Bettors Should Actually Respect The 2019-2020 Knicks
Believe it or not, this team has a chance to make an impact in the weak East
The 2018-19 NBA season was one of significant lows for the New York Knicks, who finished off the year with a league-low 17 wins.
David Fizdale’s group didn’t have many bright spots in a season where young forward Kristaps Porzingis was traded to the Dallas Mavericks and the organization moved around a lot of players in order to create cap space for the summer. Ultimately, the team wasn’t able to lure a star free agent, but the Knicks’ roster has still improved significantly from 2018-19.
The DraftKings Sportsbook is giving New York a 27.5 win total for the 2019-2020 campaign, a clear representation of the general rebuilding mode the franchise is in the midst of.
But, they might deserve more respect than that.
The Knicks will look significantly different when they take the court this fall, and that’s probably for the best, given what fans were subjected to last season. The names that general manager Scott Perry and Fizdale added won’t necessarily jump out; however, the Eastern Conference team now possesses a significant mix of youth and experience that the team has been missing for quite some time.
It all starts with first-round pick RJ Barrett, the star shooting guard out of Duke University. Although he hasn’t received the hype of Zion Williamson, Barrett possesses all the scoring attributes a team like the Knicks could want as they seek a game-changer in their offense.
The No. 3 overall pick averaged 22.6 points per game in his one-and-done season with the Blue Devils under Mike Kryzewski, and finished as the top scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season.
Meanwhile, Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson and Reggie Bullock have all been around the block in the NBA, and can certainly provide the Knicks will a much-needed lift in a number of roles with the team. All three players can serve as key role players, while the Knicks continue to develop some of their younger talents.
The biggest loss the Knicks had to deal with last season came midseason with the departure of Porzingis. However, role players like Lance Thomas, Emmanuel Mudiay and Noah Vonleh each moved on this offseason.
Mudiay, who was the second-leading scorer for the Knicks in 2018-19 with 14.9 points per game, signed with the Utah Jazz this summer. That leaves Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina and Elfrid Payton as the options at the point guard position.
In the paint, DeAndre Jordan has moved across town to the Brooklyn Nets, which puts Portis in a position to step in for the Knicks as their big man, along with second-year professional Mitchell Robinson. The latter averaged 7.3 points per game last season in 66 appearances for the Knicks but showed a ton of upside, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
Of everyone on the roster coming back, second-year player Kevin Knox will be the one with the most eyes on him this season. After showing signs of promise in his rookie campaign, Knox will be expected to improve upon his 12.0 points per game.
Smith Jr. will have large expectations as well. The athletic point guard is coming off a strong campaign for the Knicks, albeit in a small sample size after coming over from the Mavericks in the Porzingis deal. His 14.7 points and 5.4 assists per game provided a spark at Madison Square Garden, and now Smith Jr. could be in store for an increased role once again this season.
His arrival from the Boston Celtics won’t be the most-widely celebrated move of the offseason, but Marcus Morris gives the Knicks needed strength and toughness defensively as well as a three-point threat offensively. Morris, a nine-year NBA veteran, is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro, averaging just shy of 14 points per game for the Celtics last season.
Morris’ 6.1 rebounds a season ago was a career-best for the former Kansas Jayhawks forward. It’s uncertain how Fizdale will use his plethora of forwards this season, but with Knox firmly entrenched in the team, Morris could serve as a solid mentor for the former University of Kentucky product. Morris is a player with playoff experience, appearing in back-to-back seasons with Boston.
Projected Starting Lineup
The Knicks will have several options at guard this season, which is something they didn’t have last year. Smith Jr. is the most refined of the bunch at the point guard position, and he’ll likely be given the chance to develop a partnership in the front court with RJ Barrett immediately.
The additions of Bullock, Morris and Gibson provide the Knicks with lots of forward depth, but Knox deserves an opportunity to build off his strong rookie season. Morris is experienced, and arguably the best of the bunch at power forward, so Knox could create a matchup problem for opposition if he slides into the small forward role.
At center, Randle gives the Knicks a legitimate center following Kanter’s move last season. Randle has bounced around a bit, after beginning his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he proved countless times last season for the New Orleans Pelicans that he can be dominant offensively, averaging over 20 points per game. Portis could find himself coming off the bench in a high-usage role, which is something he’s gotten used to in recent years.
PG: Dennis Smith Jr.
SG: RJ Barrett
SF: Kevin Knox
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Julius Randle
Reasons to Get Excited About the Knicks
Nobody should be expecting the Knicks to compete in the Atlantic Division or Eastern Conference this season, but the expectations for the team should be above the 27.5 win total that DraftKings gave them. The biggest thing the team has going for them right now is the hope of really hitting on one or more of their young talents, and having that translate into wins down the road.
Barrett and Knox should be major players for this organization for years to come, and Smith Jr. still has great promise as a young point guard after showing his quality over his brief NBA career.
After 17 wins a season ago, the Knicks can really only improve (barring some major injuries and/or disasters). The Knicks have found some solace in their offseason acquisitions, and that should give the team’s supporters a reason for optimism.
An 11-game improvement over last season may seem like a major shift, but due to the Eastern Conference’s offseason instability and the talented newcomers, it’s very reasonable to assume the Knicks can fight for a 28-54 regular-season mark.
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Note: All statistics above were found on Basketball-Reference.com. The advice above represents the writer's personal view and does not reflect or represent BetQL's stance or interest in any way