If you believe the same as new Knicks' point guard Derrick Rose, you might think his team will be facing the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals. Alas, Rose is clearly delirious. The Knicks are actually given a wins total of 40.5 for 2016-17 across the board.
Recapping Last Season
Knicks owner James Dolan gave Phil Jackson a five-year, $60-million-contract to take over as the team president in March 2014. Why not, considering Jackson won a record 11 NBA championships as a coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers and two as a player with the Knicks. Of course, it didn't seem to matter to Dolan that Jackson had never been in a front office.
All of Jackson's winning Zen has yet to rub off on the franchise. The Knicks were 17-65 in 2014-15, the worst record in franchise history. But with that record (and the draft lottery) came the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 draft. Knicks fans booed when New York took an unknown Latvian big man named Kristaps Porzingis, but that pick looks like a genius one now and Porzingis is the future of the franchise and one of the most popular athletes in New York City. Last year, Porzingis averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds -- not to mention several highlight-reel dunks. He was easily the best rookie in the Eastern Conference and finished second in NBA Rookie of the Year voting to Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns.
New York still wasn't close to a playoff team last year at 32-50, but it was still a 15-game improvement. Other than Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony, who averaged 21.8 points, there really wasn't much talent on the roster. Coach Derek Fisher was fired during the season and replaced on an interim basis by Kurt Rambis. The New York tabloids had a field day with the Fisher firing because he was Jackson's hand-picked guy to run the triangle offense. Remember, Jackson nearly hired Steve Kerr before he had to settle on Fisher.
Jackson reportedly can opt-out of his contract after this season and there's talk he might return to the Lakers and take them over if his girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, gets control of the team as expected. Jackson clearly made some win-now moves this offseason to surround Anthony -- who led the USA to another Olympic gold medal this summer -- and Porzingis. On BetOnline's NBA odds, both 'over' and 'under' 40.5 wins are priced at -115.
First, Jackson hired former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek to take over on the bench. This was a bit of a surprise in that Hornacek has no ties to the triangle offense. Hornacek coached the Suns for 2½ seasons and was fired last February.
Jackson pulled off a stunning trade with the Bulls to land point guard Derrick Rose, once the youngest MVP in league history. But that Rose is long gone. Rose still isn't even 28 yet, but the guy just can't stay healthy. His 66 games last year were his most since his 2010-11 MVP season. Rose also averaged a career-low 16.4 points and had trouble getting to the rim because his explosiveness isn't what it used to be. Rose was never a great jump shooter and he relied on that too often in 2015-16. But, it was a fairly low-risk, high reward deal as the Knicks only gave up center Robin Lopez and guards Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon. Lopez was pretty good but the other two losses won't be felt.
Rose, who is set to become a free agent after this season, is dealing with some off-the-court issues right now. Next week, a civil case against Rose for alleged gang rape is set to begin, which could cause Rose to miss the first preseason games as well as several practices if it's not settled by then. Then came news this week that Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that Rose is the subject of an active criminal investigation for alleged sexual assault. Rose has admitted that he and two friends had intercourse with the plaintiff in August 2013 but says the sex was consensual. The plaintiff, known only as Jane Doe, says she wasn't even awake so she couldn't consent.
The Knicks also added one of Rose's good friends and former teammates, ex-Bulls center Joakim Noah in free agency. The 31-year-old used to be a terrific player himself and could do everything well but shoot. But his game and health have regressed the past couple of years. Noah lasted only 29 games in 2015-16 before season-ending surgery. He averaged 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds.
New York also added to its backcourt with free agents Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings. All those changes in addition to Anthony and Porzingis actually led Rose to say this in the summer: "They're saying us and Golden State are the super teams."
Who on earth are 'they'?
So you are looking at a starting five of Rose, Lee, Anthony, Porzingis and Noah. That group would have been fantastic 3-4 years ago perhaps (if Porzingis was who he is now). The bench is really really weak, which is worrisome considering all the Knicks starters have injury histories.
Free NBA Pick: If you told me all Knicks starters were to play 82 games, I'd go 'over' that win total. But you can pretty much count on Rose, Anthony, and Noah to miss at least 10 each. Go 'under' on the wins.