Knicks Lead

4 Reasons to Be Optimistic About the 2019-20 Knicks

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This was a summer the Knicks and their fans had been looking forward to for quite awhile. The enthusiasm only intensified after a shocking mid-season trade saw them ship off former franchise building-block Kristaps Porzingis. The move increased tanking potential while clearing up two max slots for the summer. They were looking for stars over a new young core. Dreams of a future built around Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson had the New York faithful salivating. Then, reality struck.

Durant and Irving did come to New York, but unfortunately for the Garden faithful, they chose the Nets instead. Lottery balls bounced similarly for the Knicks, landing them with the number three pick instead of securing a chance at the most hyped prospect since LeBron James. Given all of this negativity, not everything is as bad as it seems.  Here are four major reasons fans should be optimistic going into this season.

1. Frankie Smokes the Competition

It has been an up-and-down start to his career so far, but Frank Ntilikina was impressive in a short showing in the FIBA World Cup this summer.  Not only did he help France get past the United States, but he helped his country capture a Bronze medal as well. The Knicks still aren’t willing to discuss a rookie extension for the 21-year-old. There is no rush as he still needs to prove he can be consistent in the NBA before any future commitment can be made.

Ntilikina is still a backup on this team at best, and will need to prove he’s more than that if he is to become a consistent contributor or trade chip for a team with its eyes on the future. He is saying all the right things after a successful summer.  Hopefully he can set himself apart from the other young prospects trying to do so. Luckily for the Knicks, he is not the only one trying to do so.

2. Other Young Core

Before discussing the obvious highlight in the number three pick, there are three other impressive young players with potential that looks to be discovered this year. Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. are entering varying levels of development. Mitchell Robinson did not enter last year with much hype, but quickly won the hearts of fans. Posting averages of 7.3 points, 6.4 boards and nearly 2.5 blocks in only 20 minutes per game bodes well for his future in the league. He has indicated that he is working closely with head coach David Fizdale on 3-point shooting and defense. If he can continue to develop his game steadily as his minutes increase, the Knicks will be looking at a solid building block for the future.

Knox brings a few more questions after being ranked pretty low in terms of overall play last season. However, the potential is still there. Efficiency is his biggest issue at this point. Scoring nearly 13 points per game as a rookie is nothing to sneeze at, and a greater focus on better shots should improve this as well. Smith Jr. is in a similar position. While he did regress overall from year one to year two, it can be pretty easily explained away. Playing out of position alongside Luka Doncic while in Dallas would be tough for any second-year player. Getting a full summer with Fizdale should lead to a better feel for the system in New York. Adding more talent to the room overall should also allow Smith Jr. to flourish.

3. Randle Time

Free agency did not go as well as they would have liked this summer, but the Knicks still added useful pieces on short-term contracts. Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis, Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington and Taj Gibson all signed two-year deals with team options to get out early. The Knicks left themselves with veterans to surround their young players with, and they could still move those guys at the deadline for future flexibility. They did not commit too far down the line at all, except with Julius Randle.

Randle is a different type of free agent swing for this team. He is in the same age range as the Knicks’ young core and is finally starting to figure out his game. In New Orleans last year he posted his best season yet, averaging 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. His year was highlighted by the above 45-point outburst against the Trail Blazers. Randle is a triple-double threat, filling up the box score and making things easier for his teammates. He fits perfectly with the Knicks’ young prospects and takes some of the pressure off of them as they progress at their own respective paces.

4. Good News Barrett

While they didn’t draft Zion, landing RJ Barrett should still be considered a win for the Knicks offseason. Barrett has top-tier potential to anchor the franchise into its next generation. The reigning National Player of the Year broke the ACC Freshman Scoring record. He led the ACC in scoring at 22.6 points per game while adding 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Barrett is a competitive defender with high basketball IQ. He did not necessarily live up to his preseason hype at Duke. However, that can be attributed somewhat to the supernova that Zion Williamson’s season was combined with some inefficiency.

If Barrett can become a more efficient player, he will be a fantastic addition to the Knicks. He will have plenty of leeway to work through any struggles. Better yet, he won’t have so much pressure on him. Adding another top pick next summer would build to the strongest young core the Knicks have had in years. Barrett is the kind of lethal scorer who thrives in the Garden. It is only a matter of time until he steps out of his college teammate’s shadow.

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