Three Bold Predictions for the Knicks’ 2020-2021 Seasonby Ben Fadden December 15, 2020 0 comments
The New York Knicks don’t look to be a true contender this season, but with many young players and an experienced coach, they could surprise some people. The organization has improved in the offseason and should be excited about the upcoming season.
Tom Thibodeau will start his first season as the Knicks head coach on Dec. 23 in their season opener against the Indiana Pacers. He has a track record of elevating struggling teams and making players better, especially on defense. With good coaching, New York should be able to surprise in the Eastern Conference.
Without further ado, let’s start making some predictions.
1. Knicks won’t Finish with the Worst Record in the NBA
Westgate gave the Knicks an over-under win total of 22 1/2–the worst projected win total in the league. That’s a bit harsh. It is no secret that New York does not have a very talented team and as of now, they don’t have a star. They are focused on developing players, not necessarily winning now.
With that being said, there are still numerous young pieces that can help the Knicks win more than 22 games. RJ Barrett didn’t show that he will be the next star of the Knicks in his rookie season, but he is off to a good start in the preseason. Barrett scored 25 points and was 10-for-17 from the field in their loss to Detroit on Sunday.
Mitchell Robinson is not starting right now, but he and Nerlens Noel could be a great center combination this season. Rookie Obi Toppin was the player of the year in college basketball last season. While he has struggled to a degree in the preseason, he is still a special player on offense and will benefit from Julius Randle‘s mentorship. Additionally, his game should translate to NBA production quickly.
Teams Potentially Below the Knicks
The other teams that are supposed to fight for a lottery pick are not as talented as the Knicks are. The Cavaliers have older players that are past their prime (Kevin Love and Andre Drummond) and two unproven starters. Isaac Okoro seems to be the only starter who might be starting in the NBA five years from now.
Are the Charlotte Hornets a sure thing to win more than 25 games? LaMelo Ball scored zero points in his preseason debut and beyond Gordon Hayward (who they overpaid for), they have Devonte’ Graham, P.J. Washington, and Cody Zeller in the starting lineup. That doesn’t sound too promising.
New York just saw the Pistons in the preseason and both games were close. Those are just a few teams in the Eastern Conference that are likely less talented than the Knicks. In the Western Conference, teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder (who traded away Chris Paul), the Memphis Grizzlies, and Minnesota Timberwolves could also be in the running for the top pick in the draft lottery.
2. Obi Toppin is a Starter by the End of the Season
Toppin didn’t start either of the first two preseason games, as Alec Burks was at shooting guard which moved Barrett to small forward and Randle was at power forward. If the Knicks are not going to make the playoffs then Thibodeau and his coaching staff need to give young players the most playing time so they can get more experience playing in the NBA.
Toppin figures to be a big part of their future along with Barrett, so it will be important for New York to put both of them on the court at the same time as much as possible–which means starting Toppin by season’s end.
3. The Point Guard Position won’t be Solved
Maybe this isn’t as bold as you would expect but there is no one on this roster that has the ability to lock down the starting point guard position. The team’s front office is looking at next offseason to make some big moves. That is why the club signed guys to one-year deals. Elfrid Payton is on a one-year deal, Austin Rivers is only signed for one guaranteed season, and Frank Ntilikina is not a starting-caliber player.
Immanuel Quickley is barely getting any playing time in the preseason and that should not change drastically in the regular season. He was selected 25th overall in the draft. Quickley will need time to develop before cracking the team’s rotation.
A big reason why there will be no long-term starting point guard at the end of the season is due to next year’s group of free agents. Some of the notable free-agent guards next offseason are Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Dennis Schroder, DeMar DeRozan, and Victor Oladipo–who reportedly told Knicks players that he wanted to be traded to New York last season.
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