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Best Case, Worst Case: New York Knicks

With Carmelo Anthony gone, can the Knicks rebuild around Kristaps Porzingis without screwing things up (again)?

Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina Getty Images/Ringer illustration

NBA back! To prepare for a new season, we’re breaking down one team per day, each day, until tipoff on October 17.

Team: New York Knicks

Coach: Jeff Hornacek (second year)

Last Season: 31-51 (12th in Eastern Conference)

Notable Additions: Frank Ntilikina (draft); Tim Hardaway Jr. (traditional Knicks free-agent overpay); Ramon Sessions (traditional Knicks washed free agent); Michael Beasley (free-agent prophet from the year 3018); Enes Kanter (trade via OKC); Douglas “McBuckets” McDermott (trade via OKC)

Notable Subtractions: Carmelo Anthony (trade)

Vegas Over/Under: 30.5

Best-Case Scenario: Knicks tank for Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis takes a leap and becomes the Unicorn that Mounts the City, and the team properly develops Frank “Frankie Nicotine” Ntilikina and Willy “Handsome Willy” Hernangomez.

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With the additions of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter, the Knicks now have two of the most disastrous defenders in the league at their respective positions at a combined [my eyes cry rivers of blood which pool into crimson lakes which swell into vast goopy oceans teeming with strange vampire fish that crawl out of the seas onto the black scab beaches of the vast scab supercontinent Scabdwanna and begin devouring my face] $34 million a year. Add that hefty number to the nearly $18 million a year the Knicks pay to the wicker basket containing Joakim Noah’s bones and mrfffngggggg [is devoured by vampire fish].

Anyway. The Knicks have the makings of an interesting offensive squad. Kristaps and Kanter (wow, I can’t believe I’m saying this) have, on paper, complementary games. KP can handle the rim protection and space the floor. Kanter can camp out around the basket where his guile and eye for the ball can bolster the Latvian’s anemic rebounding.

There’s enough competent 3-point shooting on the roster to give the team a modern look. And Hardaway Jr. loves to get out on the break. Sprinkle in Jeff Hornacek’s affinity for up-tempo play, and we have the nascent glimmers of a fun run-and-gun team of (mostly) youngsters.

[Note: The following sentence is copy-pasted from the past 15 years of Knicks articles.] Point guard is an issue for this team. French national Frankie Ntilikina—a.k.a., Frankie Nicotine, a.k.a., Frankie Smokes—was the eighth pick in last summer’s draft and is a rangy 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan. Nicotine projects as the kind of modern shot caller who can flourish in today’s switch-heavy NBA. But he’s 19 years old and we shouldn’t expect him to be ready to take the reins any time soon.

Ramon Sessions, 31 years old and washed, is coming off a season in which he averaged 6.2 points (49.5 true shooting percentage) and 2.6 assists in a robust and not-at-all-concerningly low 16 minutes per game. He’s projected to be New York’s starting point guard. Then there’s Ron Baker, who the Knicks signed to a two-year, $9 million deal, because why not? I mean, the guy did write a children’s book. And there’s Jarrett Jack, 33 years old, whose greatest talent (similar to Jeff Green) is an elite-level ability to score 20 points just when people are starting to notice how much he sucks.

Defensively, this team looks to be a Titanic surrounded by icebergs. Which is fine because this might be New York’s last chance to tank before the league governors can institute a proposed draft reform initiative that would flatten the lottery odds of the four worst teams. [Update: The NBA Board of Governors passed draft reform Thursday.]

Fun Fact: Joakim Noah’s bones are suspended 20 games for violating the league’s anti-drug policy!

Fun Fact, Pt. 2:

Fun Fact, Pt. 3: THIS IS ALL PART OF THE NEW YORK’S BEST-CASE SCENARIO!

Give Porzingis the keys, give the young guys lots of leash to figure it out, and don’t try that hard to win games. #TANK4DONCIC.

Worst-Case Scenario: The Knicks (once again) don’t tank correctly, they don’t properly develop Ntilikina, James Dolan butts his fedora-clad head into the decision-making process, Beasley is allowed to hang out with the young players, and Kristaps gets injured.

For the Knicks, the worst-case scenario is always a question of imagination. How much bad stuff can you imagine? A team legend getting dragged bodily from his seat and arrested during a nationally televised game? Phil Jackson using racially coded language to refer to LeBron James and his close friends then ripping the Knicks’ own stars in the press? A misguided late-season winning streak that drops the team’s lottery position in a top-heavy draft? More Kurt Rambis? That all happened last season, before the prospect of Beasley ruining Porzingis had dawned on me. Dear God. It’s all on the table. With the Knicks, the incompetence is structural and woven into the fabric of the team.

TL;DR: Kristaps, Frankie Smokes, Willy, and tank for Doncic!

This piece was updated with additional information after publication.