The New York Knicks have been plagued for as long as modern NBA fans can remember, but the future is looking up for New York and it all begins this season. Here’s why.

#1. The Death of the Melo Effect

The biggest difference in this year’s Knicks squad is plain to see. This September, after months of back and forth with their highest paid player, perennial All-Star Carmelo Anthony, both sides agreed on a trade that sent Melo to Oklahoma City for… not a whole lot. Still, the Knicks are better for it.

As he aged, one thing remained: Anthony is a ball-stopper. It’s what ex-President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson harped on week after week, even telling the media at one point that Melo “would be better off somewhere else” because of it. Whether you love or hate his isolation scoring style, you recognize Carmelo is the antithesis of ball-movement.

Without that quicksand in the middle of the floor, the Knicks can finally become a pass-first team, which inevitably leads to faster, more exciting basketball.

#2. The Rise of Tim Hardaway Jr.

The jeers were abundant. When the Knicks signed free agent Tim Hardaway Jr. at $71 million over four years, everyone jumped on them for “overpaying.” While he’s labeled a defensive wreck and an inconsistent scorer, THJ has a huge upside. The bigger the game, the better he plays.

Last February, Hardaway dropped over 25 points on three different occasions. Two of those were nationally televised games, including 33-points in a Hawks’ win that had him hit a late-game go-ahead bucket. At 6’6” he can elevate high above other shooting guards to get his shot off, handle the ball and finish around the rim with ease, and doesn’t shy away from high-pressure moments. Hardaway plays with a high stakes style that suits the New York fanbase perfectly.

Is he a defensive liability? For now. But that takes nothing away from how exciting he is to watch. If you’re looking for entertaining offensive play, THJ is a dream come true.

#3. Frank Ntilikina’s Coming-of-Age

Frankie Nicotine, as he’s known, joined the Knicks this year via the 8th pick in the draft. While he spent the summer league on his couch due to injury and has yet to make an impact in a preseason game, Ntilikina (Nee-Tee-Lee-Kee-Nuh) is a selfless player perfect for the Knicks’ new movement-heavy style.

Granted, at 19 years old, most NBA greats were far from effective, and even those great at 19 didn’t always stay that way (sorry D-Rose). One thing’s for sure, when a young player gets aggressive against NBA vets, the drama is palpable. So when Frank hits a tough shot or gets a big defensive stop, know you are watching the Knicks’ future unfold.

4. Jeff Hornacek’s Fight for Relevance

By all accounts, Jeff Hornacek was set up for failure. A stagnant Eastern Conference team in the era of Lebron James’ dominance could never dream of making the NBA Finals with a 20 year old sophomore as their best player. But after letting go of Carmelo and signing Hardaway Jr., Hornacek finally has the trappings of the team he always wanted: young, rambunctious, with top-market expectations.

His first year as a head coach for the Phoenix Suns in 2013-14, Hornacek took a team that was 25-57 the year before to an outstanding 48-34. Now in an Eastern Conference where the fight for the 6th through 8th playoff seeds comes down to the last few games of the season, Hornacek recognizes this as an opportunity to defy expectation, save his career, and propel a massive NBA market back into the spotlight. Count on Jeff to do two things: speed up play and facilitate the coming of…

5. Krystaps Porzingis

I could nearly hear the boos from my bedroom in Brooklyn when the Knicks announced their 2015 draft pick.

“Who?!” the city cried.

Turns out drafting the Latvian giant was the best thing Phil Jackson did in his three-year tenure as President of Basketball Operations in New York. Porzingis is a 7-foot-3 shooting maestro reminiscent of Dirk Nowitzki – only faster, taller, and better at defense. Porzingis’ put-back dunks and step-back threes are the most promising basketball Madison Square has seen since the Ewing-era Knicks of the 90’s. New York is so head-over-heels for this kid that, after he met with Knicks owner James Dolan about disagreements with Phil Jackson, Jackson was fired within weeks.

New Yorkers can trust that the Knicks know what they have. Their mission? Please Porzingis. The outcome? One of the most thrilling players to watch in the whole of the NBA.