As the NBA opens the season today, the headlines revolve around predictions of another Cavs-Warriors final, finishing a new collective bargaining agreement, and player protests of the national anthem. At The Tattered Pennant, however, we look beyond the big headlines and the top teams to examine the fate of four clubs that had decidedly mediocre 2015-16 seasons. Last year, the Portland Trail Blazers overcame 25-win odds by Las Vegas to get into the playoffs, where they won a round and went toe-to-toe with the Warriors. Who will be the Blazers of 2016-17? The following teams could significantly shape the new season:
New York Knicks (32-50 last year): Every year, seemingly, pundits wait for the Knicks to make a real run. With the exception of the 2012-13 season, when they lost to Indiana in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Knicks have been out of contention this entire millennium. The additions of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah give them some real hope this season, however. Whereas Rose and Carmelo Anthony suffered under the burden of being the alpha with the Bulls and the Knicks, now they can share the effort. Kristaps Porzingis should continue to emerge as a star, perhaps transcendent, player. The Knicks will have a big frontline, with young guys Willy Hernangomez and Marshall Plumlee joining Porzingis to provide some real matchup problems for teams favoring Warriors-style small-ball. Tonight’s opener against Cleveland will provide some clues as to what the season holds, but give Jeff Hornacek—also in his first season in New York—some time to show what this club can do. Although Hornacek flamed out at the end of his tenure in Phoenix, he did win 48 games in his rookie season as a head coach, so there is some potential there. Another good sign comes in reports that Knicks president Phil Jackson is willing to let Hornacek use less of the complicated triangle offense. This should make the players happier and more productive, and give the Knicks a better chance to win.