No beating around the bush: This season has not turned out the way the Knicks envisioned.
Entering Monday night’s matchup at Madison Square Garden against the Raptors, the Knicks were 12th in the Eastern Conference at 24-35 and four games out of a playoff spot. This was a team hoping to be a contender in the East, but in the final days of February can do no better than 47 wins — if they win their final 23 games.
With Monday’s news that center Joakim Noah had knee surgery and will miss at least half of the Knicks’ remaining schedule, coupled with the decision to waive reserve point guard Brandon Jennings, now seems like a good time to revisit the decisions team president Phil Jackson and the front office made since the end of last season. amNewYork will give each a grade.
Derrick Rose trade
The Knicks landed the former MVP in June, along with Justin Holiday and the Bulls’ second-round pick this year, for Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon.
Rose has been perfectly adequate, but his better days are long gone. Holiday is a useful reserve who may stick around.
Lopez, meanwhile, is chugging along at the same workmanlike clip for Chicago, while Grant has been fine, at best. Calderon looks to be near the end of the road for the Lakers, who landed the veteran in a draft-pick swap to clear cap space for the Bulls.
It’s tempting to dismiss this trade as a failure, but the move allowed Jackson to get out from the too-long contract he gave Lopez in favor of Rose’s expiring deal. Now that Rose’s days in the city appear numbered, the Zen Master can hit the reset button. That’s a good thing.
Signing Willy Hernangomez
Without question, this was the best move of the Knicks’ offseason.
The rookie from Spain has played well enough that Noah’s time away from the team may actually improve it, if Hernangomez will be playing starter-level minutes. He’s averaging 15.1 points, 13.6 rebounds and 2.3 combined blocks and steals per 36 minutes.
The 22-year-old, who previously teamed with Kristaps Porzingis in Spain, will make roughly $1.5 million each season through 2018-19. If he continues to improve, his contract will be among the best bargains in the NBA.
Signing Joakim Noah
This move has been a colossal backfire. Noah wasn’t brought in for his offensive prowess, but his defense is no longer elite. Without that, Noah is little more than an injury-prone rebounder who just turned 32 and will be on the books until he’s 35, when he’ll earn $19.3 million for the 2019-20 season.
This contract is a far greater burden than Lopez’s would have been.
Signing Brandon Jennings
Monday’s decision to part with him midway through the one-year deal designates this as a failure, but it’s not a massive one.
When Rose missed time due to injury — or unexcused absences — Jennings filled in admirably. He may finish the season as the Knicks top per-game assist man despite playing 24.6 minutes per night.
Signing Courtney Lee
The veteran guard is shooting a career-high 42% from 3-point range to go along with 10.4 points per game. He doesn’t come cheap with his four-year, $50 million deal, but he’s a great complementary piece.
Signing Lance Thomas
Thomas shot his way to a four-year, $27.5 million deal last season, but he’s been terrible when not shooting 3s — at 43.4%.
This move backfired. He’s destined to become a salary-matching piece in a trade someday. The sooner, the better.
Letting Arron Afflalo walk
Afflalo was pushed out the door, and his performance since signing a two-year, $25 million deal with the Kings hasn’t induced any regrets. The 31-year-old’s scoring has dipped with one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the league.
Letting Derrick Williams walk
The Heat, who Williams joined on a one-year, $4.5 million deal, cut bait with the forward earlier this month. He’s now with the Cavaliers on a second 10-day contract and earning praise from LeBron James. Still, not retaining Williams doesn’t sting much.
Signing Mindaugas Kuzminskas
The 27-year-old rookie from Lithuania has not impressed in a limited role. He’s on payroll for two more seasons at a cheap rate (no more than $3.8 million), but don’t expect much.
Signing Sasha Vujacic
Jackson’s favorite end-of-the-bench option isn’t asked to do much on his one-year deal. Every team needs a vet like this, right?
Renouncing Langston Galloway’s rights
The Knicks rescinded their qualifying offer to add their big-ticket free agents — for all the good it did them. Galloway signed a two-year, $10.5 million contract with the Pelicans, with the second year a player option.
In New Orleans, Galloway provided more of the same he had in New York for two seasons: solid scoring off the bench. His long-distance accuracy is coming along, although he was included in last week’s DeMarcus Cousins trade and will be toiling in Sacramento the rest of the way.
The Knicks would have had too many guards had he returned, but he’s not a bad reserve.
Letting Kevin Seraphin walk
Seraphin, who failed to leave a mark in his only season with the Knicks, is giving the Pacers more of the same on a two-year, $3.6 million deal. Nothing to cry over.