The New York Knicks are good right now. Yes, it's hard to buy into at the moment, because New York has burned its fans so many times in the past. Especially in recent memory, with many strong starts only to fall apart by January. However, there's one big difference between this season's Knicks team and previous iterations: This one feels like it can grow.
Saturday night, the Knicks disposed of the Kings with relative ease. They dominated in a 118-91 victory and Kristaps Porzingis dropped in 34 points. It was merely another day in the world of Porzingis, who has stepped into his first option role with relative ease. He's averaging 30 points a game and has been the driving force behind New York's 7-5 start.
During the victory against Sacramento, there was a play that got Knicks fans really excited. It was an alley-oop to Porzingis with an emphatic finish. However, that's not what got fans excited about it. The reason they were so giddy had to do with the player dishing out the oop: rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina
New York doesn't have an old roster, but they also don't have a young one. There isn't much room for the roster as a whole to grow, but in these two, there is nothing but potential. As Porzingis comes into his own as a No. 1 option, he has Ntilikina there with him growing as well. The best part for Knicks fans is it doesn't look like they're going to need to wait long for the two to turn into a dynamic duo.
Porzingis' importance to the team is obvious. When he's on the floor, the Knicks have a net rating of 5.8. When he's off, their net rating plummets to minus-10.4 and everything falls apart. New York recently played an equally surprising Magic team, and looked completely outclassed because they didn't have Porzingis with them.
What isn't as obvious is how good Ntilikina has been. The rookie certainly has his flaws, as do most young players, but he has entered the NBA far ahead of where many experts believed he would be. Ntilikina shows great vision, plays well in the pick-and-roll with good screen setters, and already understands NBA defense, which almost always holds back rookies. When he's on the floor, New York has a net rating 6.2 and that falls to minus-3.8 when he's off it. His on-floor net rating is the highest of anyone on the team.
Obviously, a lot of Ntilikina's numbers suffer when he's not with Porzingis, and he's only playing 20 minutes a night. However, in lineups that feature him and Porzingis on the floor together, the numbers just get absurd. They score 131.2 points per 100 possessions and give up 86.5. These two are incredible together.
This is why Knicks fans are hopeful right now. It isn't the strong start, the new front office, or even Carmelo Anthony being gone. Knicks fans have seen plenty of stars come and go, front-office changes, coach firings, and nothing has ever been different. However, these two young players succeeding together? That's new. That's exciting. That's hope for the future. That, more than anything else, is worth getting excited about.