New York Knicks 2019-2020 Season Awards
The New York Knicks came into the season with a lot of questions. After failing to secure the number one pick in the draft and not reeling in Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, the Knicks looked elsewhere for help. They gave out contracts to solid players looking to either prove themselves or cash out.
The hopes were that they would be good enough to compete for a playoff spot or they would use the solid pieces on short-term contracts as trade assets. With a log-jam of young players looking to set themselves apart in the backcourt, and the remaining roster spots being filled mostly by veteran front-court players trying to prove themselves, the Knicks struggled immediately out of the gate.
A roster that looked like it had options and potential ended up becoming one of constant change and a lack of consistency and a team that some thought could threaten a low playoff seed was back to fighting for lottery positioning. David Fizdale was fired, and ever since the All-Star break, there were some positive notes.
They had won a few games against impressive teams, the young prospects of the team, R.J. Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson continued to show progress, and even guys like Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox were showing signs of what fans have wanted to see. Regardless, this has been another year of lost hope for the Knicks. They missed out on the playoffs, and failed to give the youngsters free reign to grow.
Rookie of the Year: R.J. Barrett
Barrett came into the season with a lot of pressure. The Knicks were hoping to land fellow Duke classmate Zion Williamson prior to the draft lottery, and when Durant and Irving went to Brooklyn, all of the Knicks hopes for this year were placed on the young Canadian.
Before arriving at Duke, many touted him as the best player in his class. When allowed to go to his strong side, the lefty can get to the rim very well and is an above-average playmaker for his size. He has a decent jump shot that needs work, but it should be good enough going forward to continue to let him attack the paint. His defense, decision making, and off-hand all need work.
However, the former number one player in his class definitely showed glimpses of what many hoped for. With averages of 14.3 points, 5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game, Barrett gave Knicks fans something to cheer for during another disappointing season. Highlighted by a 26-point game in his 3rd game in the league against the Celtics, a 27 point, 5 rebound, 5 assist game against the Rockets, and a 26 point, 5 rebound, 4 assist game against the Hawks, Barrett is proving to those around the league why he was so highly touted and why he was the number three pick.
Most Improved Player: Mitchell Robinson
Frank Ntlikina made a push for this award. His numbers haven’t changed much, but if you watched his games this year, it was very obvious that he had made progress in his play this year. He has always been and continues to be a great on-ball defender. But the biggest difference this year was his mindset and aggressiveness. He was playing a lot more confidently and aggressively on offense this year and it was a huge improvement.
That being said, Robinson was still the most improved on the team. For some reason, Robinson still starts games on the bench most of the time, and even with that, he was able to have an immense impact on games with his energy and rim protection.
Already touted as one of the best rim protectors in the league, the young athletic center made strides in cutting down on fouls, which was where he struggled the most last year. Besides that, he was able to improve as an on-ball defender and improve a bit as an offensive player as well. His scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage increased. He did this while decreasing his fouls. Yes, his blocks went down, but Robinson was arguably the most impactful player on the team while coming off the bench.
Sixth Man of the Year: Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson was mentioned earlier, and this will not be the last time his name comes up either. That is why he is such a hot commodity and so highly valued by the organization. Without needing the ball or putting up huge numbers, Robinson is able to influence the game in different ways and immediately have his presence felt. Almost every Knick fan will tell you that Mitchell Robinson, with his combination of skill and potential, should be starting, but because he wasn’t, it was an easy choice to give this award to him. Putting up the aforementioned numbers in just over 23 minutes per game is impressive. No bench player on the team had anywhere near the impact he did and even when compared to the rest of the league, he was one of the top bench players. He led the league in field goal percentage, was in the top 10 in blocks, 3rd in PER among bench players, and 6th in bench players in rebounds. Hopefully next year, he won’t be eligible for this award.
Defensive Player of the Year: Mitchell Robinson
Robinson shows up again as promised and it's mainly due to being 7th in the league in blocks, and being the 6th best rebounding bench player in the league. He leads the team with two blocks per game. While there may be other players that have a legitimate argument, Robinson just does too much on that end of the floor.
Most Valuable Player: Julius Randle
While Mitchell Robinson took home multiple awards, the MVP of the team still goes to Julius Randle. He is the Knicks’ leading scorer and rebounder, second on the team in assists, and second in PER. With averages of 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, he is close to being a 20/10 player. Randle’s importance to the team shows up not only in the averages, but in his splits as well.
In the team’s losses, he only averages 18 and 9 while he averages 22 and 11 in their wins. Fans at times were frustrated with Randle this season due to bad shot selection or crucial turnovers. Regardless, Randle has been the best player and when at his best, he showed he can keep up with some of the stars in the league. Nobody knows for sure what his future with the team is, but if they do keep him, how much he can continue to improve will be a factor in just how quickly and how far this rebuild can go.