1. Stay competitive for a playoff spot
Maxwell Ogden noted this for Jeff Hornacek’s second season with the New York Knicks, and it will become the case for David Fizdale, even with roster questions and a potentially competitive Eastern Conference.
It starts with no LeBron James, as he departed the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers in July, marking the first time since 2002-03, the Eastern Conference will not have the three-time champion. His squads, whether it was the Miami Heat or Cavaliers, made the NBA Finals in eight consecutive years.
Unless it’s Metta World Peace, the Knicks will not have NBA Finals expectations. However, the Cavaliers are not guaranteed a return to the postseason, even with Kevin Love around, so is there an opportunity to make a run at a playoff spot?
Sure, the Knicks might not even have playoff expectations, but the path towards being competitive opened when James left, even with Kawhi Leonard on the Toronto Raptors, the young Philadelphia 76ers and the stacked group of Boston Celtics.
Can the Knicks maneuver into the mix for a bottom seed in the playoff picture? A hot start without Porzingis will go a long way towards their end-of-the-season status, as a slip-up beforehand could cost them early, and it starts with how Fizdale leads this young group through October, November and even into December.
Even if the Knicks do not make the postseason, a finish just outside the No. 8 seed can be justified as a success, due to its improvement from previous seasons. Of course the actual No. 8 spot would make this a home run. Can Fizdale accomplish this in year one?