Four Things Knicks Fans Should Hope For This 2019-20 Season
About six months ago, most Knicks fans had high hopes for the 2019-20 season. There were talks of landing free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as well as receiving the number one overall pick, which would have in all likeliness meant bringing Zion Williamson and his superstar potential to the Big Apple.
Fast forward to today and things have not gone according to plan. The Knicks were dealt the third overall pick, which ended up being Williamson’s former Duke teammate R.J. Barrett, and watched Durant and Irving opt to join Brooklyn instead. With those developments, NY’s dream of a star studded roster and getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 were flushed down the drain. Instead, the Knicks front office chose to take a conservative approach and only went after mid-caliber free agents on mainly short-term deals.
So, with playoff hopes no longer in the picture, here are four things that Knicks fans can hope to see instead this upcoming season.
1. David Fizdale doesn’t rush Barrett
While he is no Zion, Barrett still has the potential to be a perennial All-Star and cornerstone of the franchise going forward. He’s a prolific scorer who used his unique combination of size and quickness to get to the rim with ease during his lone season at Duke. He averaged 22.6 points while adding 4.3 assists over his 38 game college career and was named to the All-ACC First Team and All-ACC Freshman Team. However, good defenses will crowd the paint against Barrett which will make him have to improve on his inconsistent shooting.
While Barrett has a clear path to the starting lineup, if his skills don’t immediately translate at the NBA level, it’ll be imperative that Fizdale doesn’t toss him into the flames and expect him to figure it out on his own. Instead, allowing Barrett to split minutes with second year shooting guard Allonzo Trier and new addition Wayne Ellington while he gets his footing will help build his confidence and avoid a repeat Kevin Knox situation.
2. The emergence of Mitchell Robinson and young core
Barrett will join a strong young nucleus of center Mitchell Robinson, point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and the above mentioned Knox. Robinson highlights the group and will look to build on a rookie campaign that caught the attention of the league and earned him a spot on ESPN’s top 100 players list. He’s a shot-blocking force with double-double potential who could solidify himself as one of the best pure centers in the league.
DSJ, a top 10 pick in 2017, was part of the trade that sent All-Star Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas. He’s athletic, quick and shifty in the paint and will look to finally put it all together in his third full season.
While Knox’s rookie campaign was a letdown, he still showed flashes of solid play, specifically during his December stretch where he averaged 17.1 points to go along with half a dozen blocks and taking home Rookie of the Month honors. Last year Knox was expected to create his own shots which negatively impacted his stats across the board. The addition of ball dominant veterans like Julius Randle and Marcus Morris should alleviate some pressure and allow him to focus more on hitting open looks.
3. Veteran play that alleviates pressure
Randle was the team’s biggest offseason acquisition, at 24 he still may not have reached his prime and will take pressure off of Barrett and Knox by being the number one option. He’s joined by fellow forwards Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson and Marcus Morris, as well as guards Elfrid Payton, Ellington and Reggie Bullock. The new additions will provide invaluable experience to the young core as well as contributing on a day-to-day basis.
Payton will apply significant pressure to DSJ, and if he fails to perform, can easily be slotted into the starting job. Portis and Gibson will both see minutes off the bench and provide help on the boards while Morris brings a combination of physical/mental toughness and playoff experience into the mix. Ellington is a solid defender and shooter who, along with with Bullock, will provide Fizdale with significant depth.
4. The Front Office remain patient
While a team headlined by KD and Kyrie would have been great, the Knicks front office showed unprecedented patience unlike what’s been seen in the past. Rather than overspending on someone like Jimmy Butler, they chose to stay patient and go with a plan B that involved bringing in pieces aimed at helping their young foundation prospur without tying up significant cap space long-term.
This year, Knicks fans should hope to see that same patience continue. They have veteran trade chips like Morris that contenders will overpay for come the deadline, and they should focus on acquiring assets rather than any big name players. This patience helps the Knicks immediately in terms of getting veteran help for their future franchise players while providing them flexibility in free agency two years from now when superstars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard will hit the market.