The New York Knicks new attitude should make for some interesting developments during the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season.
Being a New York Knicks fan is all about anticipation. Every offseason rallies around what could happen for the better, be it via the draft or free agency. No matter what the move, fans spin and speculate on every little thing.
It doesn’t matter the Knicks only won 17 games last year. So what if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant joined the rival Brooklyn Nets in free agency? The new season equals a new opportunity and New York is already in a better position, right?
Well, others may not feel the same, especially Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report. In a piece published Monday, he only predicted the Knicks would finish with 20 wins next season. He cited potentially tanking again, a surplus of power forwards, and them being a young team as reasons.
Those are all valid points, but the Knicks have a new attitude. Gone is the defeatism of previous front office regimes. President Steve Mills, GM Scott Perry, and coach David Fizdale are all committed to bringing back New York’s swagger.
This process has already started with the signing of Julius Randle in free agency. Heck, it began well before that when Duke swingman RJ Barrett was selected with the third pick in June’s NBA Draft. Looking genuinely competitive at points last year despite clearly tanking is also a good sign.
Simply put, the New York Knicks we see next year will not play yet another lost season. Next season is the start of the comeback and these five predictions should be near-locks.
No. 5: Mitchell Robinson breaks out
Mitchell Robinson’s coming out party is coming and Knicks fans are more excited than Bugs Bunny at a carrot festival. The 21-year-old center played like an absolute stud in the NBA Summer League, posting 13.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game.
These numbers aren’t far from Robinson’s per 36 minutes numbers as a rookie. He only posted 7.3 points, 6.4 boards, and 2.4 blocks over 20.6 minutes per game last year. Per 36 minutes, however, those numbers go up to 12.8, 11.2, and 4.3.
Robinson is currently dealing with some knee soreness but isn’t expected to miss much time. He is undoubtedly the starting center on this team and with extended minutes, expect him to take significant steps forward.
No. 4: Julius Randle fits right in
After missing out on Durant and Irving, the Knicks turned their attention to Julius Randle. He signed a three-year, $63 million deal to come to New York and at a perfect time. The former Kentucky Wildcat spent last year with the New Orleans Pelicans and enjoyed a breakout season. He averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds while also showing an improved long-range game.
Is Randle as sexy a signing as Durant? Of course not, but he plays strong in the paint and his physicality is good for Fizdale’s system. As one of the go-to scoring options this season, expect him to make the Knicks a lot of fun to watch.
Plus, he wanted to come to New York, so what’s not to like?
No. 3: RJ Barrett struggles early
No Knicks fan wants to hear this, but it’s just the harsh reality. I’m as excited about Barrett as much as the next guy but mark my words. His rookie season will be chock full of growing pains.
Barrett is a great swingman who can do it all, but his versatility will only get him so far as a rookie. He needs to develop a more consistent jump shot and learn how to score besides just banking a layup off the glass. He can rebound and distribute well, but he shot just 34% from the field in the Summer League.
Barrett has a high ceiling and will certainly succeed in the NBA, but he won’t put up LeBron James-like numbers as a rookie. However, if he can quickly learn how to slow the game down for himself, he could soon become a bona fide star in New York.
No. 2: New York misses the playoffs
Sorry, Knicks fans, but rebuilds take time. Parity in the NBA may be alive and well again, but the Eastern Conference is still a mountain too high to climb for the current New York Knicks.
The defending champion Toronto Raptors are still a dangerous team despite losing NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in free agency. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks’ core are very much intact. The Nets, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers are all squads who should not be underestimated.
The Knicks will be a better team this season, but not much else. Far more needs to go wrong for other East teams than what needs to go right for New York, and those odds are just too long.
No. 1: The Knicks win 30+ games
However, even though the Knicks won’t make the playoffs in 2019-20, the roster is still built to improve off of last season. Taj Gibson and Marcus Morris’ experience and leadership are just what the young Knicks need. Elfrid Payton is a fine defender and passer. The young core, save for Barrett, is a year older and more mature.
Moreover, Julius Randle is more electrifying than anyone who was on the Knicks’ roster last season. Even on a “bad” team, star power matters a lot.
Winning 30 games may seem like a long shot to some Knicks fans, but it isn’t out of reach. It’s a fine goal to set and if the team achieves it, it proves the front office and coaching staff’s strategy is working.