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2020-21 NBA SEASON PREVIEW: NEW YORK KNICKS

@TheWillBaldwin

New York Knicks

Predicted finish: 13th in the East (5th in Atlantic, 27 in the power rankings)

Last seasons conference finish: 12th

Overview:

Last season the New York Knicks sucked, what else is new? In other consistently Knick moves, they changed front offices and head coaches as well. Say what you want about James Dolan but the man knows how to keep his franchise’s fans feeling comfortable in a routine. Here’s the thing though, I actually kind of like what they’ve done since they brought in Leon Rose. Sure Tom Thibodeau isn’t the sexiest hire but the man knows how to build a culture. They also didn’t over pay to move up to draft the guy they wanted, didn’t overpay any veterans on terrible contracts and have maintained cap flexibility and draft assets going into the season for the first time, ever? There’s still massive problems with this roster, don’t get me wrong. However, the Knicks didn’t have an incompetent offseason and that at the very least is the sign of progress. 

The big question for the franchise: Which players are actually part of the core going forward?

Heading into training camp, this team has 11 players aged 23 or younger. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a roster this young before. The good news for Knicks fans is there’s a ton of potential here. The bad news is though that this team is going to be terrible. What I like about that though is we should see a ton of minutes for Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson and a series of other undrafted or second round pieces. Add in Obbi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley from this draft and the Knicks are loaded with potential assets. What they must answer this season is who of these young players have the potential to be around when the team is good again, who needs to go now and who could be a potential trade piece for something better down the line. All of these guys should receive ample opportunity this year, it’s up to them to showcase how they fit with the organization going forward. 

One move I want to see them make: Acquire a veteran point guard 

It’s essentially impossible to run a real NBA team without a point guard of merit. Austin Rivers isn’t the answer and I sincerely doubt it’s anyone else on the roster. This team needs to make a move to bring in a veteran stabilizing force to allow the young players to fill roles that better suit their games and give them a real opportunity for success. If not, the team will struggle to organize, run sets of any substance or really just generally look like an NBA team. Adding a vet who maybe is an expiring deal that a team wants to clear would be invaluable for the future of the organization’s young core. 

Offseason grade: B

As I said in the intro, they didn’t do anything obviously wrong and so that has to be seen as a type of win on some level. Of course they still have a massive hole at point guard and I’m not huge on the Toppin, Robinson fit but it’s the Knicks so we can’t get too picky about this can we? It wasn’t bad this offseason, it wasn’t great either though but I guess for the Knicks, we’ll just have to congratulate them on the baby steps. 

Young player I’m excited for: RJ Barrett

I will always be a fan of RJ as a Canadian and invested in him hitting his potential. Last season, the team surrounded him with a roster that was the literal exact opposite of what he needed to have success and then, people questioned if he was a bust. No, he’s not, he just needs spacing and the Knicks decided to run a 1996 front court insead. This year’s roster isn’t perfect but it’s better for him to have space, they just need a point guard to take that responsibility from him because he’s not quite ready to be a lead ball handler yet. Still though, last year he showed flashes and his jump shot technique looks improved in the workout videos (he hasn’t played since March, let me have the videos in peace please) we’ve seen released. I’m excited to see how he’s progressed, how he fits with Toppin and what’s next for Barrett. I still believe the sky’s the limit for him. 

Final Thoughts:

The Knicks have a ton of questions coming in thanks to their new roster so it’s tough to expect much. If they have a season where they find the answers on their young core in what they have, get a high draft pick and maintain cap flexibility that’s a win for them. I know it’s been a long time Knicks fans and this year will be tough again. However, the Knicks appear to have shown signs of light in the prospects of them potentially knowing what they’re doing so at least you have that positive thought for the first time in a decade.

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