Ever so slightly lost in the wake of Kristaps Porzingis’ ACL injury is the ramifications that extend beyond this season.
Yes, most can, and should, be looking at this year alone. The focus is on Porzingis’ surgery—which will take place this week—and how the Knicks develop their youth in his absence. It is also on their lottery chances. Without him in the lineup, they should lose enough to guarantee themselves a top-eight pick. This is all takes center stage, right here, right now.
But we cannot pretend like this is a one-season ordeal. ACL tears take time to rehab. Anything less than an eight-month recovery is unheard of. Porzingis is probably looking at a 10- to 12-month absence—and the Knicks know it. They believe he’ll miss a good chunk of 2018-19 as a result of his recovery, according to the New York Post‘s Marc Berman:
According to sources, Porzingis will have surgery Tuesday after which a rough timetable for his recovery will be announced. He’s expected to miss part of next season, too. He was replaced in the All-Star Game by Kemba Walker.
This is why the Knicks should be investing everything they have in their youthful pieces. Frank Ntilikina needs to be playing more. Courtney Lee and even Tim Hardaway Jr. should be shut down at some point after the All-Star break in the name of lottery odds. Equally important, this unofficial timetable is why the Knicks have no business stretching Joakim Noah’s contract. They’ll be paying him $7.6 million per year for the next five seasons if they go that route. That makes no sense when they’re going nowhere special in 2018-19, as a direct result of Porzingis’ rehabilitation process.
Sitting on Noah’s deal through next season and into the summer of 2019 is the smartest play. Porzingis should be healthy by then, and Noah will be entering the last year of his deal, making him much easier to move.
Do the Knicks have the patience to carry out this process? History would suggest no; it would imply they’ll do something impulsive and detrimental. But perhaps Porzingis’ injury is their wake-up call.