As the midpoint of the season approaches, the New York Knicks continue to hover below .500 in the ever-so-mediocre East. They are one of the worst teams in the NBA on the road (only the Hawks, Jazz and Grizzlies have less wins), with losses coming to the Bulls, Magic, Hawks, Grizzlies, and Lakers. Despite a hot start to the season, largely due to the play of Kristaps Porzingis early on, the Knicks are now in deep trouble. At this pace, they will finish the season in the worst way possible: trapped in purgatory.
As a rebuilding team, set on cultivating a roster around Porzingis, finishing the season in the middle of the pack is a nightmare. They currently sit as the 10th seed in the East—just three games back of the 8th seed—with a better record than 11 teams in the NBA, including all of the aforementioned teams. This puts them towards the end of the lottery, at best. Ideally, they would like to give their young players some sort of playoff experience, or better position themselves in the lottery. The problem is that they might do neither.
There is a growing sense of impatience within the organization, as first reported by Frank Isola of the NY Daily News. A source told the Hoops Inquirer that the Knicks may be on the verge of a shakeup, which might be led by the firing of Jeff Hornacek.
Whether Hornacek would be rightfully canned or not, there’s a growing sense he might not make it passed the All-Star break. The Knicks front office feels as if Hornacek isn’t getting the most out of its players, a source told Hoops Inq. Their desire for a fresh voice may be understandable, but it’s hard to gauge how much of the fault for their struggles belongs to Hornacek.
This is the same team that gave Ron Baker roughly $9 million, the same guy that has been listed as inactive for 17 games this year and is averaging 2.8 points per game. The list goes on and on about the issues with this roster, yet Hornacek might be the fall-guy. A source also confirmed that the Knicks brass met with Mark Jackson on Friday, for whatever reason.
The potential firing of Hornacek might initiate a chain-reaction as the trade deadline approaches. One GM told us the Knicks might be the most active team in the league around the deadline, with the NBA’s growing market for bigs. Enes Kanter’s arrival to New York added on to the Knicks’ logjam at center, giving Hornacek an impossible rotation to manage, even with Joakim Noah getting the worst of it. (Joakim Noah is being paid roughly $215,000 per game to sit court-side at home; celebrities, on average, have to pay $15,000 to sit court-side at Knicks games.)
Sorry, where were we? Logjam! Right. Someone has to go. The Knicks flipping Kanter later on in the season was always an option and his play is fielding the interest of many teams, including the Charlotte Hornets, due to a potential (but unlikely) Kemba Walker trade. However, the Knicks seem set on keeping Kanter, given his play next to Porzingis.
Many people within the organization also feel like Willy Hernangomez can land them a late first rounder this year. Then there’s Kyle O’Quinn, the Knicks most valuable trade asset among their bigs. O’Quinn has consistently been one of the most reliable power forwards in the league, given his role. He’s garnered the interest of several playoff teams, the most recent being the Golden State Warriors.
Teams have also shown a fair amount of interest in Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas, both of which have been on the trading block all season. One name that continues to be thrown around with confidence is Jordan Clarkson. The Knicks have shown heavy interest in the Lakers guard, and both teams might discuss a Clarkson deal centered around sending Lee to the Lakers, the league’s worst three-point shooting team. They may also look to pursue Portland's Moe Harkless again, should they ship Lance Thomas.
GM Scott Perry’s decision about Hornacek’s future may be the first of several moves the Knicks make as the trade deadline approaches. Such a decision would be pivotal in the direction the Knicks pursue for the rest of the season.