With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league.
After looking at the Southeast Division, we're shifting our focus to the Atlantic, beginning with the New York Knicks.
2017-18 season record
29-53 (11th in Eastern Conference)
Projected 2018-19 season record
29.5 (13th in Eastern Conference)
David Fizdale (head coach)
Mario Hezonja (free agency)
Kevin Knox (free agency)
Michael Beasley (free agency)
Jarrett Jack (free agency)
Kyle O'Quinn (free agency)
3 key storylines
David Fizdale changing the culture
After five-consecutive losing seasons, New York hired David Fizdale as its new head coach in early May.
Fizdale, who spent 13 years as an NBA assistant before taking his first head coaching job with Memphis in 2016, is well respected throughout the league by players and coaches alike; he's always willing to go to bat for his guys.
In just four months as the Knicks' head coach, Fizdale has already made great impressions, traveling to Latvia to spend time with Kristaps Porzingis in his home country and his efforts to to instill confidence within and develop the young duo of Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox.
Basketball is better when New York is good, and the team has hired just the right guy to turn things around.
The health of Kristaps Porzingis
Let's start with the obvious: Kristaps Porzingis is the Knicks' franchise player.
Unfortunately, the 2017-18 season came to an early end for 7-foot-3 All-Star when he suffered a torn ACL on Feb. 5, 2018. At the time of his injury, Porzingis was averaging a team-high 22.7 points per game (while shooting 39.5 percent from deep) to go along with 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per contest.
By selecting Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox in back-to-back years, New York has built a promising young core around the 23-year-old Latvian star. There shouldn't be a rush to bring Porzingis back from his injury, but it's clear that the future of the franchise largely depends on him returning to form. Whether or not he plays this year, the biggest goal in his recovery should be an absence of any setbacks.
Kevin Knox's Rookie of the Year campaign
Knox, the No. 9 pick in the 2018 draft, has given Knicks fans plenty to be excited about already - and he has yet to play in his first regular season game.
At the Las Vegas Summer League, the 19-year-old was extremely aggressive, and it showed in the numbers. While he might have shot at an inefficient 35.3 percent clip, Knox averaged 21.3 points and 6.5 rebounds over four summer league games. He often wowed the Las Vegas crowd with his athleticism and assertiveness on the offensivex end.
Knox's play continued over into his preseason debut, where he notched a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double in an overtime win over the Wizards. With Porzingis' injury meanign the team has no clear No. 1 option, Knox is in a position to use his aggression to put up big numbers, will the Knicks to some wins, and make a strong case for Rookie of the Year.
5 games to watch
Oct. 26 vs. Golden State Warriors
It seems like it's always a show when the defending champs are at Madison Square Garden.
Golden State makes its lone visit to play the Knicks early in the season, and the Garden will without a doubt be electric.
Dec. 9 vs. Charlotte Hornets
The Knicks and Hornets split last season's series 2-2, including an instantly-classic overtime thriller in which Trey Burke went for 42 points while New York native Kemba Walker finished with 31.
Walker and the Hornets make their lone visit to play the Knicks in early December, and while there may not be another duel with he and Burke, the All-Star is sure to put on a show in front of his hometown.
Dec. 25 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo in a Christmas Day matinee at the Garden. What more could you ask for?
In the first of five games on Christmas Day, the Knicks host The Greek Freak's Bucks. New York will look to reverse its recent misfortune, as its last win on the holiday came in 2011 over the Big Three-era Celtics.
March 17 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James, the self-proclaimed King of New York, makes his lone trip to MSG with his new team in a Sunday matinee.
In addition to the amost certain back-and-forth between James and Knicks centre Enes Kanter, it will be a homecoming for Lance Stevenson and a return game for Michael Beasley, who averaged 13.2 points per game as a Knick in 2017-18.
TBD - The return of Kristaps Porzingis
This one is a bit more unclear; Porzingis, who went down with a torn ACL in February, told reporters at media day that there is still no timetable for his return.
That being said, there is no reason to rush his return, but if he were to return to the Knicks this season - even for the final weeks of the season - his first game back will be a major step in the right direction for the franchise.
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