In the final review of this four-part series, we now look at how the New York Knicks match up against the Boston Celtics.
Whether Steve Mills’ vision is successful right off the ground or not, the New York Knicks certainly have a rough road ahead of them. In case you missed the analysis for the rest of the division, you can find them in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
If you thought the Toronto Raptors are going to be a problem for the Knicks, the Boston Celtics make just as difficult of a case. The Celtics are the perfect example of operating completely opposite compared to the Knicks’ dysfunction over the past decade. They were one of the most active teams during the offseason despite their success from the 2016-17. They made a big splash in acquiring Gordon Hayward as he decided to leave behind the Utah Jazz after seven seasons.
The Celtics also shipped off Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and two future draft picks for Kyrie Irving. In retrospect, a hidden issue of how serious Thomas’ hip injury is seems to a big part in pulling the trigger for this trade.
The notable additions for the Knicks? A questionably high-priced signing of Tim Hardaway Jr., the re-signing of Ron Baker, and picking up Michael Beasley as an insurance plan. The Knicks also bring aboard Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott, who are yet to be determined strategic assets in exchange for Anthony, who was one of the best Knicks of all time.
The vision of Steve Mills is now set in motion, but will be determined by some younger Knicks stepping up to their full potential. Here are key matchups for the Knicks as they take on the Celtics for four games through the regular season.
Key matchups to watch for
First and foremost, this is a Celtics team that is almost unrecognizable coming off a 53-29 regular season, which is outside the norm. However the same can be said of the Knicks now without Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony.
In strategic and gusty decision-making, it is hard to argue against the fact the Kyrie Irving is an upgrade from Isaiah Thomas. As far as the matchup in the backcourt, the Knicks have a tall order. Irving had a career year in 2016-17 and will be just 25 going into his sixth NBA season. Last year he finished with 25.2 points and 5.8 assists per game on a .473/.401/.905 slash line.
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There is no easy solution or quick fix on any NBA team to slow him down, let alone a rebuilding New York Knicks team. With veterans Jarrett Jack (who is not a lock to make the roster) and Ramon Sessions, and the unproven Frank Ntilikina, who has yet to make his pro debut, it is a bleak matchup.
Whats worse is trying to contain both Irving and Hayward as the Knicks now are left without Carmelo Anthony, who has never been regarded as much of a defender. As a result of the trade though, the Knicks have added Doug McDermott to their growing list of forwards. It is likely the Knicks will be bullied in any circumstance, whether it’s Micheal Beasley, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Lance Thomas or McDermott.
Of course, the Knicks have two shining stars in their frontcourt in Willy Hernangomez and Kristaps Porzingis, and now the untapped potential of Enes Kanter. But it is also hard to imagine the Knicks winning off just dominant performances from their frontcourt, although it is the only reliable backbone for the time being.
The Celtics came away with Marcus Morris in exchange for Avery Bradley, which may have hurt them defensively and has left them with fewer options at the 2. With Marcus Morris being a solid stretch-4, its hard to complain about a player who averaged 14 points per game last season and is becoming a more capable defender each season.
The Celtics by no means have a weak frontcourt with Morris and Al Horford. However, Horford is turning 31 years old, less efficient, past his prime and declining despite still posting solid numbers. He drained 56.7 percent of his shots from the field back during 2013-14 and has declined down to 47.3 percent this past season.
While it is still the league average he just is not as efficient as he once was. Where he declined in this department he has improved his range, averaging a career-high in attempts per game from the outside shooting 35.5 percent.
The Knicks will have to be on their absolute A-game to keep up and they haven’t been since the late 1990s, so we should all hold our breath on seeing a closely contested regular season series. Although the Knicks won one game against the Celtics last year, they were beat handily by double-digits twice.
It is hard to expect much different this season as the New York Knicks will be looking to develop their future core of KP, Hernangomez, Ntilikina, THJ and Baker. It would be beyond reason to expect the Knicks to win more than one game of the four times these two teams collide during 2017-18.