I understand fellow Knicks fans, the past has not been kind to us. It feels as if every year we are given a new sense of hope with a high draft pick or a potential superstar signing, only to be disappointed time and time again. While it may seem like history is bound to repeat itself again this year, I’ve decided to take an optimistic approach this season and answer an important question. What are some positive things that could happen for the Knicks this season? I’ve listed four things that us Knicks fans can hope for.
1. RJ Barrett shows that he could be a superstar. Being the third overall pick in a market as big as New York City brings some serious expectations. In a perfect world, however, RJ Barrett lives up to the hype and maybe even exceeds it. RJ Barrett has already shown that he can be excellent in transition, a high-volume scorer, a solid defender, and fearless in crunch time. The best case scenario would be that he not only reinforces these ideas but also improves his shooting ability, court-vision, and decision making. Barrett has been slightly below average from behind the arc in college and in the preseason, but he has been working with Drew Hanlen, NBA skills trainer, on his shooting mechanics this offseason. If he were to show that he has a reliable three pointer in his arsenal, he could be an all-around force on the offensive end. When it comes to his court vision, he averaged 4.3 assists per game at Duke and was able to take over at the point guard position when Tre Jones went down last year. This year he is expected to have the ball in his hands frequently so showing he can be a consistent playmaker is very important. Lastly, his decision making and shot-selection at Duke last year were poor. While most rookies are inefficient scorers early in their careers, showing at least some signs of maturity as a decision-maker would be a promising sign. If all these things were to happen, Barrett could be a superstar in the Garden for years to come.
2. Mitchell Robinson emerges as one of the best centers in the league. Last season, in limited playing time, Robinson was an absolute monster on the defensive end, averaging 2.4 blocks in just 20.6 minutes per game. Robinson’s defensive production is expected to continue this season, but even a slight improvement on the offensive end would make him extremely dangerous. If Robinson, still very raw, were to become more productive on the offensive end this season, he would be a player the Knicks can build their future around.
3. The Knicks other young players improve. The Knicks have four young players who have shown some potential and could be apart of their future. Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier, Dennis Smith Jr, and Frank Ntilikina are all solid players but none of them are stars. This season can give the front office more clarity on which of them can be building blocks for the future. Ntilikina and Smith are two lottery picks from the 2017 NBA draft who have disappointed so far but have shown some signs of improvement. Ntilikina played excellent against the hawks in the preseason, locking down Trae Young when he was on the court. Dennis Smith Jr. has potential but needs to put it all together in order to be considered a Knicks building block. Knox, last year’s first round pick, needs to work on his offensive efficiency and shot selection. However, if he improves in this area, he would be a real threat. Trier, an undrafted rookie signing from last year, has shown to be a solid all-around player who might have to take a step back this year with the second unit but could still be a great role-player. If one or two of these players can take the next step in their development, the Knicks would have an exciting young core of stars.
4. Julius Randle becomes a borderline all-star caliber player. Randle had a great season with the Pelicans last year, averaging 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. On a young Knicks team, he should be a leader on and off the court and could put up even better stats than last year. If he can continue shooting three pointers at at rate above 34% as he did last season, an all-star appearance isn’t out of the question, especially with the high usage rate that he’s in line for.
Stay hopeful Knicks fans, as the future is brighter than it may seem. If these four things happen, we could be looking at a Knicks team competing in the playoffs for a long time to come.