Kevin Knox
Bruno Rouby, ESNY Graphic

The new NBA season is almost here, which means these New York Knicks sophomores have certain goals to meet for the upcoming year.

Josh Benjamin

The New York Knicks are a young and exciting team.

It’s an interesting way to describe a squad which only won 17 games last season. It’s even an even odder description when you factor in New York striking out hard in free agency this summer.

Despite it all, the Knicks have some great young players who will definitely make an impact this season. RJ Barrett is a rookie with immediate star potential. Ignas Brazdeikis’ role may be unclear, but his natural athleticism combined with a deadly three-point shot could provide great depth off the bench.

But I’m not here to wax poetic about the Knicks’ rookies, fun as it may be. No, I’m more interested in the talented young second-year players the Knicks employ while entering the 2019-20 season. Important though Barrett’s production is, it will be harder for him to reach his full potential if some of his second-year teammates struggle to evolve.

The Knicks have three second-year players expected to take steps forward next season. Let’s have a look at each of them and what goals they should set for their sophomore campaigns.

Kevin Knox- Improve overall offense

Kevin Knox’s rookie year wasn’t perfect, but he proved he has a high NBA ceiling. He posted 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, but shot just 37% from the field and 34.3% from three-point range.

Now, a lot of Knox’s issues last year can be tied to his being very young. He only just turned 20 years old last month. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve those numbers in his sophomore season.

This means as Barrett develops, Knox will need to be a reliable option on offense. Julius Randle will help shoulder the lion’s share of scoring, but Knox needs to be solid too in case Barrett struggles early on. He posted negative in win shares, VORP, and offensive box plus/minus and that cannot happen again.

So long as he lets Randle lead and doesn’t force his own scoring, Knox should see a step forward in his development.

Allonzo Trier- Slow it down

Allonzo Trier has everything it takes to be a Knicks star. He is a natural scorer who can be deadly from anywhere on the floor.

That is, Trier would play more like that if he stopped playing at constant breakneck speed. He averaged 10.9 points per game last season, 38.3% of which were in the paint. He drives the lane far too often instead of improving in the mid-range. Similarly, 13.8% of Trier’s points came in the fast break.

New York Knicks

The good news is Trier’s problem is easily fixable. By simply playing at a slower pace and learning to score a basket isn’t a race, he can instantly improve as a player.

Moreover, Trier won’t be a starter this year. What better way to up his value by slowing down and making the most of his minutes?

Mitchell Robinson- Be The Man

The NBA may now be a guard’s league, but the Knicks just don’t have that in their culture. No, New York has always been a team defined by tough defense, which means centers rule the roost.

Mitchell Robinson is in a position to join a club of dominant Knicks big men this year. He has the starting center’s job locked down and is expected to be a dominant force on both sides of the floor. He averaged 13.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game in the NBA Summer League.

The Knicks haven’t had a dominant homegrown center since Patrick Ewing and fans have waited years for a proper heir. Older fans probably felt the same about Ewing stepping into Willis Reed’s enormous shoes.

But Robinson isn’t worried about stepping into his own spotlight. He showed in the Summer League he’s ready to pick up the starting center’s ball and run with it. He is a dominant interior defender and could even be in the conversation for NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Robinson may only be 21 years old, but age is nothing but a number for him. So long as he shows confidence and embraces being the big man in the middle, expect a breakout season.

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