The New York Knicks are in yet another transitional year. Here are three bold predictions for the 2020-21 season.
The New York Knicks need to enter the 2020-21 season with realistic expectations. They are still a year or two away from being a playoff team, but that does not mean that this is going to be a long season.
On the contrary, they can take massive steps forward to set themselves up for future success. The development of the young players and establishing a team identity are two of the biggest storylines to watch this season.
In advance of this crucial Knicks season, here are three bold predictions for the orange and blue in 2020-21.
RJ Barrett Will Average Over 20 Points Per Game
This is the big question for this season: Will RJ Barrett take another leap forward after a promising rookie season? Although he was deserving of an All-Rookie nod last season, the wing was snubbed. His shooting splits were his downfall when it came to the voting.
But Barrett will remember that he was snubbed and use it as motivation. He’s already mentioned that he felt disrespected by the voters. That chip on his shoulder plus an increased role in the offense should help Barrett take his scoring to the next level.
Last season, Julius Randle was the alpha dog on offense. He put up the most shots on the team and they mostly played through him. Barrett finished third on the Knicks in shot attempts per game, behind both Randle and Marcus Morris Sr.
With Morris out in Los Angeles and Randle likely taking a backseat to Barrett, the second-year player is poised to have a big season offensively. Of course, in order for Barrett to truly flourish on offense, he needs to have shooters around him. He needs spacing to get into the teeth of the defense.
Our next bold prediction would go a long way towards opening things up for Barrett.
Kevin Knox Will Eventually Start At The Three
Kevin Knox‘s first two seasons with the Knicks didn’t go as planned. He showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie but was mostly inconsistent. In year two, Knox lost his starting job and saw his minutes dip from 28.8 per game to 17.9.
Year three is going to be different. As noted earlier, the Knicks need three-point shooting in the starting lineup. Knox has a smooth shooting stroke, but it has yet to translate to the NBA.
Don’t look at Knox’s preseason stats (they are good) because the preseason is meaningless, but listen to what his coach is saying.
“Looking at his career, when he’s taken good shots, he’s always made them,” Thibodeau told reporters earlier in camp. “Or at least had a good chance to make them. And when he’s eliminated the tough shots, it makes him a much better player.”
Knox does not need to be a superstar to be an effective starter for the Knicks. If he can knock down open threes and play competent defense, it would make sense to stick him in the starting lineup.
The Knicks are not going to the playoffs and the name of the game is player development. Seeing Knox earn his spot with the first five would be a major win for the organization.
The Tom Thibodeau Effect Will Be Noticeable
The over/under on the Knicks’ win total is set to 21.5 on FanDuel Sportsbook. Even in this 72-game season, the Knicks will go over that number. Yes, the Knicks are young and they could use more shooting in the lineup, but they also have Tom Thibodeau.
Thibs is one of the best when it comes to pre-game preparation and in-game adjustments. The Knicks were not going to steal many games from better teams when David Fizdale was the coach. That will definitely happen more often with Thibs running the show.
But more important than winning games, Thibodeau needs to help this team establish an identity. God knows plenty of players and coaches over the last 10 years have talked about bringing back those rough-and-tumble Knicks that fans fell in love with during the ’90s.
Of course, the game is changed so they won’t be an exact replica of those teams, but who better than Thibodeau to help re-establish that blue-collar mentality in Madison Square Garden. After all, Thibs was a Knicks assistant from 1996-2004.
Even though the Knicks might be a year away from being a year away, this season can still be a success. If Barrett takes a leap forward, Knox finds a consistent role, and Thibodeau leaves his imprint on this team, the 2020-21 season will be a massive step in the right direction.