New York Knicks 2018-19 Team Preview

  • How’d We Get Here?

    The Knicks are getting slightly less dysfunctional. David Fizdale is the new coach and people seem excited. Kristaps Porzingis might not return until the new year. Should be a fun one in New York, but at least they’re pointed in the right direction.

    Offseason Moves

    Arrivals: Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh, Kadeem Allen
    Rookie Arrivals: Kevin Knox (No. 9), Mitchell Robinson (No. 36), Allonzo Trier (UDFA)
    Departures: Kyle O’Quinn, Jarrett Jack, Michael Beasley, Troy Williams, Joakim Noah
    Retained: Enes Kanter

    Depth Chart and Minutes Per Game

    PG: Trey Burke (20-26) / Frank Ntilikina (21-27) / Emmanuel Mudiay (0, 15-23) / Ron Baker (0, 12-18)
    SG: Tim Hardaway Jr. (32.5-33.5) / Allonzo Trier (0, 9-18) / Damyean Dotson (0, 11-18) / Kadeem Allen (0, 5-10)
    SF: Mario Hezonja (27-31) / Courtney Lee (27-30)
    PF: Kristaps Porzingis (DEC/JAN+, 27-32) / Kevin Knox (26-29) / Lance Thomas (0, 15-20) / Noah Vonleh (0, 14-19) / Isaiah Hicks (0, 9-16)
    C: Enes Kanter (28.5-31) / Mitchell Robinson (0, 15-24) / Luke Kornet (0, 8-16)

    Position Battles

    Point Guard: After the unholy timeshare that opened last season, the Knicks have a new one that’s a little more forward looking. Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina will be the top three in some order. The Knicks seemed to prefer Burke and Mudiay last year but Ntilikina is the better choice for long-term success and the new coaching staff might actually understand that.

    Cult hero Ron Baker and his oversized-but-still-too-small-to-kill-the-Knicks contract will be fourth up. He shouldn’t see run outside of garbage time unless Fizdale is willing to get into every nook and cranny of this roster. Heading into camp we’ll guess that Burke starts while Mudiay and Ntilikina jockey for backup minutes but both play a fair amount.

    Shooting Guard: Tim Hardaway Jr. will stick in the starting five, and Fizdale’s comments that he’d like more size on the wing suggests that Courtney Lee will move into a backup role rather than start at small forward like last season. Damyean Dotson and rookie Allonzo Trier will also line up here but between THJ, Lee and whatever two-guard looks the Knicks use there won’t be much time left for the two youngsters.

    Small Forward: With Lee likely out of the starting five, newcomer Mario Hezonja could be the one to take his place. Lee could still play here in certain lineup configurations but beyond that there aren’t many true small forwards on the roster. Lance Thomas and rookie Kevin Knox could make it work but they’re both better suited at the four spot.

    Power Forward: Kristaps Porzingis will start when he’s ready, but until then don’t be surprised if the Knicks let Knox try to run with the job. KP can pretty easily move to center in the long-term anyway so giving Knox a chance to develop here would be a smart play.

    Lance Thomas got some Fizdale hype and will see time here as well with Noah Vonleh and Isaiah Hicks also available to fill in, though their playing time might vanish after Porzingis returns. Hezonja could also slot into reserve stretch four minutes after he held up alright in that role with Orlando last season.

    Center: Enes Kanter returns and should be good for his mid-twenties minutes, though he might be pushed further until Porzingis returns. Rookie Mitchell Robinson will also have a big chance to shine in the early months as well and figures to be in the rotation all year, especially if the Knicks don’t ever get close in the playoff chase. Luke Kornet and his fun skillset are stuck in third on the depth chart.


    As the Knicks continue to chip away, they can rest somewhat easy knowing that they have a top-level young star in a conference that just got blown wide open. This year will give them a chance to earn another lottery selection and build around him in the years to come, which is probably a good thing considering the alternative is fighting really hard for the right to lose in the first round.

    Trey Burke

    Total Value: 275/273 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 162/147 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 36

    2017-18 Review: Burke came out of nowhere and turned his strong G-League play into the finest stretch of his NBA career. He was promoted to the starting lineup for the final nine games of the year and responded with 18.7 points, 7.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.4 triples and 1.9 turnovers on 48.3 percent shooting over that stretch. Burke scored in double digits in 16 of his last 20, including a 42-point explosion against the Wizards. In another long year, Burke’s resurgence was a definite bright spot.

    This Year: While he’s earned the right to start with that late-season run, there’s no guarantee he holds the job all year. The fact that a career-.404 shooter came in and went .503 in a small sample is an obvious red flag, but if he keeps something like 20 mpg despite the regression he might have enough points, assists and threes in his system to stay worthwhile for fantasy.

    Injury History: Burke has appeared on the injury report with back and neck problems but they were relatively minor and came all the way back in 2015.

    Outlook: Burke certainly won’t be as good as he was last year, and he was only a borderline standard league guy despite the top-50 close to the season. We’d expect him to level out a bit more in consistent playing time, working as a fringe 12-team option for anyone looking for points, threes and dimes. Just know that his percentages should go back to being harmful.

    Emmanuel Mudiay

    Total Value: 265/296 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 292/351 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 64

    2017-18 Review: The Nuggets finally gave up on Mudiay, but the Knicks were willing to give him a shot on the off chance the 21-year-old was starting to put it together. Upon joining New York he shot .368 from the field on 9.3 attempts per game and was somehow a .196 shooter from behind the arc. The clock is ticking loudly on his NBA chances.

    This Year: We’ll see if the Knicks can salvage something out of a former highly-touted prospect. If he can leverage his physical tools into something other than missed jumpers and turnovers then they could find themselves a cheap rotation guard but Mudiay always seems to be going one step forward, two steps back. Sheltered roles haven’t really helped him in the past but maybe Fizdale can get through and harness his talents.

    Injury History: Mudiay has dealt with right ankle injuries in the past, even back in his year in China. He’s a moderate injury risk but the Knicks will have plenty of players to help cover if they’re worried about him pushing the envelope.

    Outlook: You’d have to be in at least a 20-teamer to be comfortable using Mudiay in fantasy. Point guards who can’t shoot aren’t the rarest breed but few are as brazen about getting shots up as Mudiay is. Between that and unspectacular assist numbers there’s very little to see here.

    Frank Ntilikina

    Total Value: 178/271 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 225/349 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 78

    2017-18 Review: Ntilikina was drafted as the team’s solution at point guard for years to come, so of course they were thinking of switching him to shooting guard by the end of the year. There was a lot to like in his defensive play but there’s a long ways to go on offense, as expected. In the end he averaged 5.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks and 0.6 triples in 21.9 mpg.

    This Year: It’s already been said that Ntilikina will stay a point guard going forward, and if the team stopped yanking him around it’d be better for everyone. He’ll need to share the court with Trey Burke and Emmanuel Mudiay but his development should be one of the more important storylines of the season. He probably won’t take those steps as quickly as you’d hope thanks to the circumstances, but the Knicks have no reason not to push him if their other guards falter.

    Injury History: Ntilikina missed Summer League in his rookie season because of a right knee injury and missed parts of this past Summer League with a groin injury. In the regular season he missed one game with an illness, one with a left ankle sprain and two more with an unspecified ankle injury. We’re not assigning him much risk this year.

    Outlook: That seven-foot wingspan needs to start translating to steals and blocks for Ntilikina to make waves in fantasy. Getting that off-ball experience wasn’t a bad thing but it probably wasn’t great for his head, so perhaps he’ll return a more confident player with the coaching staff already calling on him to play more aggressively. He’s still a long-term project that owners won’t need to worry about until the 16-18-team range.

    Tim Hardaway Jr.

    Total Value: 158/155 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 85/86 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 57

    2017-18 Review: The optics of Hardaway’s contract with the Knicks were way worse than the deal itself and THJ proved it by posting a career season with 17.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.1 3-pointers a night on 42.1 percent from the field. Most of his shooting woes are tied back to a terrible first few weeks and a rough patch in February. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Knicks ended up going 1-9 in the month as part of a 1-17 stretch. Despite a few lulls THJ was a fine pick in the later-middle rounds, as we projected.

    This Year: Consistency is going to be key here and Hardaway has some room for improvement as a playmaker but he’s far from the problem in New York. He’s going to be the main perimeter scorer and should see even extra usage early with KP out of commission.

    Injury History: Hardaway missed 20 games with a stress reaction in his left tibia and missed the final three games of the year with an ankle injury that was basically a cover for rest and tanking. While there’s a lengthy list of prior injuries, including problems with his right wrist, hamstring, groin, right knee and left foot, none of them have been overly serious. The stress reaction is the most concerning thing here but considering he was able to play big minutes upon returning we’re only assigning him low-moderate risk.

    Outlook: Hardaway would be getting more love from the fantasy community had he stayed on the court longer. There’s easy top-75 potential here if his shooting improves and he’ll have lots of volume headed his way. Don’t be afraid to get out in front of the consensus by a round.

    Courtney Lee

    Total Value: 87/75 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 114/98 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 76

    2017-18 Review: Lee had another quality campaign, starting at small forward for most of the year and just quietly chipping in enough to help fantasy owners without much publicity. In 30.4 mpg he averaged 12.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.5 3-pointers while going .454 from the field and .919 from the line.

    This Year: While it sounds like Lee will be demoted from the starting five, he’s still going to see minutes in the mid-high twenties on a team that’s lacking options on the wings. For all of the high-profile missteps the Knicks made, Lee’s contract was a definite win for the franchise. Fewer minutes will mean less volume, but he’s not really built on that sort of output anyway. Lee has also been included in trade rumors of late, which would likely be bad for his outlook overall.

    Injury History: Lee was healthy for most of the season and only started hitting the sidelines once the Knicks went into tank mode. He was listed on the injury report with foot and ankle problems while also missing three games for personal reasons. The year prior he dealt with some minor wrist and ankle problems but hasn’t missed more than six games in a year since 2011-12.

    Outlook: A potential trade could swing things either way for Lee, but even off the bench he’ll be a solid late-round option for as long as he stays in New York. Lee’s almost always underrated and should be able to deliver value past his ADP.

    Mario Hezonja

    Total Value: 133/126 (8/9 cat)

    Per-Game Value: 163/147 (8/9 cat)

    Games Played: 75

    2017-18 Review: Super Mario arrived after years of waiting. The injuries to Gordon, Fournier, Vucevic, Isaac and Ross really opened things up across the roster and Hezonja was available to step up. He was a top-75 player over the last two months in 9-cat leagues and posted a career year with 9.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.2 3-pointers in 22.1 mpg – all career-highs.

    His .442 mark from the field was also a career-high, and Hezonja was able to show that he could capably play across three positions. There was one that seemed to suit him best but the Magic were happy to have his versatility with so many guys in and out of the infirmary.

    This Year: Hezonja signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Knicks and could be their starting small forward. Expect him to shoulder a sizable chunk of the scoring burden in the season’s first few months and his all-around skillset should play well when the Knicks get all of their personnel healthy. If he shows further improvement as a playmaker and defender he’ll be getting a lot more than $6.5 next summer.

    Injury History: He’s managed to dodge injury so far in his career, as his absences have largely been DNP-CDs.

    Outlook: While the top-75 numbers down the stretch might be out of the question given some unsustainable steals numbers, Hezonja should get enough leash in New York to provide a late-round numbers at worst. A top-90 season would probably be the best-case scenario here but Super Mario showed enough across-the-box ability to be taken in the later-middle rounds without any qualms. Just be careful that his ADP doesn’t have too much improvement baked in.

    Lance Thomas

    Total Value: 293/289 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 382/374 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 73

    2017-18 Review: Thomas made 31 starts but could only muster 4.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in them. That’s basically right in line with his numbers of the bench.

    This Year: When asked about Thomas this offseason, David Fizdale replied with ““I think he can push the ball off the break a lot like Draymond Green plays. Obviously, the thing I’m going to demand from Lance is to play defense like Draymond. And be a guy that’s pushing to be a first-team all-defender.” No pressure.

    Injury History: This was a nice bounceback year from Thomas, whose nine absences consisted of four personal absences, one illness and four actual injuries. 2016-17 was brutal as he spent time dealing with a sore right hip at the end of the year, a fractured orbital bone that cost him a month, and a sprained left ankle that cost him almost as much time. Thomas suffered a strained left MCL and a concussion the year before. He’s a moderate injury risk.

    Outlook: Thomas should get minutes because he is a versatile defender but even if he got 30 mpg sans Porzingis there’s really nothing encouraging to pull from his box scores and overall stat set. If he ends up getting tons of Draymond Green-esque run then you can take a look in 20-team leagues but there are literally dozens of better options with higher upside, even at that point.

    Kristaps Porzingis

    Total Value: 95/84 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 24/19 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 48

    2017-18 Review: Porzingis was right on schedule with second-round value before tearing his ACL. There were career-highs in points (22.7), 3-pointers (1.9) and blocks (2.4) but his field goal percentage fell to .439 on added volume – entirely because of worse 2-point shooting. He still had some issues hanging with bigger bodies on the glass and wasn’t much of a playmaker, so there’s room to grow despite his incredible talents.

    This Year: Porzingis tore his left ACL on February 6 and while he’s said to be healing quickly, a Christmas return currently sounds like the best-case scenario in terms of timeline. Even when he’s ready the Knicks will work him along slowly as they figure to be well outside the playoff picture and have zero incentive to push their franchise player.

    Injury History: It was a tough year for KP, who might not return until 2019 after tearing his left ACL. Porzingis also missed time with an unspecified knee injury, a sore left knee, a sprained right ankle, lower back tightness, a mild left ankle sprain and right elbow soreness. He was also on record as saying he might need surgery to clear up a case of right elbow bursitis but that got moved to the backburner after the ACL tear.

    In 2016-17 Porzingis landed on the injury report with a lower back issue throughout April, a right ankle injury that cost him two games in February, a left Achilles injury that cost him four games in January, and a right knee contusion that cost him three games around New Year’s Eve. As a rookie he missed seven games with a strained right shoulder and also missed games with knee, neck and foot injuries. He’s going to need to string together some healthy seasons before we move him out of high-risk territory.

    Outlook: Porzingis will be a featured player once he gets back up to speed, but that might not be until there’s two months left in the year. His upside means he’ll almost certainly be drafted and stashed in any formats with an IR spot but we wouldn’t reach on him this season. If you can get KP in the late rounds then knock yourself out, but know that he’s very much a luxury play this season.

    Enes Kanter

    Total Value: 58/54 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 55/49 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 71

    2017-18 Review: Kanter arrived in New York as part of a crowded frontcourt but quickly asserted himself as a top option, winning over the coaches with his play and the fans with his attitude. His scoring actually declined despite more playing time but he set career-highs in rebounds, assists and both field goal and free throw percentage.

    The last two improved notably with Kanter hitting 59.2 percent of his shots and 84.8 percent of his free throws after failing to hit 79.0 percent in his first six seasons. He still has the same flaws he’s always had as a player, but this season he really seemed comfortable in his role and turned in a fine campaign.

    This Year: Kanter should be looking at extra usage early in the season while Kristaps Porzingis is healing. His numbers weren’t that different after KP’s injury last season, but the Knicks were also tanking and Kanter went through a stretch where he was getting minutes in the low twenties and the teens.

    He looks to have taken the 3-pointer out of his arsenal after giving it a shot in his last year with OKC, and hopefully it stays that way with New York’s personnel changes. He’ll be a primary scorer and should push closer to 30 mpg in the first few months of the year.

    Injury History: All 11 of Kanter’s absences are credited to back soreness, tightness or spasms but he also missed the last six games of the year when the Knicks were playing for lottery odds, so take some of them with a grain of salt. Kanter missed 10 games with a broken hand after punching a chair back in 2016-17 and has handled minor ankle problems in the past but he’s not a serious injury risk, even if big men and back issues are a bad mix.

    Outlook: For all the extra touches headed his way, Kanter should be due some regression in the percentages. They did a lot of the heavy lifting in his rise up the rankings last season so temper some expectations here. A top-75 finish should still be well within reach since his efficiency won’t dip into true negative territory, but whether his ADP reflects that will do a lot of the decision-making here.

    Kevin Knox (R)

    2017-18 Review: Knox sort of slid underneath the radar after his freshman season at Kentucky didn’t exactly showcase him the way, say, Summer League did. But Knox was electric in Vegas and showed off the type of game that had execs seen it a few weeks earlier, he’d have been going in the top-5 of the draft.

    This Year: Knox, at all of 19 years old, will be thrust into the wake of Kristaps Porzingis’ rehab period, which could be a half season or more depending on how the Knicks want to play it. The Knicks can play some mediocre vets or go small, but whether it’s injury risk to those in front of him or his own ability to force his way on the court, Knox could be looking at some serious run.

    Injury History: Knox pops up on the injury report with a tweaked hamstring during some exhibition action for Team USA, but we’re not assigning him any injury risk heading into this season.

    Outlook: For Knox to have any real fantasy value this season in redraft leagues, he will have to entirely change his defensive profile. Kentucky is one of those places that can hide or change a player’s value, but there might be a bit more hype behind his name than actual fantasy value because of the stat set. He fits the mold of a last round flier pick, but you might find higher upside fantasy potential.

    Mitchell Robinson (R)

    2017-18 Review: Robinson had a strange path to the NBA, struggling with commitment to any one college and then deciding to skip playing in college to train for the NBA. A top recruit out of high school, he slid to No. 36 in the draft after skipping the combines because of an injured ankle.

    This Year: Robinson showed well enough in Summer League to at least ask the question of whether the Knicks will rely on him for more than low-end rotational minutes. Enes Kanter has shown he can play big minutes, but it hasn’t been his style lately and Kristaps Porzingis might not play much this season. If Robinson can keep the integrity of the various systems the Knicks will employ, he has some chance to get more minutes than your typical No. 36 pick.

    Injury History: Other than the sprained left ankle prior to the combine we haven’t seen anything major on the injury front. We won’t be assigning any injury risk to him this season.

    Outlook: One of the harder players to project because he has about five games of history to work with, it’s actually pretty clear that you’re getting boards, blocks and field goal percentage but the question will be whether he can go from a literal zero to 60 without being sent to the G-League for seasoning. He’d have to have a really nice preseason to be draftable in reasonably-sized standard redraft leagues. Dynasty owners have at it, though.

    Noah Vonleh

    Total Value: 298/290 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 339/324 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 54

    2017-18 Review: Vonleh was dealt to the Bulls at the deadline as a salary dump, marking the second time he’s been traded in three seasons since being taken No. 9 overall. In 16.2 mpg he averaged 4.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 0.3 steals, blocks and 3-pointers apiece.

    This Year: Vonleh signed with the Knicks to help shore up their frontcourt depth, and it’s possible he plays a bit part while Kristaps Porzingis is on the mend.

    Injury History: Vonleh had a sprained ankle two years back but got pretty nicked up this year. A sore right shoulder kept him out of the first seven games while he also suffered a dislocated finger and missed the final five games of the year with a calf strain. Still, he’s pretty low risk considering he won’t play a ton.

    Outlook: Vonleh really doesn’t have much to offer and should only be on the radar as a rebounding option in leagues with 20 teams or more. His value seems likely to decline as the season wears on and the Knicks get healthy, but they might let him play a bit more if they really rev the tank. It’s unlikely to matter much either way.

    Luke Kornet

    Total Value: 372/359 (8/9 cat)

    Per-Game Value: 260/233 (8/9 cat)

    Games Played: 20

    2017-18 Review: Kornet made his NBA debut on February 8 and immediately became a fan favorite following an 11-point, 10-rebound, three-triple and four-block performance in 22 minutes against the Raptors. If you’re seven feet tall and hit threes, you’re going to get fantasy owners in a tizzy, to say nothing of actual Knicks fans.

    This Year: While Kornet’s skillset is more fun than a barrel of monkeys, he’s not going to get a ton of playing time unless people get hurt. He played 16.3 mpg over 20 Porzingis-less games last season but rookie Mitchell Robinson has cut the line and should play ahead of him.

    Injury History: Kornet missed some Summer League games with ankle and hamstring injuries but we’re not treating him as an injury risk.

    Outlook: If you’re really on board with Kornet and think he’ll hold down a rotation job, he’s going to have a shot at cracking the top-250. If you think he’ll be more of a situational (i.e., garbage time) player then he’s only worth monitoring in 30-team formats.

    Ron Baker

    Total Value: 374/367 (8/9 cat)

    Per-Game Value: 360/350(8/9 cat)

    Games Played: 29

    2017-18 Review: Baker got a surprising two-year, $8.9 million deal from the Knicks and promptly spent most of his second season on the sidelines, only averaging 13.3 minutes even when healthy.

    This Year: While he was rehabbing, the Knicks decided to add two more point guards to the mix. While he might be better than Emmanuel Mudiay, the Knicks will be taking the time to see if either Mudiay or Trey Burke offers some long-term appeal. Baker’s work ethic and playstyle earned him praise from the last coaching staff but he’s in tough for playing time even if David Fizdale falls in love.

    Injury History: Baker’s season was ended by a dislocated right shoulder and torn labrum on January 30. He missed a good chunk of time with a sprained shoulder and also sat out part of last season’s training camp with a sprained ankle suffered in voluntary workouts. He doesn’t play enough to be a true injury risk, but he would be if he did – if that makes sense.

    Outlook: Baker may be popular among fans, teammates and coaches, but it’s tough to envision him slotting in any higher than fourth on the point guard depth chart to begin the year. Even if the Knicks do some shuffling or he works his way up the ladder, he’s probably topping out at third. Baker isn’t worth drafting in just about all formats.

    Isaiah Hicks

    Total Value: 424/436 (8/9 cat)

    Per-Game Value: 438/467 (8/9 cat)

    Games Played: 18

    2017-18 Review: Hicks got the call in February with the Knicks lacking frontcourt depth but didn’t see a ton of time despite obvious incentives for the Knicks to look at younger players and not the Michael Beasleys of the world. On March 22, Jeff Hornacek said that Hicks had earned more playing time over the final few weeks. The demoted him to the G-League the next morning and he’d average 10.8 mpg over his next seven games with the Knicks before logging 30 in the season finale.

    This Year: Hicks has a chance at spot minutes while Kristaps Porzingis is on the sidelines but he’ll need to beat out Noah Vonleh to get close to the rotation.

    Injury History: Hicks missed a little time in Summer League with a groin problem but that’s minor.

    Outlook: Even if he got big minutes Hicks only profiles as a points and rebounds guy. Fantasy owners won’t need to consider him on draft day in any format.

    Damyean Dotson

    Total Value: 369/363 (8/9 cat)

    Per-Game Value: 420/411 (8/9 cat)

    Games Played: 44

    2017-18 Review: Dotson’s 3-point shooting prowess from college didn’t carry over to the NBA, as he shot just .324 in his limited minutes. He was .385 in the G-League at least. There was a 30-point explosion in game No. 79 and a double-double in the game No. 82 but the other 44 were largely inconsequential.

    This Year: There’s going to be some chances for Dotson to carve out time on the wing this season but we’re not expecting much. He’ll be the 13th guy at best.

    Injury History: There are no injuries of note in Dotson’s records.

    Outlook: Dotson’s fantasy potential relies almost entirely on his ability to hit 3-pointers. We haven’t seen enough of that at this level to endorse him as a flier, even in the deepest of leagues.

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