Can the New York Knicks actually sneak into the 2019-20 playoffs?

(Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) /

Do the New York Knicks have a chance at finding the postseason in 2019-20?

Would it be blasphemous to predict that a team that went 19-65 last year will make the playoffs in the 2019-20 season?  A lot of things would have to go right for the New York Knicks to make their first playoff appearance since 2012-13.

First, let’s note the teams that will almost certainly have a better record: Bucks, Sixers, Celtics, Raptors (even without Kawhi Leonard, they are extremely deep and Pascal Siakam will likely take a step forward into an All-Star this season) and the Pacers (welcoming back Victor Oladipo).

That is only five teams who are basically guaranteed to be powerhouses barring injury, which leaves three spots for the Knicks to sneak into. Let’s look at the “fringe teams” competing with the Knicks for those spots.

The Miami Heat have added Jimmy Butler to pair with Goran Dragic in the backcourt, which will make them a formidable threat. The Nets have essentially replaced D’Angelo Russell with Kyrie Irving, so they should continue to be in the playoff picture as their surrounding cast continues to emerge. This still leaves one final spot that is prime for a team like the Knicks.

They would still have to outlast the Detroit Pistons who have an established all-star in Blake Griffin, the Orlando Magic, who were a playoff team last year with an outstanding center in Nikola Vucevic and a possible surprise from the Atlanta Hawks, who would need to have Trae Young and the rest of their young core take a large step forward (this is very possible but seems a year too premature).

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The Knicks would need several things to align to make for a surprise playoff run. The first and most important is an improvement from their young players, including Kevin Knox, who looked polished offensively in the summer league; Mitchell Robinson, who has the potential to be an impact player if he figures out how to stay out of foul trouble; Dennis Smith Jr., who needs to develop into more than just an athletic guard but someone who possesses an all-around game including jump-shooting; Allonzo Trier, who already has an impressively advanced isolation game.

All four players would need to increase their productivity significantly from last season and be positive net NBA players.

The other factor is the emergence of a potential young star in Julius Randle. For the Knicks to make the playoffs, the team’s most expensive free-agent signing must have an All-Star season, leading the team in points and overall offensive playmaking. This is to be expected after he averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds on a mediocre Pelicans team that missed the playoffs last year.

If Randle is able to improve on these numbers and be similar to what Blake Griffin is to the pistons in terms of productivity, then the Knicks have a real chance to compete given that the surrounding core all improve and are able to be a viable supporting cast.

The most underrated key to their playoff success would be that the Knicks can have one of the best benches in the entire NBA. Marcus Morris was a productive starter last year that will be coming off the bench this year for the Knicks. The same is true about Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Damyean Dotson and Reggie Bullock.

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For the first time since that 2012-2013 season, the New York Knicks actually have impressive depth. This will play a role in what potentially is a playoff season.