2014-15 was the single worst season in New York Knicks history. The 17 wins set a new low and the 65 losses a new high, blowing the previous standard for misery—21-59 in 1962-63—fresh out of the water.
Fortunately, the Knicks have already begun to place 2014-15 in the rearview mirror.
New York turned a dreadful season into a Top 5 NBA Draft pick, selecting 7’3″ power forward Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4 overall. It also signed the likes of Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez in free agency.
"“I use it as motivation. I know last year, that wasn’t who we are as an organization and who we will be. A lot of people turned their backs on us. But we’ll be all right.’’"
If nothing else, a healthy Knicks team should be significantly easier to watch than the team of a season ago.
New York has a new-look roster, flush with intriguing young talents and respected veterans. It isn’t a championship-caliber rotation, but a healthy Carmelo Anthony will be supported by the likes of Top 5 NBA Draft pick Kristaps Poprzingis and steady contributors Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez.
Overall, the Knicks have added more than they’ve lost:
A healthy Anthony alone makes New York more of a factor than it was in 2014-15. The new additions make it a strong enough team to compete for a berth in the playoffs.
The question is, how realistic are those postseason aspirations?
New York wasn’t flawless during the preseason, but it showed flashes of being a solid team. Anthony played well individually, averaging 14.4 points on 47.1 percent shooting from the floor, but it was the play of the team that left Knicks fans with a sense of hope.
Anthony spoke about the progress of the unit, taking a tone cautious optimism.
"“I like where we are mentally as a team,’’ he said. “We came together quick. It seems we’ve been together for a long time even though it’s only been a month. I love the way the team is coming together and guys working hard and playing. They want to win.’’“We’re still trying to find out rotations, who’s going to play with this unit and that unit, figuring out a way,’’ Anthony said. “At this point it’s all about next week and figuring it out for Wednesday. This is behind us. We felt we came a long way throughout preseason. So far, so good. We still could get better but we had a decent preseason.’’"
That all starts with the depth New York has acquired.
There isn’t a second star on the roster, but there are solid players at every position. Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant all thrived at point guard, and Sasha Vujacic played well in relief of Afflalo at shooting guard.
O’Quinn and Williams both starred statistically, while Seraphin overcame rusty shooting to contribute as a defender and facilitator. Together, that trio will provide Porzingis and Lopez with much-needed aid off the bench.
For as much as it’s improved, however, the key for New York remains Anthony’s health.
"“I’m healthy, so for me, I’m excited going into the regular season healthy,’’ Anthony said after the preseason finale loss in Boston on Thursday. “That was my number one thing — to be healthy going into the season. This was my last week of rehab. It feels good to go into the regular season healthy.’’“For me mentally it was more doing things, trying to see what I can do and what I can’t do,’’ Anthony said. “I didn’t have as many drives and going to the hole. I was finding the rhythm from a mid-range jump shot standpoint. But I didn’t miss a beat. Going through the two-a-days, I didn’t think I could do it, but I did it.’’"
Anthony looks good, but he needs to maintain this level of consistency and efficiency with both his quality of play and availability.
Anthony only played in 40 games in 2014-15, which is a major reason for New York winning just 17 games. It may not have been good enough to reach the playoffs with ‘Melo, but it went 10-30 when he played—a dreadful, but better-than-without-him, record.
New York was 7-35 without Anthony—a decline from a .250 win percentage to a mark of .167.
Working under the assumption that Anthony were healthy, New York likely would’ve added to the win total based off of improved team chemistry alone. Having a player who can be trusted as the No. 1 scoring option would’ve alleviated pressure from players such as Andrea Bargnani, who was asked to overachieve as the go-to player.
The good news for the Knicks: thus far in 2015-16, Anthony is healthy. How far he can take that is up for debate, but he’s playing well and is surrounded by better players than he was in 2014-15.
After hitting rock bottom a season ago, Anthony and the Knicks are out to reward the remaining Knicks fans for their patience and passion.
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