As the end of the NBA regular season nears, depression begins to mount for several fan bases whose teams didn’t make the cut despite boasting ample promise. There even exist teams in the playoffs that will leave their fans disappointed, if they haven’t done so already.
So, which NBA teams were the most disappointing this season? I’ll break them down throughout the offseason, starting with …
NEW YORK KNICKS
The Knicks — or, more specifically, Phil Jackson — were busy last offseason. The Zen Master traded Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant to Chicago and picked up Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday and a 2017 second round pick.
At the time, the move seemed decent enough. New York featured promising star Kristaps Porzingis and superstar Carmelo Anthony, so throwing in a veteran like Rose seemed like the logical next step to get the franchise at least moving in the right direction.
The team also signed Jeff Hornacek as the head coach, and signed Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee to four-year contracts and Brandon Jennings and Marshall Plumlee to one-year contracts.
I remember thinking the Knicks might have finally turned a corner. Sure, Rose, Melo and Noah are older-ish, but they boasted enough skill to stay competitive in the always underwhelming Eastern Conference, right?
Unfortunately, the Knicks roster, marred by injuries and egos, never fully gelled. Hornacek and Jackson bickered over the triangle offense, and Rose straight-up vanished from the team for several hours.
Noah, as per custom, underwent knee surgery midway through the season, then was suspended for 20 games for using a banned substance. And Rose eventually aggravated his left knee and subsequently saw another season cut short.
The Knicks quickly fell out of the playoff picture and currently sit at No. 12 in the Eastern Conference with a 30-48 record.
On the plus side, Melo is averaging 22.5 points per game, Porzingis is looking like a sure-fire superstar and Hornacek figures to stick around at least one more season. The team has a top 10 pick in this year’s draft, with many pundits expecting them to take NC State point guard Dennis Smith; and some tradeable assets to squander this offseason.
To Jackson’s credit, Rose was only signed to a one-year deal worth $21 million. The heftiest contract remains Melo, who will earn over $26 million in each of the next two seasons; and Noah, who commands $17 million-plus per season through 2020.
WHERE DO THEY GO FROM HERE?
If it were me, I’d make trading away Carmelo Anthony my number one priority this offseason. Look, I like the guy. He’s a great player, but he’s not the sort of talent you build a team around. (I think he’d be a great fit in Dallas, but that’s just me.) Melo is still valuable enough to command a couple of draft picks.
I’d let Rose walk, and try to dump Noah’s massive salary on a team dumb enough to take it — though, the odds of that happening are slim to none. Retaining Noah wouldn’t be a terrible thing. There’s a chance he bounces back next season, or at least contributes something of value … like, rebounds?
In any event, I’d build around Porzingis, who electrified the Knickerbockers with 18.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2 blocks per game this year and is comparable to Dirk Nowitzki — a talented big man who can step back and shoot the trey, or dominate on the post.
I also think the team should retain Hornacek. The guy knows how to coach — witness his first year in Phoenix — but has been too busy wrestling with egomaniacs like Markieff Morris to properly lead to a team. One more season sans Rose gives Hornacek an opportunity to flex his coaching muscles, which can only create wins. Right?
Clearly, the Knicks organization is a dumpster fire that needs to make some tough decisions. I’m pretty sure the organization won’t trade Melo, as he might be seen as the team’s only valuable draw from a marketing perspective, but how much longer can the Knicks rely on a 32-year-old who has yet to prove he can carry a franchise?
In any event, this offseason is a big one for Jackson, Hornacek and the New York Knicks.