Schmeelk: Grading The Knicks’ Roster Heading Into Offseason

Porzingis, Hernangomez, Lee Were Bright Spots; Noah And Jackson Get Failing Marks

By John Schmeelk
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With the Knicks season coming to a close Wednesday night, it’s time to take a look at the roster and where the Knicks are headed.

The past two days, I already took a deep dive look at Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez, as well as Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose. My notes on them here will be short.

Carmelo Anthony: He is becoming more of a jump shooter (hence the 43 percent on field goals), he lives in the mid-range, and his defense continues to deteriorate. If the pieces come together for a trade he will never be in a Knicks uniform again after Wednesday’s game (if he even dresses). Grade: C+

MORE: Asked About Carmelo Anthony Returning To Knicks, Jeff Hornacek Gives Tepid Response

Derrick Rose: He regained much of his athleticism and was a fairly efficient two-point scorers on drives and mid-range jumpers. He does not make his teammates better, can’t shoot the 3 and plays zero defense. Knicks should not re-sign him under any circumstances. Grade: C-

Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose

The Knicks’ Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony (7) (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Kristaps Porzingis: Was playing great until an Achilles injury slowed him down. He still improved his scoring and efficiency, but needs to improve his strength, post play and rebounding. He fouls too much and was susceptible to nagging injuries. Grade: B

Willy Hernangomez: After not playing much in the first half of the season, he exceeded expectations. He showed good feet, hands and post moves. He’s willing to get physical and rebounds well, but has to improve defensively and add range to his jumper. Grade: B+

Joakim Noah: Phil Jackson’s big free agent signing was an unmitigated disaster. His legs were never there, and he showed a lack of agility on defense, which limited his effectiveness on that end. He added nothing spare some good passes on offense. Injuries, including end-of-the-season knee surgery, limited him to 46 games. It was also reported by Adrian Wojnarowski that he will need rotator cuff surgery (again), which might hold him out into the start of next season. To put the icing on the cake, he was also suspended for taking a banned substance, a ban that will continue into next season. He might be the worst contract in the NBA. Grade: F

Courtney Lee: Lee was Jackson’s other free agent add in the offseason. He played in 77 games and was as advertised. He was diligent on defense, shot 45/40/88 and played in 77 games. He stretched the floor, was unselfish and played good enough defense on the wing. The only knock is that he could have been a little more aggressive offensively. Grade: B

Courtney Lee

Courtney Lee of the New York Knicks drives the ball past Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 13, 2016, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Kyle O’Quinn: He played his best season as a pro, even as he was a little inconsistent game to game. Despite his ruggedness on defense, he missed too many assignments. He rebounded well, blocked some shots and showed off a fairly consistent mid-range jump shot. He’s a good third big man off the bench. Grade: C+

Justin Holiday:
Holiday doesn’t get enough attention for the job he did off the bench this year. He always hustled, moved without the ball and defended well. He’s also the only Knick to play in every game. His shooting needs to get a little better with him finishing at 43/35/82. If he can bump those first two by 2 to 3 percentage points, he could be a replacement for Lee if the Knicks decide to move him in a trade this summer. Holiday is a free agent, and the Knicks should try to bring him back. Grade: B-

MORE: Keidel: Dolan Continues To Fail Knicks Fans

Lance Thomas: When he was healthy, Thomas was a difference maker. He plays excellent defense and hits the open 3. Every team needs a Lance Thomas coming off the bench. Unfortunately, due to a variety of lower-body ailments, he only played in 46 games. If he can get healthy, he should be a valuable 25-minute-per-game contributor next year. Grade: C+ (for lack of health)

Mindaugas Kuzminskas: The man they call “Cheese” showed he can play in the NBA. He shot the 3 well and showed the ability to get to the basket with the ball in his hands. He also likes to move and cut off the ball. He needs to get better defensively. He can do a little of everything but nothing exceptionally. Grade: C

Ron Baker: Baker didn’t embarrass himself at all when he was called on to play a bigger role in the season’s final months. He plays hard, defends, is a willing passer and knows where to be on the floor. He needs to improve his jump shot. He needs to find a niche because right now he doesn’t seem like either a point guard or shooting guard. Grade: C-

Chasson Randle: He hasn’t been given a ton of opportunities to show what he can do. We know he can shoot, and he looked committed defensively. We need to see more. Grade: Incomplete.

Maurice Ndour: Like Randle, he has not had the chance to show what he can do. Has the length to be a pesky defender, but what else? We don’t know yet. Grade: Incomplete

Marshall Plumlee: Like the above two, he hasn’t played much. But when he has gotten the chance, there doesn’t seem to be much to indicate he is anything more than a big body that fouls a lot. Grade: Incomplete.

Sasha Vujacic: His shooting in the season’s final weeks might cost the team pingpong balls. He’s a vet that’s always ready to play, but doesn’t add a ton. Grade: D+

Jeff Hornacek: I want to write something positive here because I like Hornacek, and I think he knows what good basketball is supposed to look like. He did not deliver on that. He admitted the team was often confused on offense when he was unable to combine his early offense and his boss’s triangle. The defense was, as usual, terrible, with players complaining the schemes were too complicated to execute. The record is the record, even though he was put in a bad position by his boss. Grade: C-

Knicks

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek draws up a play in a timeout huddle on Oct. 29, 2016, at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Phil Jackson: Jackson’s two big moves last summer — adding Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose — completely backfired. He designed the roster to win now, but instead it crashed and burned. He alienated Anthony, couldn’t close a deal for Ricky Rubio and is still triangle obsessed despite the fact the team’s defense is its biggest issue. He has a draft pick and a potential trade of Anthony to make things right. Grade: F

TANKATHON UPDATE

The Knicks caught some good luck Tuesday night when the Kings beat the Suns. Now, the worst the Knicks can finish is tied for sixth in the lottery odds. The Knicks host the 76ers on Wednesday night while the Timberwolves travel to Houston in the second game of a back-to-back. If the Knicks win (likely) and Minnesota loses, they will  be tied for the sixth spot in the lottery, and both will have an average of the odds between the sixth and seventh spots. If the Knicks finish tied versus being alone in sixth, it’s only a difference of 3 percentage points to get into the top three. In other words, it’s not a big deal. If neither moves up in the lottery, a coin toss next week will determine which team picks sixth and which team picks seventh.

For everything Knicks, Giants, and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk

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