The New York Knicks’ high hopes for the summer of 2019 faded quickly, as two of their top targets immediately announced they’d be signing with the team they share the city with.
Nevertheless, New York remained calm, unlike in years past, and made some savvy, low-price, short-term signings that will help strengthen the core of the team in the immediate future, and could become trade bait at this upcoming season’s deadline.
The Knicks’ ceiling in 2019-20 won’t be very high, but they are building something interesting by stocking up on high-upside players in the draft and by not hampering their future cap space.
Brighter days could be ahead for New York.
STAYING: Kadeem Allen, Damyean Dotson, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith, Allonzo Trier.
ADDED: RJ Barrett (Duke), Ignas Brazdeikis (Michigan), Reggie Bullock (LA Lakers), Wayne Ellington (Detroit), Taj Gibson (Minnesota), Amir Hinton (Shaw), VJ King (Louisville), Marcus Morris (Boston), Elfrid Payton (New Orleans), Lamar Peters (Mississippi State), Bobby Portis (Washington), Julius Randle (New Orleans), Kenny Wooten (Oregon).
GONE: Henry Ellenson (Brooklyn), Billy Garrett (Chalon), Mario Hezonja (Portland), Isaiah Hicks (Avtodor), John Jenkins (Free Agent), DeAndre Jordan (Brooklyn), Luke Kornet (Chicago), Emmanuel Mudiay (Utah), Lance Thomas (Brooklyn), Noah Vonleh (Minnesota).
STRENGTHS: They have a roster full of intriguing young talent that they’ll have an entire season to evaluate … RJ Barrett is coming in a bit raw, but has upside as a prototypical modern scoring wing … Julius Randle is extremely productive, even if his numbers don’t historically correlate to winning … Frank Ntilikina is coming off a strong summer, and is still just 21; it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start to turn the corner … Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson also have a lot of promise, the former as a 3-and-D wing and the latter as a bouncy rim-protector … Despite missing in free agency, they made some savvy, cheap veteran signings, including Marcus Morris, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock … They have the roster to be hard-working pests defensively, which should be one of their biggest strengths … If their season is off the rails by then, they could shop their veterans to contenders in hopes of landing some assets … Because all of those signings are either on one- or two-year deals, they should garner a good amount of interest on the trade market.
WEAKNESSES: Their inexperience will make it difficult for them to maintain a strong level of play all season long … The talent level of the team also isn’t very high … The upside of a lot of their young guys is huge, but right now, they’re more potential than anything else … They don’t have any shooting at point guard … Payton/Smith/Nitty … That’s probably the worst shooting point-guard rotation in the league … They are going to have trouble scoring as a team … Outside of Randle, who else can get their own shot on that team consistently? … Because they have so many short-term deals, that often translates to players looking out just for themselves, especially if they get off to a slow start out the gate … Their veteran signings are all role players, so none of them individually will garner a huge package in a trade … Missing so badly in free agency was hurtful enough, but seeing two of their top targets, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, sign with their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, was not good for the aesthetics of their franchise.
PREDICTION: 5th in the Atlantic Division, 11th in the Eastern Conference.