New York Knicks sneak into Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA players

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks had a lone representative in Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA players for the 2019-20 NBA season.

2018-19 Top 100 NBA Players lists featured few New York Knicks. Enes Kanter and Tim Hardaway Jr. snuck onto a few of them, but deep into the list and far from No. 25 or even No. 50. Other players were not talented enough or inexperienced and without an NBA resume.

Remaking the roster for 2019-20 had the potential to give the Knicks some of the NBA’s best players, except they did not sign free agents like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard, each of whom went to a different address.

Still, New York signed several players talented enough to make an impact, and as opening night for the regular season nears, they will finally have a spotlight.

Sports Illustrated‘s Rob Mahoney recently started to unveil his Top 100 NBA Players for 2019-20. As of Tuesday, the players, working backward, from 100 to 31 were revealed. One Knick snuck onto the list, but, again, far down the order: Julius Randle at No. 79.

The ranking description noted Randle’s terrific production, with 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game on a sputtering New Orleans Pelicans team in 2018-19, which resulted in a three-year contract, with the potential to exceed $60 million total.

However, Mahoney said Randle is a “more complicated figure” beyond the stats, casting doubt for on-court play that has yet to contribute to a successful team:

"There isn’t that much evidence to suggest that Randle actually made the Pelicans all that much better last season—only that he managed to accumulate the kinds of base-level stats that earn a player attention and get him paid. That isn’t to say that Randle was selfish or ill-intentioned. Randle played with force and made the most of his role. Yet even production like his can only count for so much when achieved through blunt, straight-line creation and spacey defense to offset. It’s not entirely his fault, but there are reasons why Randle hasn’t yet been to the playoffs or been on a team that won more than 35 games."

Randle’s four NBA seasons, not counting his rookie campaign of one game played due to injury, featured the following win totals:

  • 2015-16: 17
  • 2016-17: 26
  • 2017-18: 35
  • 2018-19: 33

These teams also had issues around Randle, including those Los Angeles Lakers teams that tried to rebuild in a deep Western Conference, without healthy star players. 2018-19 featured the Anthony Davis saga, ruining the New Orleans Pelicans’ second half of the season.

The Knicks will potentially fall somewhere in the win range, no matter what impact Randle makes. They only won 17 in 2018-19 and 32 wins in 2015-16 is their highest mark since 2013-14.

As for Randle’s talent, his numbers have skyrocketed, but Mahoney is still down on the sixth-year pro’s abilities, including defensively. Mitchell Robinson will offset some of that as the man in the middle, but situations that place Randle as the undersized center will expose the Knicks’ defense, especially if head coach David Fizdale takes an offense-first approach.

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That aside, Randle is probably the only player to crack SI‘s list. The New York Knicks are one year away from adding more to the top 100 if players like Robinson, RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox take a step forward. While hardly guaranteed, expectations are high and a productive season will change the team’s value.