1. The big story with the Knicks so far this season has been the strong play of rookie Kristaps Porzingis, with many observers thinking he looks to be a future superstar and cornerstone player. What have you seen out of Porzingis to make you optimistic for his and the team's future? Are there any holes in his game that worry you long term?
Yeah, I'm frightened to say this, but I agree that he looks like a future cornerstone. His offensive game isn't totally on point yet -- his shot is pretty but unreliable, his drives are dicey -- but you can already see the rudiments of really deadly moves for a man of his size, and he's already had effective offensive games. What *really* makes me optimistic about his future, though, is his defense. He's already the Knicks' most important defender. His footwork and timing as a one-on-one and help defender are both very good already. With some refinement and added strength he could be one of the very best defenders in the NBA. His game is obviously full of holes at this moment, but I see nothing he can't improve upon, and I believe he's the type of guy determined to improve in every way possible. I've never been this excited about a young Knick.
2. Last season the Knicks were toward the very bottom of the league in both offensive rating and defensive rating (29th and 28th). This season they've moved towards middle of the pack, especially defensively (16th). The Knicks heavily re-shuffled their roster, trading or not re-signing their three leaders in minutes played last season (Shane Larkin, Jason Smith, Tim Hardaway), and bringing in vets like Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo. Have the personnel changes been the main cause of the improvement, or has it been scheme changes, or something else?
I think it's mostly personnel. Their backcourt defense is still miserable, but they've got big men in Lopez and Porzingis who can clean up some of that. Carmelo Anthony's healthy and defending quite well, too. And yeah, they haven't improved much on offense, but anything there looks to me like the product of a healthy Melo and more guys who can create and hit open shots. They're still pretty bad at that end.
3. Even if Porzingis is the future, Carmelo Anthony is still the face of the Knicks' present. How has Melo looked so far this season? Is he a long term fit with the team, or do you envision an eventual trade to jump start the team building around Kristaps?
He's looked pretty good. He has some very cold games offensively, and some games in which his knee doesn't appear to have much lift, but he's defended consistently well, and he's looking much more often to create for his teammates. Still plenty of isolated attacks, and still some frustrating moments, but they're nicely mixed in with fine, team-oriented play. I think he fits fine long term, and I don't think the Knicks could trade him anyway because he has a no-trade clause and has not expressed any intention of leaving. (Yet?)
4. The Knicks picked up Derrick Williams and Kyle O'Quinn (who incidentally was a DBB favorite when coming out of college) for peanuts and both have given solid contributions. How have they looked so far, do you think either or both of them could be a good long term fit for the team?
Yeah, both have had some very productive games. Also some very bad games! They're both unpredictable. Williams has offered a few games in which he singlehandedly lifts the bench by driving and drawing contact in transition. He's unbelievably athletic. He also has games in which those lanes are closed and he doesn't help much.
O'Quinn has games in which he passes wonderfully out of the post, protects the rim, and cleans up offensive caroms. He also has games in which all his risky passes become turnovers and his impressively limited vertical leap prevents him from finishing around the basket or defending anyone without fouling.
So yeah, both mixed bags. I think they could both be long-term fits, but only O'Quinn has a contract that's guaranteed beyond this season.
5. The Knicks have been an unusually up and down team this season, with two 4 game winning streaks, and three 4 game losing streaks already. Has there been a particular reason for the streaky'ness?
I just think it's a product of them being a kinda mediocre team right now and their games against good/bad teams being clumped together throughout the first two months.
Big thanks again to Seth! And remember to check out Posting and Toasting!