Shoot for It: With Alex Lee ’16 and John Beneville ’16

by John Beneville and Alex Lee | 9/24/15 6:30pm

Alex Lee ’16 and John Beneville ’16 are back for the second week of “Shoot for It.” This week, we’ll be talking about the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers and what we expect to see from them this upcoming season.

The 2014-2015 season was brutal for big money basketball. The Lakers went 21-61 and the Knicks went 17-65, and both teams saw their major stars — Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony — sit for a significant portion of the year due to injuries.

Both teams, however, have made a considerable number of off-season moves that could turn their fortunes around for the upcoming season. The Lakers signed power forward Brandon Bass, traded for center Roy Hibbert, drafted No. 2 overall pick point guard D’Angelo Russell and signed the reigning sixth man of the year, shooting guard Lou Williams. The Knicks signed shooting guard Arron Afflalo, center Robin Lopez and drafted No. 4 overall pick Kristaps Porzingis. In this week’s column we’ll tackle the following question — who will have a better record next season, the Lakers or the Knicks?

Alex’s take: This is less of a question of who will have the better season and more of a question of who will have the worse season. Both of these teams are circus shows of weak leadership and low commitment, exacerbated by egomaniacal players, but — if I had to choose — I would definitely say the Lakers will have the worse season.

Some people may ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the Lakers offseason, but the fact remains that the Lakers signed a bunch of Kobe Bryant imitators, who add no value to any team unless they literally have the basketball in their hands. While I do admit that every team in the NBA will benefit from having one or two pure scorers, there aren’t enough basketballs in North America for D’Angelo Russell, Swaggy P, Lou Williams AND Kobe. Don’t even get me started on their “Kobe at PF” plan. I actually think one of the Lakers with the brightest future is sophomore point guard Jordan Clarkson, but how many minutes is he going to spend on the bench watching Swaggy P brick up 3’s? If it was 2012 and we were all jamming out to “Call Me Maybe,” then the Brandon Bass and Roy Hibbert signings would be fantastic. However, it is 2015, Bass and Hibbert are washed up, and Carly Rae Jepsen is even less relevant.

The Knicks, on the other hand, have made several solid moves. Forget about Melo’s Instagram feud and the “summer reading” that coach Derek Fisher gave to his players. The bottom line is that the Knicks signings might be low key, but they have plenty of grit — a factor that has kept the Chicago Bulls relevant even during their Rose-less years.

Incoming from the Portland Trail Blazers, Lopez is an athletic 7-footer who can physically hold his own against the majority of centers in the league. Twenty-nine-year-old shooting guard Afflalo has a career stat-line of .385 three-point percentage and 11.4 points per game. On top of that, he is a solid defender and good at spacing the floor.

Lastly, despite the controversy and crying in the city that never sleeps, Porzingis is the real deal. From what we have seen in the summer league, Porzingis has the potential to develop into a premiere player in this league. He is a lean 7’1’’ with good hands and a great vertical for his size. He moves well with the ball and can curl off screens for a quick pick-and-pop. He can drive to the basket or pull up and launch a three. Porzingis’ versatility in scoring will prove to be a defensive nightmare for most of his defensive assignments, power forwards and centers who are likely not accustomed to defending the perimeter. Furthermore, 20-year-old Porzingis will continue to fill out into his mid-20s, and I believe that the questions about his strength will soon become a non-issue. All in all, this upcoming season expect the Lakers to be terrible and the Knicks to be only slightly under par.

John’s Take: First of all, who cares about the Knicks? They haven’t been relevant in my lifetime, and I see no reason for them to start mattering now. They recently drafted this big European guy, but we all know that unless your last name is Gasol you aren’t going to be a successful center in the NBA. Porzingis will get eaten alive by more physical defenders — such as Tristan Thompson, the star of last week’s column — and probably end up wishing he never left Europe.

Besides Kristaps “The Big Question Mark” Porzingis, the Knicks haven’t done much of anything this off-season. The Phil Jackson cult has unfortunately struggled to get much of a following in the Big Apple, but the Zen Master is still getting paid over 10 million dollars this year so I’m sure he doesn’t mind.

My advice — stop meditating and start making moves. Alex does mention a few pickups, headlined by the league’s perennial punching bag — Robin Lopez. Robin is an absolute clown from head to toe, starting with his ridiculous hair and ending with his lack of balance and coordination. Sorry, Knicks, this is not your year.

More importantly, the Lakers are looking to improve this year with the addition of Williams, Bass and Hibbert and hopefully a different and revitalized edition of Nick “Swaggy P” Young. If these players live up to their potential the Lakers could be a playoff team.

Hopefully, this year Julius Randle doesn’t break his leg in the first game, if only so that we don’t have to see Robert Sacre play another minute of basketball.

Of course, the X factor will be Kobe Bryant. He’s been completely cleared to play, but he’s on the wrong side of 35 years old, and that doesn’t make things easy. He’s struggled with injuries the past couple of years, but before he went out with the ruptured achilles he was an absolute force. My prediction — Kobe comes back as a star and the Lakers outperform the Knicks this year.