RJ Barrett, Kristaps Porzingis
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The start of the 2019-2020 season is here and these New York Knicks’ storylines are guaranteed to be front and center.

Geoffrey Campbell

The New York Knicks are looking forward to their new beginning, a chance to rewrite the script and change the “uncool” narrative.

Wins and losses aside, the preseason was generally a positive experience, and now head coach David Fizdale shifts his troop’s focus to the Brooklyn Nets after a season-opening loss in San Antonio.

Last season, the draft and free agency dominated Knicks’ headlines. But after a 17-win season, no Zion Williamson, coupled with a Heisman from both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Knicks were left searching for their silver lining.

After summer league and preseason, Knicks fans will be clinging to the potential of RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson like Eddie Mush clinging to Kryptonite in A Bronx Tale.

But there’s no jinx here. Given the minutes at least one or two of the Fiz kids will develop into a star. This is the only storyline that really matters.

But it’s the Knicks; there’s never just one storyline, and there is always drama. With that said here are the top Knicks storylines for the 2019-2020 season.

Closed mouths don’t get fed

No regular-season games have been played, yet there are already reports about disgruntled players and their playing time. Per Ian Begley of SNY, “per SNY sources, there has already been some grumbling about minutes/roles.” 

The team’s success will most likely dictate how boisterous players are about their discontent. Last season, Enes Kanter was very vocal about his lack of playing time and was eventually bought out by the Knicks. It probably didn’t help that the Knicks were losing by almost double-digits every night.

The modern NBA player has a great amount of power and control in regards to where they want to play. Jimmy Butler all but lit the Minnesota Timberwolves practice facility on fire before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Fizdale’s counseling skills will get a lot of work this season. Players will be unhappy, they will take to social media, and it’s a headache that the Knicks don’t want to experience. Fiz will definitely make his money on his ability to keep players, that might be on the outside looking in, motivated and focused.

Neophyte metamorphosis

The Knicks have Barrett and Robinson, and despite years of organizational dysfunction, that is their silver lining.

If the Knicks can stumble into 27 wins and both Barrett and Robinson look like they could be Knicks in the future, the sins of all the previous front office regimes will be forgiven. But truth be told, Barrett and Robinson are not the only players to be excited about in New York.

Allonzo Trier has shown promise as a well-rounded player with dangerous offensive ability and a skill-set similar to CJ McCollum. Kevin Knox II enters year two with the goal of being a capable catch-and-shoot player with slasher capabilities. Dennis Smith Jr. is looking forward to showcasing his new “shot” and Frank Ntilikina is already proving to fans that he’s a rotational NBA player after an impressive summer in the FIBA World Cup.

If the Knicks have found their own homegrown version of names like Donovan Mitchell of Jamal Murray, the scouting department needs a hefty raise.

The In crowd

There will be substantial media coverage regarding Fizdale’s rotation. Shocking, I know. The Knicks will likely enter the season playing at least 10-11 players on a nightly basis. And while that won’t do much to provide a cohesive unit, Fiz doesn’t have much of a choice.

With a total of nine new players added to the roster, Fizdale is not going to be able to field a strong rotation based on summer league and four pre-season games. The rotation will likely be flexible for much of the first quarter of the season.

Earlier this past summer, I wrote about Fizdale’s minutes’ distribution and how it might mirror some of the teams in the league based on record and roster construction. Using the Atlanta Hawks as a baseline, I looked the minutes from spots one through 10 in the rotation.

In spots six through 10 in the rotation, players didn’t average too much over 24 minutes per game. The problem? Each of the Knicks newly signed veterans, with the exception of Reggie Bullock, had averaged at least 25 minutes per game over the past three seasons.

Obviously, some of those players are on very tradeable contracts, but regardless, it will make for very interesting discussions during coaches’ meetings.

Offensive schemes: A 200 level class

Last year, the Knicks attempted a pick-and-roll and spread team offense with players, who, in general, were either not that talented or just figuring out the NBA. The results were heavily based in isolation sets and a nauseating amount of contested mid-range shots.

Enter the 2019-2020 season and coach Fizdale has told fans that the offense will be different this year. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks will feature more detailed offensive sets and maybe even some sets from the French National team.

Fiz likes the flexibility and versatility of the players on the roster enough to play through the post and incorporate some motion sets as well. Additionally, Fiz wants his team to be aggressive and to get to the line often, which bodes well for guards like Barrett, Trier and Smith.

Finally, the additions of Wayne Ellington, Bobby Portis and Bullock were likely interventions geared towards reversing the trend of poor three-point shooting from last season. Both Ellington and Bullock shoot the three over 37 percent for their careers and Portis converted 39 percent of his three-point shots last season.

With guards who can consistently break defenders off the dribble and reliable three-point shooters on the wings, the Knicks should make a solid improvement in offensive efficiency.

Kristaps Porzingis

Yes, I know you hate to see it in print. But it’s true. Even the most bitter fan must know that Kristaps Porzingis’ health and performance this year will be a constant theme featured on all coverage related to the Knicks, both on a local and national scale.

Porzingis spurned the Knicks rebuild and was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. Both KP and Barrett enjoyed a little harmless back-and-forth in the media but now the games are for real and we will see what type of player the once-beloved unicorn will be.

If Porzingis and Doncic become a dynamic duo in the west, it could be a disastrous blow to a trade grade that is already favoring the Mavs. The Knicks struck out in free agency and Smith, at least for now, still seems like a work in progress. If the Mavs become a perennial playoff threat in the west, those Knicks draft picks will not look as desirable.

Fans will try to play it off, but in the end, all Knicks fans will have a close eye on the Mavs’ games this year as well as Porzingis’ stats.

The Knicks are never short on drama and this season promises to be no different. Optimism is high, expectations are most likely mild, but these storylines and probably a few more will dominate the 2019-2020 season.

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