Five Knicks questions heading into the offseason
1. Who will coach the Knicks?
Jeff Hornacek was on the bench for the final time as Knicks coach Wednesday. He was fired after the team returned home from their season-ending victory over the Cavaliers. Since GM Scott Perry didn’t hire Hornacek, it makes sense for him to pick the guy he sees leading the Knicks’ rebuilding efforts going forward. They need someone who not only stresses defense but demands it from the players. The Knicks haven’t truly had that since Jeff Van Gundy, who should be a candidate. Others include Mark Jackson, Doc Rivers, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, Monty Williams, Mike Brown, Stephen Silas.
2. When will Kristaps Porzingis return?
No timetable has been given for Porzingis, who tore the ACL in his left knee on Feb. 6. Players generally return in 10-14 months. Porzingis probably will want to return as soon as possible, but there’s no reason for him to rush or for the Knicks to want him to hurry back. They can sign Porzingis to a five-year extension for roughly $150 million this offseason. The Knicks likely will wait until next year to make sure he’s healthy, strong and back to what he was before the injury. Porzingis’ uncertain status has next season shaping up to be another developmental year, which means another high lottery pick to help the rebuild. Why rush back?
3. What will the Knicks do in the draft?
This will be a big moment for Perry, who was a part of some poor draft-day choices and deals with the Pistons, Magic and Kings. Perry has to get this draft right to move the Knicks forward. The expectation is if they pick eight-to-10 that they will take a small forward — a major need — and Villanova’s Mikal Bridges is a possibility. But Perry has to think best player available since the Knicks have holes throughout their roster. If that means a point guard, such as Oklahoma’s Trae Young or Alabama’s Collin Sexton, so be it. The Knicks need talent and assets.
4. Will the Knicks be buyers this offseason?
It’s unlikely. The Knicks’ plan is to have the salary-cap room and flexibility to spend in the summer of 2019 when Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love and Kemba Walker are free agents. That could change if the Knicks are able to pull off a trade for an All-Star or player on the rise who they believe can be a cornerstone. But their only real assets are Porzingis and their first-round pick. It’s more likely the Knicks, who should have the $8.6-million mid level exception and $3.4-million bi-annual exception to use, will sign players to one-year contracts or two-year deals with a second-year team option.
5. Can the Knicks improve in the short term?
That will depend on Knicks VP of development Craig Robinson’s “innovative” and “transformative” plan to develop players. The list of guys Robinson will be working with this offseason is long and includes: Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, Damyeon Dotson, Troy Williams, Ron Baker, Luke Kornet, Isaiah Hicks, the Knicks’ lottery pick, their early second-round pick via Chicago and any young free agents they sign. This is a huge offseason from that standpoint because the Knicks likely will have to show some signs of improvement with a good young core to be able to attract top-level free agents. They’ve struck out on stars in free agency over the years.