Let’s gaze into the crystal ball and predict what’s in store for the New York Knicks in 2021-22.
The New York Knicks had a great run in 2020-21, but the season’s over now.
I know, I know. Losing to the Atlanta Hawks was disappointing. We were just getting used to wearing Knicks jerseys in public again. Was anyone ready to say goodbye to Spike Lee so soon?
Relax, folks. These Knicks were a good team, but a young team. They’ll be back in the playoffs before we know it, and better than ever.
However, that depends on team president Leon Rose and his front office team making some hard decisions this offseason. New York owns two first-round picks in the upcoming NBA Draft, and a Julius Randle extension will surely be discussed.
All signs point to the New York Knicks taking a step forward next season. In fact, I’ll be bold and predict just how they’ll do it.
Julius Randle is an MVP finalist
Considering he won Most Improved Player, Julius Randle was a disappointment in the playoffs. Yet, fans should still expect him to build upon his career season.
Think of how Randle spent the offseason after the New York Knicks weren’t part of the Orlando bubble. He worked out so intensely and got in such good shape that he probably should have his own Rocky training montage. Regardless of his contract situation, it’s clear Randle wants to be a Knick and won’t slow down during his summer vacation.
Fans chanted “MVP” at Randle for a reason. Next year, look for him to be more in the conversation.
Immanuel Quickley starts 10+ at PG
Immanuel Quickley proved to be a steal of the 2020 NBA Draft and soon became a fan favorite. His NBA 2K-like range never got old to watch.
Now, the New York Knicks need to decide just what Quickley’s role on the team will be. He played shooting guard at Kentucky, but was a point guard in high school and doesn’t shy away from running the offense. He’s also still 21, so there’s plenty of time left for him to develop.
Given the Knicks’ serious needs at point guard, Quickley could easily draw more starts there next year. Elfrid Payton was benched in the playoffs and Derrick Rose’s future is uncertain. The Knicks could also still draft a point guard at No. 19 or No. 21, but Quickley deserves a fair shake too.
Unless Rose is laser-focused on one particular draft prospect, the smart move would be to give IQ some more chances leading the team on the court.
Rising to the Toppin
Obi Toppin, as expected, needed some time to adjust to the NBA. After a rough start, he found his flow and became more aware of his presence on the court. Furthermore, he showed he could function outside of the low post.
Toppin also played well off the bench in the postseason and was regularly lauded as a strong presence at practice. Even though he’s stuck behind Randle on the depth chart, he can still be a key contributor on the New York Knicks in his own right.
More importantly, Toppin will absolutely treat his first pro season as a learning experience. It had its ups and downs, but he stayed focused and was a completely different player at the season’s end than he was in his debut. Count on him to take the lessons learned as a rookie and turn them into a breakout sophomore season.
Mitchell Robinson is traded
I hate to say this about Mitchell Robinson, but his time with the New York Knicks might be up. He continues to have issues staying healthy and was limited to 31 games this season due to wrist and foot injuries. He has been in the league for three years and has yet to play a full season.
Now, consider the Knicks soon need to make some decisions about their frontcourt. Taj Gibson could re-sign in free agency, but also turns 36 in a few weeks. Nerlens Noel played well in Robinson’s absence, but dealt with injuries of his own too.
New York could also draft some size with either of its draft picks, or even trade those picks for a dominant big. In negotiations, Robinson could easily be dangled to sweeten the pot. Sure, he’s the most dominant big the Knicks have had in years, but he’s no use to the team injured.
At 23, he’s still young enough to have serious value.
RJ Barrett averages 20+ PPG
Randle might have won Most Improved Player, but RJ Barrett should have at least gotten some consideration. The former Duke Blue Devil improved his game in every way possible, especially his long-range shooting. After making just 32% of his attempts from downtown as a rookie, Barrett shot 40.1% from three in his second season.
All this to say Barrett turns 21 later this month and is nowhere close to being done. They don’t call him the Maple Mamba flippantly. All season long he showed more and more confidence late in games and was unafraid to have the ball in his hands in a pressure situation.
Barrett is a conscientious player who has made very clear he wants to spend his whole career with the New York Knicks. Expect him to be even more aggressive on the court in his third season and not only average over 20 points per game, but also be in the All-Star conversation.
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