Karl-Anthony Towns

NBA Power Rankings: Preseason rankings for every team from Warriors to Bulls

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They’re back. The weekly NBA Power Rankings from NBC Sports have returned as the NBA season tips off. As always the defending champions start on top — and in the case of the Warriors, the question is will there be more than one week they are not ranked No. 1 this season? These first rankings are pure gut, with a little preseason influence thrown in (once we move 15+ games into the season we have a mathematical system to help guide us, then those figures get massaged by the eye test.

Quick note, these rankings come out on Tuesday to start the season, but starting next week and throughout the NBA season they will come out on Wednesday.

Warriors small icon 1. Warriors (last season 67-15). Thanks in part to Kevin Durant’s willingness to sacrifice for the team, Golden State not just brought back but also improved the best team in the NBA. They are going to spend a lot of weeks on top of these rankings. The only question to open the season is does the hangover/jet lag from the China trip still impact them the first couple weeks of the season.

Rockets small icon 2. Rockets (55-27). Adding Chris Paul to the James Harden show was a brilliant move, the Rockets will have one of the top three offenses in the NBA this season. However, what may really get this to the conference Finals is the additions of defenders such as Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker on the wing. They Rockets outscored teams by 21.9 points per 100 possessions in the preseason, an NBA best number (don’t read much into it, but it’s interesting).

Thunder small icon 3. Thunder (47-35).. I think they may be second in this ranking by the end of the season, I like their defense (which should be Top 5), but I’m going to need to see Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony do more than just talk about sacrifices to fully buy in (they looked good together in limited preseason minutes). With Westbrook committed to OKC, George will be asked about his free agency at every turn this season, how will he handle that pressure?

Cavaliers small icon 4. Cavaliers (51-31). By the end of the season I think they will be the team best positioned to knock off Golden State — Isaiah Thomas will be healthy (*knocking on wood*), the Cavs still have LeBron James, and they will get to come out of a soft East while the Warriors will have to battle their way out of a deep West. That said, they are not healthy now and will be experimenting with Kevin Love at center.

Spurs small icon 5. Spurs (61-21). No Kawhi Leonard in the opener and the question is now much more time will he miss with a lingering quad injury. While the Spurs looked like a mess in the playoffs without Leonard that was against the Warriors, in the regular season they are 14-4 the past two seasons with him sitting. LaMarcus Aldridge is the go-to guy while Leonard is out and he can handle the role.

Celtics small icon 6. Celtics (53-29). It’s going to be a circus — one with lots of boos — with Kyrie Irving and company opening on the road in Cleveland. No Marcus Morris the first week of the season with a knee injury, that means rookie Jayson Tatum likely gets the starts. That could add to the one big question about the Celtics — can they get enough stops?

Wizards small icon 7. Wizards (49-33). The Wizards looked good and their bench improved during the preseason, which is a nice sign but now they have to do it when it matters. That bench will be tested more early with Markieff Morris missing time due to a sports hernia (the Wizards lost very little time from their starters due to injury last season, that has changed already).

Raptors small icon 8. Raptors (51-31). The Raptors are trying to change who they are on offense, with less isolation and more threes — and it worked in the preseason, they scored 110.1 points per 100 possessions. Can they sustain that when the defenses get serious? And how much will they miss the depth that DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, and Patrick Patterson provided?

timberwolves small icon 9. Timberwolves (31-51). They added Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague Taj Gibson, and Jamal Crawford to an already promising young team led by Karl-Anthony Towns — Minnesota is ready to make a leap. Well, if they can defend. They were 27th in defensive rating last season, and they need to get up to the middle of the NBA pack at least. Butler helps, but it’s Towns and Andrew Wiggins learning what to do and putting in the effort night in and night out that will make the biggest difference on that end.

Bucks small icon 10. Bucks (42-40). Is this too high a ranking for the Bucks? Maybe. I am betting on a lot of internal improvement with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker, Kris Middleton, and Malcolm Brogdon. However, the real key to the Bucks season is if Jason Kidd tweaks his gambling defensive system so the Bucks don’t get torched every time the ball swings sides, do that and this team can move into East’s top four.

Nuggets small icon 11. Nuggets (40-42). Denver looked good this preseason in the minutes that both Nicola Jokic and Paul Millsap shared the floor, but the questions are everyone around them. Gary Harris needs to live up to his lofty new contract, and Jamal Murray needs to start looking like the point guard the Nuggets thought they had at the end of last season. Also, is Denver going to defend well enough to make the playoffs?

Clippers small icon 12. Clippers (51-31). Talk about a changed roster, new to the Clippers are Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Willie Reed, Sam Dekker, and Montrezl Harrell. Everything still flows through Blake Griffin, and his three-point shot looks improved. The Clippers should be solid on both ends and play faster than they did in the Chris Paul era. This is a playoff team if they can stay healthy, but with this roster it’s a big if (they had their share of minor injuries in the preseason).

Blazers small icon 13. Trail Blazers (41-41). It’s just the preseason, but the facts that Portland went 5-0 and Evan Turner found his shooting stroke are both good signs. C.J. McCollum is suspended for the opener (you can’t leave the bench during an altercation, this isn’t a new rule) so look for Pat Connaughton to get the start.

Grizzlies small icon 14. Grizzlies (43-39). The Grizzlies are trying to change their style of play — they played at the fourth fastest pace of any team in the preseason (they were 19th overall in the NBA last season, which was up from previous years). We’ll see if the pace sticks. We’ll see how much the Grizzlies can get out of Chandler Parsons as well (he averaged 14 minutes a game and shot 33 percent in the preseason).

Heat small icon 15. Heat (41-41, LW 15). Erik Spoelstra will spend the first part of the season figuring out his rotations (Kelly Olynyk is starting now, James Johnson is coming off the bench), and he needs more of Goran Dragic than the two preseason games he played, but this is a deeper team that should get off to a faster start than last season (but not close the season as fast, either).

Jazz small icon 16. Jazz (51-31, LW 7). Utah went 5-0 in the preseason and its offense was the fifth most efficient in the NBA. That’s not going to last, but it’s a good sign that maybe the offense will be somewhat better than projected with Rodney Hood as the playmaker. The defense will be elite with DPOY candidate Rudy Gobert.

Pelicans small icon 17. Pelicans (34-48). They have their big two — DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis — plus Jrue Holiday at the point, but the supporting cast is already banged up. Rajon Rondo will miss time with a sports hernia, and Solomon Hill may miss the entire season with a torn hamstring. This team remains one of the big question marks heading into the season, but if it goes sideways things could get ugly fast.

Sixers small icon 18. 76ers (28-54). Joel Embiid will start the season on a minutes restriction — Brett Brown said in the teens — and the big man doesn’t like it. Expect the Sixers to be cautious with him all season, we’ll see if he even gets to 55 games. My big question is how good the defense is with him off the court? After a strong preseason, Ben Simmons has moved to the top off everyone’s Rookie of the Year award prediction list.

Hornets small icon 19. Hornets (36-46). The Nicolas Batum injury to start the season is a blow. First, they were already thin on the wing and needed his defense, and second the Hornets toughest stretch of the schedule is the first month, so they could get in a hole that’s tough to dig out of. No Batum means rookie Malik Monk gets more run. A lot of people will tune in to see the Dwight Howard redemption project version 3.0, but stay to watch Kemba Walker — he is one of the most entertaining players to watch in the NBA.

Pistons small icon 20. Pistons (37-45. . How did the Pistons’ starting five look in the preseason? Don’t know, they didn’t play a minute together. What we do know is Reggie Jackson — the lynchpin for this team’s playoff chances this season — struggled, like he did much of last season. One thing of note, Andre Drummond was 16-of-20 on free throws in the preseason, if he is knocking those down he just got a lot more dangerous at the end of games.

Mavericks small icon 21. Mavericks (33-49). We need to savor having another season of Dirk Nowitzki in the NBA, he remains an all-time great. This season is about developing Dennis Smith Jr. and have him develop chemistry with Harrison Barnes (who was underrated as an isolation scorer last season but now needs to learn to be a playmaker. The Mavericks start out with a tough schedule the first couple of months that puts them in a hole they can’t dig out of.

Lakers small icon 22. Lakers (26-56, LW 29). It’s the Lonzo Ball show in Los Angeles, as he brings a buzz on and off the court to this team. Well, unless Kyle Kuzma steals the show again (the Lakers are overloaded at the four thanks to him). Ball will get a boost playing with Brook Lopez on offense. The bigger concern is Brandon Ingram, who shot 37.7 percent in preseason (25 percent from three) and likes to face up in isolation but doesn’t execute that well yet.

Kings small icon 23. Kings (32-50). So much to watch development wise with this team. How does De’Aaron Fox come along running the offense (he will come off the bench behind George Hill to start the season)? Can Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein form an impressive front line? Is Buddy Hield going to be a starting two guard in the NBA or is he a future gunner sixth man? Also, how will coach Dave Joerger balance minutes for the young players and the veterans on his roster such as Zach Randolph?

Magic small icon 24. Magic (29-53). This may be too low for the Magic, who have a lot of talent on paper. Aaron Gordon is back at the four, where he should be, and he looked good this preseason. Jonathon Simmons also looked good and helped the team’s defense this preseason. The pieces still are an odd fit on this team, but Frank Vogel is trying to find rotations that work.

Knicks small icon 25. Knicks (31-51 LW 26). Carmelo Anthony is gone but the Knicks biggest problem persists — this is going to be a bad defensive team. With the full triangle offense having been exiled with Phil Jackson, coach Jeff Hornacek wants to run, but to run well a team has to get stops. Is Kristaps Porzingis ready for the load about to be put on his shoulders?

Pacers small icon 26. Pacers (42-40, LW 16). This is Myles Turner’s team now, but he will miss having Glenn Robinson III’s floor spacing around him (Robinson’s ankle injury has him out until 2018). On the bright side T.J. Leaf looked better in preseason than he did in Summer League, he will get some run. This team will put the ball in Lance Stephenson’s hands, which is always entertaining.

Nets small icon 27. Nets (20-62). They have an interesting backcourt with Jeremy Lin — the undrafted guard who has worked hard on his game and scrapped his way to a solid NBA career — and D’Angelo Russell, the No. 2 pick whose work ethic frustrated the Lakers and they were willing to move on from (he was the sweetener in dumping Timofey Mozgov’s salary). Soft start to the schedule gives them the chance at a decent start.

Hawks small icon 28. Hawks (43-39). It’s all about Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore creating shots and Mike Budenholzer’s team playing solid defense. This is a rebuilding team (Al Horford and Paul Millsap left in successive summers) and their string of making the playoffs 10 years in a row will end, but they should play hard and be in games, just not able to close them out. They start the season with a five-game road trip.

Suns small icon 29. Suns (24-58). They have some interesting young talent in Phoenix with Devin Booker and now rookie Josh Jackson (14 points per game and shot 42 percent from three in the preseason). With Eric Bledsoe running the point the Suns should be able to put up some points, but will the young team get enough stops?

Bulls small icon 30. Bulls (41-41, LW 13). Chicago has finally, fully embraced the rebuild. Lauri Markkanen will be the guy to watch this season, he was up-and-down during preseason (1-of-9 in debut, good game against Toronto to close it out) but how does he develop over the course of the season. Rough first week of the season with the Raptors, Spurs, and Cavaliers.

Watch Stephen Curry score 40 points as Warriors rout Wolves in Shanghai

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Stephen Curry finished off his China trip with a performance ripped right out of his MVP highlight reel.

Curry scored 40 points to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 142-110 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday in Shanghai for a split of their two-game series in China.

It was the Warriors’ first win of the preseason and came like so many of their victories of the last three years, filled with Curry’s incredible shot-making and playmaking .

The 2015 and 2016 NBA MVP was 13 for 20 from the field, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range, and added eight assists.

Klay Thompson added eight 3-pointers and 28 points, while Kevin Durant scored 22.

Andrew Wiggins had 19 points for Minnesota, which won’t play again in the preseason.

WARRIORS 142, TIMBERWOLVES 110

WARRIORS: Golden State shot 60 percent from the field (51 of 85) and 61 percent (20 for 33) from behind the arc. … Rookie Jordan Bell made all five shots and scored 11 points. … Draymond Green also scored 11.

TIMBERWOLVES: Karl-Anthony Towns scored 16 points and Jimmy Butler had 15. … The Wolves poured in 44 points in the first quarter, but Tom Thibodeau’s club yielded quarters of 36, 40 and 38 points over the first three periods.

UP NEXT: Golden State (1-2) hosts Sacramento on Friday. Minnesota (2-1) has finished its preseason schedule.

NBA GMs overwhelmingly pick Warriors to win title, LeBron MVP

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NBA GMs seem to agree with Jeff Van Gundy — this season belongs to the Golden State Warriors.

The NBA released its annual survey of league general managers and they overwhelmingly picked the Warriors to repeat as champions. GMs picked the Warriors at a higher rate than any team in the history of the survey.

They also picked LeBron James to win MVP in a crowded field, Lonzo Ball to be Rookie of the Year (but Josh Jackson to be the best player from this class in five years), Kawhi Leonard as the best defender in the NBA, and Gregg Popovich as the best coach in the game. This survey has certainly not been 100 percent accurate over the years (they picked LeBron to win the MVP last year, too) it’s been pretty reliable.

Here are some of the results of the NBA GM survey for 2017 (when the percentages don’t add up to 100%, there were other teams/players receiving one vote).

Which team will win the 2018 NBA Finals?
1. Golden State – 93%
2. Cleveland – 7%

GM’s ranked the top four teams in the East (in order) as Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Toronto. In the West, it was Golden State, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City.

Who will win the 2017-18 MVP?
1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 50%
2. Kevin Durant, Golden State –29%
3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 11%
4. James Harden, Houston – 7%
5. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 4%

If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the NBA, who would it be?
1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota – 29%
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 21%
3. LeBron James, Cleveland – 18%
4. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 14%
5. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 11%

Which player forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments?
1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 48%
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 21%
3. James Harden, Houston – 14%
4. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 7%

Which player would you want taking a shot with the game on the line?
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 55%
2. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 34%
3. Kyrie Irving, Boston – 7%
4. LeBron James, Cleveland – 3%

Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2017-18?
1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota – 21%
2(T). Kristaps Porzingis, New York – 14%
2(T). Myles Turner, Indiana – 14%
4. Jusuf Nurkic, Portland – 10%
5. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota – 7%

Who is the best point guard in the NBA?
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 62%
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 28%
3. Chris Paul, Houston – 7%
4. John Wall, Washington – 3%

Who is the best shooting guard in the NBA?
1. James Harden, Houston – 83%
2. Klay Thompson, Golden State – 10%

Who is the best small forward in the NBA?
1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 61%
2. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 32%
3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 7%

Who is the best power forward in the NBA?
1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 41%
2. LeBron James, Cleveland – 28%
3. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 17%
4. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota – 7%

Who is the best center in the NBA?

1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota – 28%
2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 24%
3. Marc Gasol, Memphis – 21%
4. DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans – 14%

Which team made the best overall moves this offseason?
1. Oklahoma City – 43%
2. Boston – 25%
3. Minnesota – 14%
4. Houston – 11%
5. Golden State – 7%

Which one player acquisition will make the biggest impact?
1. Paul George, Oklahoma City – 59%
2. Jimmy Butler, Minnesota – 17%
3. Chris Paul, Houston – 10%
4. Kyrie Irving, Boston – 7%

What was the most underrated player acquisition?
1. Paul Millsap, Denver – 24%
2. Avery Bradley, Detroit – 17%
3(T). Jimmy Butler, Minnesota – 10%
3(T). Jae Crowder, Cleveland – 10%
5(T). Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento – 7%
5(T). Rudy Gay, San Antonio – 7%

Which team will be most improved in 2017-18?
1. Minnesota – 69%
2. Philadelphia – 17%

Who will win the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers – 62%
2. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia – 24%
3. Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas – 7%

Which rookie will be the best player in five years?
1. Josh Jackson, Phoenix – 24%
2(T). Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia – 21%
2(T). Jayson Tatum, Boston – 21%
4(T). Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers – 14%
4(T). Ben Simmons, Philadelphia – 14%

Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft?

1. Dennis Smith Jr. (9), Dallas – 37%
2. Kyle Kuzma (27), L.A. Lakers – 22%
3(T). Donovan Mitchell (13), Utah – 7%
3(T). Caleb Swanigan (26), Portland – 7%

Who is the best international player in the NBA?
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 69%
2. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 14%
3. Marc Gasol, Memphis – 10%
4. Kristaps Porzingis, New York – 7%

Who is the best defensive player in the NBA?
1. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 62%
2. Draymond Green, Golden State – 21%
3. Rudy Gobert, Utah – 10%

Who is the best perimeter defender in the NBA?
1. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 72%
2. Avery Bradley, Detroit – 14%

Who is the best interior defender in the NBA?
1. Rudy Gobert, Utah – 66%
2. DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers – 24%

Which is the best defensive team in the NBA?
1. Golden State – 55%
2. San Antonio – 34%
3. Utah – 7%
4. Oklahoma City – 3%

Who is the best head coach in the NBA?
1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 82%
2. Steve Kerr, Golden State – 11%

Which head coach makes the best in-game adjustments?
1. Rick Carlisle, Dallas – 34%
2. Brad Stevens, Boston – 31%
3. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 24%
4. Stan Van Gundy, Detroit – 7%
5. Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta – 3%

Which active player will make the best head coach someday?

1. Chris Paul, Houston – 39%
2. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio – 14%
3(T). Stephen Curry, Golden State – 7%
3(T). Garrett Temple, Sacramento – 7%

Which team is the most fun to watch?
1. Golden State – 90%
2. Houston – 7%
3. Denver – 3%

Which team has the best home-court advantage?

1. Golden State – 76%
2(T). Oklahoma City – 7%
2(T). San Antonio – 7%

Which player is the most athletic?
1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 62%
2. LeBron James, Cleveland – 14%
3. Zach LaVine, Chicago – 10%

Which player is the best pure shooter?
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 71%
2. Klay Thompson, Golden State – 25%
3. Devin Booker, Phoenix – 4%

Which player is the fastest with the ball?
1. John Wall, Washington – 48%
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 45%

Which player is the best passer?
1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 36%
2. Chris Paul, Houston – 32%
3(T). James Harden, Houston – 7%
3(T). Ricky Rubio, Utah – 7%
3(T). John Wall, Washington – 7%

What bench player makes the biggest impact when he enters the game?
1. Andre Iguodala, Golden State – 41%
2. Eric Gordon, Houston – 24%
3. Jamal Crawford, Minnesota – 10%
4. Lou Williams, LA Clippers – 7%

Who is the most versatile player in the NBA?
1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 55%
2(T). Kevin Durant, Golden State – 14%
2(T). Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 14%
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 10%
5. Draymond Green, Golden State – 7%

Which player has the best basketball IQ?

1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 64%
2. Chris Paul, Houston –14%
3. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 11%

Karl-Anthony Towns confident he could become best player in NBA

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Going into his third season, Karl-Anthony Towns should be an All-Star — even in a stacked West — and a probably an All-NBA player (he had the most votes of anyone left off last season). He’s going to, along with Jimmy Butler, lift the Timberwolves into the playoffs.

But his goals are much bigger than that — he expects to be the best player in the NBA. Period.

This is how he put it to Marc Spears of The Undefeated.

“My confidence has always been so high. I felt coming into the league I could be that easily,” Towns said this week after practice at the University of California, San Diego. “I always knew it was just a matter of time.

“But before I was even drafted, I felt that I had that ability, faith and confidence in myself to do that regardless to what team I’m with. I’m very blessed to be with the Timberwolves, because with them I’ve expedited that process a lot….

“That is definitely something that I see in my sight [being the best]. I’m getting better every year,” Towns said. “I’m getting smarter. I’m getting faster, quicker, so I feel like I can easily be that. It’s just a matter of time for me”

This is a realistic goal for Towns. Completely realistic.

Towns is part of a new breed of elite big men — such as Anthony Davis — who are 7-foot but have all-around skills. He can post guys up, run the floor, shot 36.7 percent from three last season, and he can defend (that’s the part of his game that most needs to improve, and he did look better as a rim protector in person at the Timberwolves preseason opener against the Lakers). He’s unlike any other player in the NBA, maybe the best comparison is Olajuwon (but that’s not quite right, and not quite fair to Towns either).

He’s entering his third season and is a top 20, maybe top 15 player in the league right now. Part of the perception of being the best player is being on a winning team, and he’s about to be on that.

It will be a couple of years — those guys LeBron and Durant are still good at this basketball thing — but in a few years we may well be the best player in the NBA. And we will not blink at it.

Three questions the New York Knicks must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer this season to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last season: 31-51, missed the playoffs. Again.

I know what you did last summer: Last weekend, the Carmelo Anthony era came to an end in New York as he was traded to Oklahoma City for Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott (plus a high second-round pick). The Carmelo era came to an end because former team president Phil Jackson poisoned that well, but that and a stupid pissing match with Kristaps Porzingis cost Jackson his job this summer as well. A new front office of Steve Mills and Scott Perry then went out and overpaid for Tim Hardaway Jr., bringing him back to NYC (after the Hawks did the work of developing him). The Knicks also revamped the point guard spot letting Derrick Rose walk and adding Jarrett Jack (free agent) Frank Ntilikina (No. 8 draft pick), and Ramon Sessions (free agent).

THREE QUESTIONS THE KNICKS MUST ANSWER:

1) Kristaps Porzingis, are you ready to lead a team?
Anthony was traded for one primary reason… well two primary reasons: He wanted out (thank’s, Phil), and the Knicks wanted to turn the page and make this entirely Porzingis’ team, getting him out of ‘Melo’s shadow. Well, they got their wish, now it falls to Porzingis to prove he is ready to lead a team — and I don’t mean Latvia in EuroBasket (where he played well, but it’s not the same thing).

Redo the 2015 draft and Porzingis goes second (behind Karl-Anthony Towns), but that is based as much on potential for who he can be as what he has shown for far — and he has shown plenty. Porzingis has all the tools to be an All-NBA player — he can space the floor as a three-point shooter, he’s tougher than people think and can score inside, he’s athletic and can protect the rim — but now he has to put it all together in one improved package. He’s the man, the Knicks are his team, he has to make the plays — and handle some shot creation (because they will not get it from their point guards). More importantly, he has do it consistently. Anthony isn’t isn’t there to stop the ball and jack up shots, particularly in crunch time, now everything should run through KP. He can score, but he needs to lift his teammates up.

Also, Jeff Hornacek needs to get Porzingis time at center — that remains his future, not at the four. The Knicks have Joakim Noah and Enes Kanter who will get minutes there, Guillermo Hernangómez is probably the best of the group, but KP needs time at that slot.

Another part of this is the Knicks need Porzingis to evolve into an elite defender. (Phil Jackson had hoped Joakim Noah would fill that role, paid him $72 million despite injuries and a declining game, and Noah has not been healthy and is the shell of his old self when he was. That contract is now an anchor.) Porzingis has shown some rim-protecting skills, but they need more than a couple blocks from him now, he must quarterback the defense.

Asking Porzingis to be an All-NBA player this season may be a little much (although he should get close), but he should make the All-Star team in a depleted East. If not, the Knicks have bigger issues.

2) Is Tim Hardaway Jr. ready for his turn in the spotlight? The Knicks needed more perimeter scoring, and they turned to an old friend — Tim Hardaway Jr. The former Knick had gone to Atlanta and developed under Mike Budenholzer into a quality rotation player who can hit threes (35.7 percent last season), defend on the perimeter, and he had the promise of getting even better at age 25. The Knicks believed in that promise, but to get the restricted free agent they knew they had to come in big. They did, paying $71 million over four years to get him, far more than anyone else was bidding. Even the Hawks walked away. It was one of the more head-shaking contracts of the summer.

Hardaway will get the chance to prove those who questioned his contract wrong. He’s going to get opportunities, he’s going to get touches, and he should put up more than the 14.5 points a game he did last season. The challenge is he is now the best shot creator and biggest threat on the Knicks perimeter — he has to do more than just score, and he’ll have to do it with the other team’s best perimeter defender in his face every night.

The Knicks are paying him to be a No. 2, can he step into that role? Can he remain efficient when taking on a bigger load? Can he and Porzingis develop chemistry? Hardaway got paid, now he has to prove the Knicks didn’t overvalue him.

3) Freed from the triangle, can Jeff Hornacek get a young team to buy into his style? The answer to that question may start with another question: What is Jeff Hornacek’s style? He would be quick to say it is up-tempo, with plenty of ball movement and certainly more three-point shooting.

That, of course, begs another question: Can he run that system without a good point guard? The Knicks drafted Frank Ntilikina, and he shows promise, but he is an 18-year-old raw rookie about to make a massive leap in the level of competition he faces. Don’t expect too much from him this season. Journeyman Ramon Sessions is probably the best playmaker on the roster. If needed, Ron Baker is there at the guard spot (another guy the Knicks dramatically overpaid this summer using the room exception).

The Knicks were middle of the pack team offensively last season (18th in points per possession), playing through the strange on-again off-again triangle hybrid offense they used. Freed from that, the Knicks need to be better on that end, with Hardaway providing the outside to Porzingis’ inside. That has to start with the players being unleashed to shoot the three ball, the Knicks were bottom 10 in the NBA last season in threes attempted and three-point shooting percentage, Hardaway has to lead a turnaround in that category.

The biggest question facing the Knicks (or at least 1A tied with do they get any point guard play?) is can they get enough stops? The Knicks were 26th in the NBA in defense last season, and swapping out ‘Melo for Enes Kanter isn’t going to improve things. Porzingis can be a rim protector, but he has to do more and quarterback the defense. Hardaway needs to lead an improvement the defense on the perimeter. Hornacek will talk about coaching offense, but getting this team to buy into a defensive plan may be the biggest key to him keeping his job.

It’s going to be a long season in New York, even in a down East, this is not a playoff team. But Knicks fans want to see steps forward, they want hope. And that starts with this becoming Porzingis’ team.