The NBA has always been a copycat league. If a formula works for one team, every other coach tries to follow suit. The evolution of small ball has taken over the league a lot faster than many anticipated. Teams that used to thrive off posting and toasting have remodeled their roster in order to keep up with the rapid tempo that the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets have established.
I have news for everyone this season: The Knicks are going to be really bad at defense. This has already shown with their loss to OKC, and their meltdown versus the Pistons. Guards like Ish Smith and Reggie Jackson were exposing guys like O’Quinn and Kanter in the pick and roll. It’s not like Kanter or O’Quinn are the greatest paint enforcers anyway, so the Knicks might as well just run and gun!
In defense of Hornacek, he doesn’t have the best roster to play consistent small-ball. The Knicks don’t have any game-changing guards. However, Hornacek needs to understand that he has the most dangerous small-ball weapon: Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis is currently playing power forward, but Hornacek has given him some time at center and he’s looked pretty comfortable. Porzingis can establish a new era in small ball if he gets enough minutes at center for multiple reasons:
The obvious reason is his ability to shoot. If you have a 7’3” player who can consistently make jump shots, he will begin to pull in defenders creating open lanes for his teammates to utilize.
You might argue that Porzingis is not strong enough to handle rim protectors like DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside, but keep in mind those bruisers would be forced to guard Porzingis on the perimeter, which would open a crazy amount of space for the Knicks’ wings.
Porzingis would thrive playing center due to his quickness and ability to handle the ball. Opposing centers would be put in tough situations if they had to consistently guard Porzingis on the perimeter, where they are not comfortable. Porzingis can put the ball on the floor, and even more athletic big men are rarely disciplined enough to guard a fundamentally sound ball handler like Porzingis
Last year the Knicks ranked 24th in fast break points. Since they are a younger team with fresh legs, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be a top team in that category. Hornacek needs to reevaluate his team’s identity and treat his team more like when he coached the Suns (They led the league in fast break points in 2013-2014).
I get it, the Knicks don’t have Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic… They have Ramon Sessions, Ron Baker and Jarrett Jack. I have news for you though, they are not going to be on the Knicks in the near future. For the sake of the future it is important for the Knicks to establish an identity now.
Once Frank Ntilikina is healthy, he should start and play alongside Porzingis. Ntilikina is only 19 years old, which means he is going to be turnover prone and will probably get destroyed by most superstar point guards… but better now than later. The dude has a 7 foot freaking wingspan.
The ideal crunch-time lineup that I want to see is:
PG) Frank Ntilikina
SG) Tim Hardaway Jr.
SF) Courtney Lee
PF) Lance Thomas/Doug McDermott (Defense/Offense)
C) Kristaps Porzingis
Let me know what your ideal crunch-time lineup would be and why.