What is the best-case scenario for the New York Knicks in the 2019-20 NBA season?
It’s clear this summer’s crop of free agents was not the group the New York Knicks initially envisioned. The franchise entered this offseason with hopes of acquiring the likes of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Unfortunately, those dreams never came to fruition and the Knicks pivoted to signing quality veterans on short-term deals to surround a budding young core. While some feel the moves were underwhelming overall, plenty of those around the team believe the Knicks will be better than expected. When asked about his thoughts on the team, Frank Ntilikina said to the French Knicks Pod:
"“I am very happy to be a Knick and I believe in the Steve Mills project…This year, we will surprise the entire NBA.”"
With just a few weeks before the regular season finally begins, there will be predictions made on how the Knicks will perform, but what must happen if everything goes according to plan? How good could they be? What would the team’s ceiling be? Well, let’s explore some of the possibilities…
Julius Randle is an All-Star
Julius Randle is coming off the best season of his five-year career. In 2018, he averaged 21.4 points and shot over 50 percent from the field. He also added 8.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while playing over 30 minutes per game for the first time in his career. The talented lefty has also improved his scoring average each year so far and is set to be the team’s number one scoring option.
Randle has a $900,000 incentive in his contract to make the All-Star team so he’ll be extra motivated to thrive in a depleted Eastern Conference.
In a perfect world, the Kentucky product will average 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. He’ll expand his range and become a reliable three-point shooter and separate himself as the focal point of the Knicks offense.
Defensively, Randle has always left something to be desired. His size typically puts him at a disadvantage at the 4, but remember, in a perfect world this is all accounted for.
Next season, Randle will be the yin to Mitchell Robinson’s yang in the paint. His speed will allow him to be an inside-out defender to take away stretch bigs and also let Robinson anchor the paint, which creates the next point:
Mitchell Robinson wins Defensive Player of the Year
Mitchell Robinson is set to return for his sophomore season after a breakout rookie campaign. In Year One, the New York Knicks were reluctant to unleash Robinson because his game was still very raw. If the seven-footer improves in a few categories, he could see massive improvements in his game.
Robinson’s main issue is often defensive awareness, as he often leaves his man (and the weak side of the basket) open to chase blocks. So next season, his discipline will improve, and he will become the next Tyson Chandler.
The ‘Blockness Monster’ averaged over 4.0 blocks per game per 36 minutes. This year, he will be unleashed and become one of the most feared rim protectors in the NBA.
Kevin Knox becomes a two-way force
The New York Knicks wasted no time throwing rookie Kevin Knox into the gauntlet last season. Head coach David Fizdale was not shy about playing Knox and said it was so he could get a good taste of what it takes to be a consistent, elite two-way player in the NBA. Knox admitted the heavy workload resulted in some fatigue but went on to say this offseason he’s added muscle to help him better-prepare.
The Knicks will need the second-year man in a big way on both ends of the floor this season. With a full campaign under his belt, Knox will average 17 points per game and improve his three-point shooting to, at least, 37 percent.
Defensively, Knox will take away the opposing team’s best perimeter player each and every night. He is no longer a teenager, so it’s time he steps up and becomes the man for the Knicks need.
RJ Barrett and Dennis Smith Jr. form strong 1-2 punch
It will certainly be interesting to see how Dennis Smith Jr meshes with highly touted rookie RJ Barrett. Both players love attacking the basket but have limited range with their jump shots. For this season, the two thrive together.
Smith improves his field goal percentage to over 40 percent while Barrett hits the ground running as a rookie. The two jointly command the offense and each average 7 assists by using their dynamic playmaking abilities to put pressure on the defense and open up scoring opportunities for the rest of the team.
Role players understand their roles
The New York Knicks have a roster full of guys ready to contribute at any moment. Guys like Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson have proven to be capable scorers off the bench. But the free agents signings like Marcus Morris, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, and Bobby Portis can all still impact games on the court.
However, their real impact will be made off the court. They will continuously push the young guys every day in practice and teach them how to win in the NBA. This will ultimately lead to the creation of a new, winning culture that surrounds the team.