The New York Knicks have been in a constant state of rebuilding, virtually ever since Patrick Ewing left New York in 2000. There have been some flashes of hope with Linsanity and the Carmelo era, but there has not been long-term basketball success in New York for almost thirty years. For the first time in forever, there’s hope at Madison Square Garden, but it can all come crashing down. RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier, and others have a lot to prove this upcoming season, making it the most important in the last twenty years of Knicks basketball.
This past offseason was a major disappointment for the New York Knicks. During the season, they shipped off Kristaps Porzingis for cap space with hopes of landing a marquee free agent. The Knicks supposed targets were Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but they decided to sign across the East River in Brooklyn with the Nets. The Nets got the guys that many were convinced would become New York Knickerbockers during the 2019 offseason.
After passing on the key names available, Scott Perry and Steve Mills went after Julius Randle and Bobby Portis. Randle is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, averaging 22 points and 9 rebounds with the New Orleans Pelicans. Randle was discarded by the Los Angeles Lakers after he didn’t develop quickly enough for Magic Johnson’s liking, and they renounced his RFA rights during the 2018 offseason. Bobby Portis has bounced around the league a few times, making stops in Chicago and Washington. Portis hasn’t been able to make that next step in the NBA from fringe starter to potential all-star. He’s had an injury problem in his short career, averaging 50 games played each season. Portis and Randle are both low-risk, high-reward signings for the Knicks as they look to make that next step as a franchise. However, after Portis and Randle, Scott Perry signed bench warmers and every power forward (including Portis and Randle) possible to join the squad. Can Portis and Randle pay off for the Knicks, or will their excessive amount of power forwards bite them in the butt and drain their salary cap flexibility?
The reason why this season is so important lies with Kevin Knox and RJ Barrett. Knox was the Knicks first-round pick in the 2018 Draft, and he’s shown flashes of dominance. Knox has shown glimpses of a player that he could become, but he’s never been able to sustain success for more than 5 games at a time. Yes, he was a rookie, and you expect some growing pains out of a developing player, but it’s time he makes a huge jump in his sophomore year. During the NBA Draft Lottery, the Knicks missed out on potential superstar, Zion Williamson, as they fell to the 3rd overall selection. The 2019 Draft was a 3-player draft headlined by Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett. Lucky enough for the Knicks, they stayed within the top-3 and were able to take Barrett out of Duke. Barrett was overshadowed by Williamson at Duke, but it was Barrett that was the more touted prospect coming out of high school. Barrett’s basketball IQ is exceptional, is a smart defender, and has a build perfect for today’s NBA. But why wasn’t he the number one pick?
Barrett was the #1 prospect in the 2018 high school class and showed minimal growth from his days at Montverde Academy to Duke University. Barrett was able to physically dominate the lesser competition in high school, and some scouts are afraid that he peaked at Montverde. Since Barrett played at Duke with Zion Williams, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones, etc., he wasn’t always the offense’s top option. Barrett is still raw, and he needed the ball in his hands at all times to help reach his potential. When Williamson went down with an ankle injury against UNC, Barrett showed why some analysts considered him the best player coming out of high school since LeBron James.
The hopes of Knicks fans everywhere lie on the development of Kevin Knox and RJ Barrett. If at least one of Knox or Barrett reaches their potential, the Knicks can be a force to be reckoned with in the NBA. If they fail, the Madison Square Garden will become once again, a place where winning comes to die. Can Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and the 2019-20 Knicks be able to lift New York out of the basketball oblivion? Only time will tell.