Entering the second year of the David Fizdale Era, the New York Knicks have nowhere to go but up. They are clearly in the process of a rebuild, and development is the key word for this team. A lot of people will say they whiffed in free agency. I am one of those people. Just kidding! Kind of… They did make some under-the-radar signings of solid basketball players, who could become long-term pieces. Who’s going to step up and solidify themselves as a piece moving forward? That is what the Knicks will try to find out this year as they push towards relevancy in 2021.

 

2018-2019 Record: 17-65

 

Outlook:  How much more losing can this fanbase take? Ehh, I guess they’re used to it by now. Seriously, the Knicks are heading in the right direction, after distancing Phil Jackson another year in the rearview mirror and out of their memories. Isn’t it so Knicks to finally get the worst record in the league, in a year when that doesn’t guarantee the number one overall pick? The way the new system works, they were lucky to even get the number three pick. The Knicks could battle for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, but placing a wager with hard earned money is a difficult proposition. An infusion of fresh talent could do a world of good for a team that had the worst record in the league last season. My bold prediction: The Knicks won’t be the worst team in the NBA this year.

 

Key Additions:

 

Key Departures:

 

The Knicks brought in some wily veterans to mentor the young guns. Will it work out for the Knicks? History says no, but I’m rooting for them.

 

Point Guards: Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina

Elfrid Payton will likely be the most valuable PG on the Knicks roster to begin the year, but other guys could receive more opportunity as the season moves on. In addition, he could be a trade chip at the deadline. Payton put together a solid season last year for the Pelicans when healthy. He set career-highs in assists and FT%, and he’s only 24 years old. Dennis Smith Jr. needs to take a step forward, as he has so much talent, but needs to improve his shooting or he’s going end up playing in Russia. The free throw shooting regressed his sophomore season, especially after being traded to the Knicks. DSJ is currently listed as the Knicks’ starting PG on ESPN. The opportunity is there. He needs to run with it. Frank Ntilikina has been a big disappointment the first two seasons in the league. He obviously has potential as a former eighth overall pick, but the offensive repertoire has been lacking. The Knicks will probably give him a chance, but skepticism is high that he can produce.

 

Shooting Guards: RJ Barrett, Alonzo Trier, Damyean Dotson, Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington

RJ Barrett can play multiple positions, but the assumption is that he’ll be starting at the two for the Knicks. Barrett will go from one of the most successful basketball colleges in Duke to one of the least successful NBA franchises in recent years. It will be interesting to see how he handles that transition, although the spotlight will still be on him in the biggest media market in the US. Looking at his numbers at Duke, the assist-to-turnover ratio was not good, and he shot poorly from the FT line (66.5%). On the plus-side, he scored 22.6 PPG and averaged 7.6 rebounds. He’s also just 20 years old and has a ton of room to grow, so the Knicks will likely give him all the minutes he can handle. He is the new face of their franchise, after all.

Allonzo Trier showed flashes of brilliance last year. He shot 39.4% from deep last year, but only took just over two per game. The coaching staff needs to encourage him to shoot more. He could be a late-round fantasy guy if he takes a step forward and carves out a role as a scorer off the bench. Damyean Dotson took a nice step forward in his sophomore campaign last year. He’s another guy who can score when given the opportunity. The Knicks are a bit deeper this year, so the opportunity may not be there, but he’s a name to monitor if the Knicks start trading off pieces. Reggie Bullock and Wayne Ellington are snipers. They should help space the floor and open things up  down low. Depending on how many minutes they get, both could hold some value in fantasy if you need 3’s.

 

Small Forwards: Kevin Knox, Ignas Brazdeikis

The Knicks are hoping Kevin Knox recaptures his December magic, when he was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. He had an uneven rookie year to say the least, but clearly the potential is there for the former first-rounder. There have been questions about his motivation, which is never a good sign, and he looked terrible on defense in Summer League. Defense comes down to heart and toughness, so it makes sense that there have been questions about his drive. The FT% was decent at 71.7%, but he was one of the worst shooters from the field at 37% on 12.2 shots per game. Fizdale should push Knox by making him compete for playing time with Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock, and Ignas Brazdeikis. Looking at his college numbers, Brazdeikis has a solid base to build on. He shot 39.3% from deep and averaged 14.8 points for a strong Michigan squad. You never know what to expect from rookies, but Brazdeikis could carve out a bench role on the rebuilding Knicks.

 

Power Forwards: Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis

This is where things get interesting on the Knicks depth chart. Marcus Morris and Bobby Portis can both slide down and play some small forward. Taj Gibson can play some five to spell Mitchell Robinson, so all of these guys will play, but there is the potential that they could eat into each other’s fantasy value. Julius Randle will have all the opportunity in the world to score the basketball this year. He’s the only one on this team that’s averaged over 20 PPG at the NBA level. Taj Gibson is one of the most boring fantasy players in the league, but he’s a good real-life player and has a good reputation as a hard worker, which hopefully rubs off on the young guns. Bobby Portis can score and rebound. He’s a low-end guy for fantasy, but his percentages are solid enough to be ownable and he’s improved his 3-point percentage every year. I’m talking myself into liking him as a draft day value. Marcus Morris could start for the Knicks at the SF position, depending on how Kevin Knox looks. His ceiling and floor are pretty close, so you know what you’re getting from him. 

 

Centers: Mitchell Robinson

The center position begins and ends with Mitchell Robinson. He showed huge potential last year as a shot blocker, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he lead the league in blocks. He finished second in blocks per game and fourth in total blocks last season. To put that in perspective, the 161 blocks were 38 behind the league-leading 199 by Myles Turner, in 759 fewer minutes. Assuming the playing time increases, which is hard not to see, Robinson should be able to snag the blocks crown if he stays healthy. He did have a penchant for fouling, but was better in the second half of last season. If all goes well, Robinson is a poor man’s Rudy Gobert with more blocks upside.

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