthony at the 4 and Kristaps Porzingis at the 5.
There is no reason why the Knicks offense should not improve considerably. However, it remains to be seen if the Knicks will be a proper defensive squad. The Knicks have a history of allowing point guards to penetrate without much resistance, and without the right players and defensive schemes, we might see another frustrating season in that respect.
Regardless of his recent firing, Jeff Hornacek is the best possible signing for the Knicks. He is one of the best coaches when it comes to getting the most out of his role players, which will make life for Porzingis and Melo much easier.