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P&T Round(ball) Table: 2019-20 Knicks predictions and beyond, Part One

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Tackling the big questions leading into the regular season.

New Orleans Pelicans v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

P&T’s staff is pretty big these days! We set out to write a nice little roundtable to ring in the new season, but damn, this turned out long! So we split it into two parts for y’all. Here’s part one, including some sweeping predictions for the upcoming season. Prepare to get a little more existential later...

How many wins will the Knicks end up with this year?

Joe Flynn: I saw some Cavs and Hornets writers putting their teams down for 23, 24 wins. To hell with that... nobody out-tanks the Knicks! 20 wins, baby!

MMiranda: A prime number starting with two. 23 or 29. There are no other possibilities. Caesar’s has the Knicks winning 27 games. But that’d be 33; our cutthroat, flailing species has no right to such beauty of form. 29 it is.

Dillon Dente (NY Basketball Observer): 22.

Shwinnypooh (Ghost of Kristaps Past): 30. I guess I’m an optimist. Whatever.

Dallas Amico (Buffalo 66): I’m not much for giving precise numbers. I think it’s typically more reasonable to think in terms of probabilities, or perhaps ranges of outcomes. Let’s arbitrarily go with the latter. Ceiling outcomes for this team — good health, the young guys take steps forward, the schemes and rotations optimize our talent — are probably in the mid-to-high 30s. I’ll say 36 wins as a best-case scenario. Floor outcomes — all that stuff doesn’t happen, plus vet trades and/or late season tanking — are probably very low. I’ll say the floor is 20 wins. The most likely outcomes are in the mid-to-low part of that range. Never rule out a secret tank.

BennyBuckets: The Knicks will win 28 games this year, improving by exactly 11 victories. They’ll lose a bunch of close games, and optimistic fans will think the team is just a bunch of bad bounces away from the playoffs, while pessimistic fans will feel validated in their belief that the team is destined to be the laughingstock of the league. Hooray!

Lames Marceda: 74. #NewYorkForever

Chiniqua: 23 is a mystical number.

Bootum: I’m going to take ten off my prediction when I was acting a fool on the Wolfe’s podcast. Precisely 29 wins. If I’m right, I’m a genius; if I’m wrong, it was impossible to account for certain factors that changed during the season and I’m actually still right.

Prez: 26. Would be more, but all it takes is an extended injury to one of Meech/RJ/Julius to really do us in. Also, our strongest roster (i.e. our roster pre-trade deadline) coincides with our toughest schedule. When our schedule softens, guys like Morris or Ellington may be gone. Write it in stone! #datedmetaphor #telegraphingpassesisthemostdatedmetaphorthough

Drew Steele: I hate Dallas’ response more than the power of 1,000 suns. Give a take and stick to it, you turd! Anywell, the Knicks are gonna win 69 games (nice) 31 games this year. I believe in RJ Barrett now.

Jon “Stingy” Schulman: I hate Drew’s response to Dallas’ response more than the intensely loose concept of whatever 1,000 suns is. Is it red hot? White hot? Dark puce hot? Explain it to me. Define this power in precise or be gone with you. That was the opaque couché of hot takes. And you call yourself a “takesman.” So yea. Anywhere between 22 and 38 wins. Maybe even somewhere between 19 and 41.

Alex Wolfe: On Locked On Knicks, the greatest Knicks podcast in the world (apologies to my brothers Drew and Shwin), Bootum and I broke down the entire Knicks schedule in a three-part extravaganza. Don’t believe Bootum above — he thinks the Knicks are going to win 39 games and shock the world and win the Finals. I, being a reasonable man, think they’re going to end up with 32 wins. Which, honestly, even that feels a bit unreasonable, but whatever. A 15-game turnaround would be pretty dope!

Who will be the Knicks’ best player this year?

Joe: RJ Barrett. I was way out on Barrett prior to the draft, so consider this a mea culpa. Barrett won me over during the preseason, not only with his scoring, but with his attention to defense, moving without the ball, and all the little things that Knicks players rarely do. If the defense is legit, then he is only an improved jump shot away from being the franchise’s most complete player since... well, let’s just say it’s been a while.

MMiranda: RJ Barrett. He can already score, create, rebound and defend some. Like, literally how many Knicks tick all those boxes? You wanna hear Julius Randle? He’s their best scorer, pro’ly their best bet on the boards. And he can do unto others, passing-wise, though a preseason of triple-teams and dribble drives devolving into turnovers suggests that, as distributors go, Orange Julius is a Wonkavator: up and down and sideways and slantways.

Dillon: Mitchell Robinson. Although I’m nervous that the growth from rookie season to sophomore season won’t be as dramatic as I hope in terms of defensive discipline, he is clearly going to make an impact on that side of the ball and probably have the green light to look for his points slightly more than last year. Gotta stay on the floor, but he will surely get a ton of easy put-backs from errant Barrett drives.

Shwinnypooh: Julius Randle. It’s tempting to pick RJ with how he’s flashed in preseason, but as a rule of thumb, going with a rookie to be the best player on any team, even a shitty one, is bad bet. Randle’s been productive, durable after a freaky injury as a rookie, and is familiar with the the grinding, drawn-out nature of the regular season. Mitch was also under consideration, but I think he’ll struggle initially to control his hero-block urges as a starter initially and gradually improve with it over the course of the season.

Dallas: This is too easy. Mitchell Robinson.

BennyBuckets: Julius Randle by default, but really Mitchell Robinson. Randle will score more than 20 points a night, and depending on how many of those 28 wins come during the first half of the year, he may get some All-Star consideration.

Robinson will swat shots in the double digits multiple times this year, and will average over three blocks per game. He’ll receive a bit of consideration for Defensive Player of the Year. Maybe a vote or two. He’ll continue being New York’s main source of hope and pride.

Bootum: Hopefully Mitch, but he may prove to be too much of a dingus with his fouls and block-seeking to be that guy consistently. Marcus Morris’ all-around game and versatility may make it him technically, but that’s lame. Randle will get those sweet, sweet box score stats.

Lames: I regret to inform you that my colleagues are cowards and bums. The correct answer is My Beautiful Sweet Baby Frank.

David Fizdale: Elfrid Payton. The way he pushes the ball, the way he competes on the ball, those are the things I really like about him.

Prez: Meech, the most irreplaceable player on the roster. Without him, our defense would crumble to worst in the league almost certainly. He’s also at our shallowest position (rim protecting big). If Julius or RJB go down, theoretically Marcus Morris or other guys can give you 60-75 percent of what they give you. The same ain’t true of Big Meech!

Drew: Shwin may call it a bad bet, but I’m putting up the farm, the barn, and the estate on RJ Barrett being the best player on the Knicks this upcoming season. He is the most excited I’ve ever been for a Knicks rookie ever, including that (Lames’ Note: alleged!) sexual assaulter Kristaps Porzingis. Unlike the vile snake, Barrett can pass, finish through contact, and rebound better than a guy who’s 7-foot-3. If I were to hedge the bet a bit, my other bet would be The French Prince. Ntilikina is already the best defensive player, best passer, and the best looking. Nothing more important than those three aspects.

Stingy: Frank Ntilikina, but we’ll never get to find that out.

Alex: It’s going to be Julius Randle. I guess it depends on your definition of “best” (what idiot wrote this question? Oh, it was me), but the reality is that Randle is gonna most likely lead this team in scoring and rebounding with good efficiency. I actually don’t even expect a huge drop-off of his efficiency from last year — after Anthony Davis went down for the Pelicans, Randle was forced into a more featured role and took about 15 shots per game. I think he’ll average about that many shots this year too, based off the extremely regular season-like preseason we just finished. I also think he’ll average close to five assists per game being one of the primary fast break starters. Randle gets an All-Star nod and justifies that contract, and he ends up being the best player on the Knicks this year.

Chiniqua: Like, normal best player or person-who-we-here-on-the-blog-will-die-for and think is the best player? ’Cuz the former probably ‘Orange’ Julius Randle, and the latter will hopefully be Big Meetch.

Who/what will be the most pleasant surprise this season?

Joe: Ignas Brazdeikis, G League MVP!

Dillon: RJ Barrett, at least for me. He might have carte blanche more than I anticipated and more than nearly any rookie this season. Some people might have expected a No. 3 pick to be great out of the gate. I was sure that it would be an ugly season for him, but the Summer League and preseason games have shown enough to at least expect him to be a solid rotation player, if not more (maybe a cop-out answer). Also, Ellington!!!!

Shwinnypooh: Taj Gibson. As my good friend Stingy pointed out in his wonderful preview on Taj, he’s the type of wisened (Lames’ Note: I refuse to believe this is a word) (Stingy note: it’s not, it’s “wizened” which is one of my favorite words right along with “brusque”), grizzled vet you need on a young, rebuilding team, who is actually still good at basketball. I’m a huge fan of his corny three-ball celebration and that he’s been more than willing to launch from there!

MMiranda: If we knew, it wouldn’t be a surprise. I’m gonna take “surprise” as “Sir prize.” Now it’s easy. Marcus Morris. I knew a kid in second grade who smoked cigarettes before the school bus came. I see Morris as that kinda kid. He could pro’ly open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew before most of us could handle root beer.

Honoring the spirit of the question, I’d say Kevin Knox. Just ’cuz so many people seemed to write him off as a bust, the worst player in the league, etc. I think he’ll take a leap this year. Maybe not “the” leap, but “a” is A-OK.

Dallas: RJ Barrett, for me. I don’t watch NCAA, so I hadn’t seen him play before summer league. He’s been really fun to watch this preseason — especially on defense — and I hope it continues.

Chiniqua: Same. RJ is an unknown quantity, therefore has the ability to surprise and amaze.

Alex: Nobody has said Frank Ntilikina yet? The hell is wrong with you guys? I’d expect this out of noted Frank despiser Matthew Miranda, but I expect better from the rest of you.

So I’ll take the plunge and say Frank. The FIBA play will translate, and even though he’s going to somehow lose the starting point guard job to Elfrid Payton to start the season, Frank will earn a start sooner than later and be part of the most analytically-sound starting lineup the Knicks put on the floor this year. Hopefully, unlike last year, Fiz doesn’t kick a plus-7.2 net rating lineup to the curb after one bad half. Bold (and likely foolish) prediction: Frank ends up with the most starts at point guard of the Knicks’ troika by the end of the year.

Bootum: Allonzo Trier. The one thing holding this man back is just moving the ball more and taking more threes. That’s pretty easy and he’s made an effort to do so. He was an older rookie, but scoring at the rate/efficiency he did on the dreadful team we had his first year in the league is really impressive. He could take a bit of a jump and somewhat resemble the Hall-of-Famer the MGRADS/Yoda gang think he is already. Also, Bobby Portis scores more efficiently with a lesser usage rate.

BennyBuckets: The front office, because they just picked up Frank Ntilikina’s option!

Kyrie Irving: The wise man is the man who lacks all expectation. Do or do not, there is no surprise.

Prez: Mitchell Robinson shooting 75 percent from the line.

Drew: It’s gotta be Wayne Ellington. Like my best friend and lover Ashwin Ramnath mentioned about his excellent pick Taj Gibson, young players truly benefit by playing with guys who know what they are doing on the court and are just flat-out professional. That’s Wayne Ellington. The guy knows his role, is going to bust his ass running around screens, and compete on defense. Plus, the Knicks need a legit floor spacer, and that boy can shoot!

Stingy: Well it can’t be whoever they get back from the Bucks in the Frank Ntilikina trade. Because that player is doomed. So, I’ll actually say RJ Barrett. As he goes, so will the Knicks, I bet.

Who/what will be the most unpleasant surprise this season?

Joe: Marcus Morris. I think he’s a good basketball player, but on this particular Knicks team, I worry he’ll act like a superstar, playing Melo-esque iso-ball and gumming up the offense.

Dillon: Dennis Smith Jr. He is not good.

Shwinnypooh: Allonzo Trier. Yeah, he’s efficient. No, I don’t expect him to alter his game to be more of quick decision maker on the ball who won’t pound the air out of the rock every time he touches it before doing something with it. Yes, I fully expect him to be a locker room problem if he doesn’t get a consistent role in the rotation.

Bootum: Julius Randle. He might be better than our past “he could be an All-Star with a bigger role!” signees in Enes Kanter (Alex Note: Kanter was traded for and got us Mitchell Robinson, c’mon Bootum) and Tim Hardaway Jr., but there’s a reason he hasn’t had a bigger role. He’ll be a good player, but he may still prove to be too Randle-y to be the 25-10-5 All-Star some are expecting him to be.

MMiranda: Mitchell Robinson. Go on. Get it out of your system.

I say Mitch ’cuz I say expectations for him are out of whack. I get why. He is, along with Barrett, one of the Knicks’ two most important, promising players for the future. He showed signs last year of things we haven’t seen since... young Marcus Camby? Young Patrick Ewing?

But remember: Mitchell Robinson is still Young Mitchell Robinson. He’s going to commit dumb fouls. He did last year, he did all preseason. He’ll show out, he’ll shine out; no denying that. But I think too many people think a guy two years removed from high school, with no college ball under his belt, is just gonna step in and keep that line graph of progress going up and up. You ’member this Knick?

Kurt Thomas played four years of college ball, leading Division I in scoring and rebounding his senior year. He played over 2000 minutes at TCU before entering the NBA. With all that experience, he still committed 5.9 fouls per 36 minutes his rookie year, almost equal to M-Rob last year (5.7). Thomas averaged between 4.8 and 9.4 fouls per 36 his first six seasons, and Thomas wasn’t a shot-blocker vulnerable to pump fakes and clashes at or above the rim. We are not bound by our predecessors, and that is sometimes a blessing. I just think Robinson could be more in line for a plateau this year than an incline, and I think that will disappoint people.

Lames: Professor’s right. Also, Mitch is never gonna learn how to shoot. I love this kid more than anyone, especially you, but let’s try to comport ourselves with a little bit of dignity, ok?

Bootum: Screw you, he’s about to start hitting five threes a game. He’s going to attempt one any day now.

Dallas: Marcus Morris or Julius Randle. These might seem like they’re a bit out of left field. Here’s my reasoning. Regarding Morris, I was optimistic that he would bring some maturity and stability to both the offense and the defense. While he’s been solid defensively to this point, I’ve been annoyed by him on offense. I hoped that he would ensure that guys were running sets, moving the ball, and producing high expected value shots (like he often did in Boston). All things that would likely help our young guys develop. Instead, the specter of Melo (the Ghost of Melo Past, if you will) seems to have descended upon him. And he’s turned into a ball-stopping mid-range junky. And, the offense has looked better — to this point — without him. Check out these jab steps!

I think Randle will be unpleasantly surprising on the other end of the court. The Knicks have done a lot of cool stuff schematically on defense in the preseason. But they’ve been playing Randle like a traditional big. He’s terrible in that role. Fortunately, we actually have the personnel to hide his weaknesses a bit (weird, right? The Knicks have some good defensive players). Hopefully we start doing it. Otherwise, he’s going to fetch some Kanter comparisons on that end.

BennyBuckets: The front office when they trade Ntilikina.

Prez: DSJ Fultz’d his shot, and without that he doesn’t really do anything Elfrid (even at his worst) doesn’t do better, so it might be quiet for him.

Drew: Why hasn’t DallButt been fired yet? Jesus Christ, my guy. Marcus Morris and Julius Randle?!?! Morris already hit Justin Anderson in the head with a basketball and Randle does pull-ups with 420-pound chains around his neck. They already won. Plus, both guys are going the beat the shit out of that bum Latvian who lost a bar fight against a bunch of loser-ass Russians.

The Professor and my good friend James Marceda are right; it’s going to be Mitch. Don’t be shocked if his second season is similar to the snake’s second season with getting into foul trouble and not showing significant improvement from a promising rookie campaign. Reality will hit Robinson this year and he will be amazing in his third season. Mark. It. Down.

Alex: In a rare level of symbiosis among this particularly motley crew of writers, I’m also going to say Mitchell Robinson, much as it hurts my heart. I think he’s going to have to spend a bit of the season re-unlearning bad habits again, based off what we saw in Summer League and preseason. That’s going to stall his development for a little bit.

Stingy: Elfrid Payton. He’s the lower middle class family’s Emmanuel Mudiay and he’ll be getting gobs of minutes because it’s time to fire David Fizdale.

Chiniqua: The most unpleasant surprise will be that the Knicks are still the Knicks and they’re going to do maddening opaque shit and everyone will point and laugh and we’ll be stuck trying to justify it, forever. Well, ok, maybe that’s not a surprise.


Stay tuned for Part Two later today!