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

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Looking into the present and the future

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

Hey again! Did you miss us? We’re back to finish off our enormous season-opening roundtable. Here’s Part One ICYMI. This time, let’s look a little bit forward, and occasionally a LOT bit forward. Without further ado, let’s hop in:

What’s the best-case scenario for the Knicks this year?

Joe: To quote Pitbull: “Playoffs!”

Mannnnn, the Knicks’ playoff drought is older than this jingle.

Can it happen? Probably not. But late October is the time to dream.

Dillon: Randle shows us that he could flirt with All-Star-type numbers and we solidify our young core going forward (including by subtraction). An 8-seed is a pipe dream, but there’s a universe in which it could happen.

Shwinnypooh: The young guys outplay and overtake the vets in the rotation as the year goes on. Frank’s three ball gets to around league average. Ditto for DSJ, and his ability to organize the offense effectively comes around. Preseason Knox translates to the regular season. Mitch stops chasing highlights on every defensive possession and cleans up his foul rate. RJ makes clear that he is “the one.” Randle turns his production into actual winning play. Fizdale demonstrates competence in finding the right lineups and rotations that balance shot creation, ball movement, and defense.

If all of that happens, the Knicks are still maybe a 35-win team at absolute best, but it’d be the most positive 35 win season seen around these parts in quite some time.

MMiranda: Winning the lottery. Establishing some kind of identity that figures to last beyond the one- or two-year contracts most of the team is on. Entering next summer with confidence in David Fizdale or — and this would be wild — a new coach who’s actually had success at this level.

Dallas: ECF!!!!

More realistically, it’s all about development and getting those pingpong balls. Imagine putting a legitimate primary initiator next to Mitch, RJ, and Frank. Could be a real stew ya got cooking.

BennyBuckets: The Knicks go 82-0 and then cruise through the playoffs and Finals as well, making their mark as the best team in the history of sports.

Bootum: The vets know their role and help the young guys instead of hurting them. Then we ship ’em off like nothing for some middling picks. Knox/Frank go from horrible to just bad. Mitch and RJ look like future All-Stars. Trier takes a big jump in scoring and becomes OKC Harden without the passing. Iggy Buckets is freed. We narrowly miss the playoffs and end up with a top-three pick because of the fantastic new draft odds.

Prez: I’m gonna be on brand and talk about the draft here, LOL. Best case is the (reasonably expected) situation where we improve but injury and trades mitigate some of that improvement, we end up with real tangible improvements to Knox/RJB/Meech/Frank, end up third-sixth worst record, and get bumped up in the lottery to select one of my sons Cole Anthony or LaMelo Ball.

Stingy: Finish 17th in the league, win the lottery, get an exciting new coach.

Alex: OK, but for real: (1) finish just outside the 8-seed; (2) break the Knicks’ lottery curse in dramatic fashion and hop into the top three in the Draft; (3) take LaMelo Ball; (4) profit.

Drew: Championship, obviously.

Chiniqua: Honestly? Make the playoffs, lose in the first round. But even that seems wildly optimistic. So best case scenario is that it’s a fun and engaging season and our young guys learn the right things from the vets and progress, and no one gets injured, and Mitch dunks the fuck over KP and Trump is impeached and removed.

What’s the worst-case scenario for the Knicks this year?

Dillon: Worse record than last year (conceivable), and coach-less by the end of the season.

Shwinnypooh: Fizdale plays the vets more than the young guys in a worthless exercise to stack up as many empty-calorie wins as possible. Marcus Morris continues to pretend he’s capable of operating offensively like Prime Melo. Portis starts at center because floor spacing and stuff. Payton starts at point because we can’t be a normal rebuilding team that prioritizes its two young point guards over Scott Perry’s man crush. Vets aren’t traded for assets. The Knicks don’t pick up Frank’s option because they stupidly think they really need an extra $6 million in space next summer to throw around in a star-deficient free agent class.

MMiranda: Frank Ntilikina gets traded and immediately starts and shows he’s a winner. Tension between vets on short deals looking to produce and land that one big contract and youngsters trying to prove themselves and land theirs is too much for the coaches and front office to resolve. Walt Frazier suffers a serious injury, leading Wally Szczerbiak to the regular analyst gig. James Dolan’s annual physical goes swimmingly.

Joe: Miranda said it all, particularly Frank getting traded and Wally supplanting Clyde.

Dallas: Serious injuries because Fiz (AKA Thibs for rookies) plays RJ and Knox eight million minutes in an effort to toughen them up, Frank gets traded for nothing, Marcus Morris declares himself Melo reborn and jab-steps us to 30 wins, and the basketball gods award us the last pick in the lottery as a just punishment for our sins.

Bootum: A zillion iso players with an uncreative coach turns out to be a bad combo and we underplay our talent level. RJ turns out to not be the GOAT based off one preseason game against the Zion-less Pelicans and doesn’t seem like he can be a real piece going forward as shooting is important in the NBA. Mitch can’t stay out of foul trouble and looks like the next JaVale McGee instead of the next Anthony Davis. We finish with the second-worst record in the league but end up with the No. 7 pick because of the dreadful new draft odds.

Alex: None of the young core looks like they’re worth being part of a “core.” Everything about the Knicks the last couple years has been banking on this large collection of young players they’ve amassed turning into guys that hopefully contribute to winning before they all need to get paid. DSJ and Ntilikina are up for new contracts in two years. Trier and Dotson are up this summer. Mitch and Knox have three more years, RJ and Iggy four. At some point the young core is gonna need to start growing up, and there needs to be progress on that front this year.

BennyBuckets: Horrific injuries to the young’uns.

Dillon: Jesus Christ, Benny.

Lames: Our owner comes out against our GM’s right to free speech.

Prez: Elfrid plays 30 minutes per game because Frank’s shooting never reaches passable levels, DSJ continues to jump-shoot like prime Bill Cartwright, we make zero trades at the deadline, Meech gets hurt so our defense tanks, Morris/Elf/Julius/Wayne all continue getting 30 MPG or more through the year, we get the 9-seed, in the lottery jump up to just high enough to take James Wiseman, the stretch 5 who is actually horrible despite being ranked the No. 1 prospect by ESPN preseason, as Meech Insurance.

/swan dives off the Willis Avenue Bridge

Stingy: Finish with the eighth-worst record in the league, get jumped by three teams in the draft, select James Wiseman, trade Ntilikina and their next two picks plus the Dallas picks to Oklahoma for Chris Paul in a win-now move to go all in on saving David Fizdale’s job.

Drew: Play all the veterans more than the young players, have the worst record in the league, and then lose the lottery by getting jumped by every team imaginable.

Chiniqua: Shame, nothing but shame. Loss of heart. Sadness. Trade Frank, Mitch and Kev for Lonzo Ball and a gum wrapper.

Who will be frozen out of the rotation?

Joe: Fizdale has shown a preference for “dogs” who “keep what they kill,” which is just slang for dudes who can take their man either off the dribble or in the post. The three guys who fit that description least are Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson and Taj Gibson, so they will lose minutes.

Dillon: God, I hate to think about this question. Honestly, probably Knox, Trier and Dot.

Shwinnypooh: If it’s up to me, Trier and Payton. Everybody else varies from guys I want to see play to those whom I can stomach to see play.

MMiranda: Iggy Brazdeikis will be a G League G until/unless the Knicks trade some of their bigs by the midseason deadline. At some point, DSJ will be frozen out, and there will be leaks.

Dallas: James Marceda. He’s been shrinking lately, and I’m just not sure he’ll be playable at 3-foot-18.

Lames: The fuck kind of traitorous bullshit is this, DallAss? I trusted you. I loved you.

How we deal with traitors ‘round these parts
Lames LLC Inc.

Alex: I’m here for calling James short. Nice work, Dallas.

I think, unfortunately, Frank’s gonna get frozen out of the rotation for not taking 78 shots per 36 minutes and instead trying to get his teammates involved and set up an offense. Oh, and defense is overrated anyway.

BennyBuckets: Allonzo Trier. He’ll get fussy, and the Knicks will package him with Ntilikina for a bucket of basketballs and some cap space.

Bootum: Dotson is Dot-GONE.

Prez: DSJ. Like I said, once the deadline passes and they lose incentive to showcase him — and he still can’t shoot or defend and they’re trying to actually win — Elfrid does everything he does, but better. RJB will also take more minutes as the lead ball-handler around that time too.

Stingy: Frank.

Drew: Frank.

Chiniqua: Wait, Dotson is still on the team?

How many players on this year’s team will still be around when the Knicks are good again?

Joe: Zero. When the Knicks are good again, basketball will be played with robots.

Dillon: Two.

Shwinnypooh: Four.

Alex: I got Mitch, RJ, Knox, Iggy and (surprise!) Ntilikina on his second deal.

MMiranda: Barrett, Robinson and Knox.

Dallas: The Knicks are kind of weird right now. I feel like we have a lot of really solid role players — guys that could legitimately contribute to playoff teams. For me the list definitively includes: Mitch, Morris, Ellington, Bullock, Frank, and Trier. And there’s an outside chance that one or more of Taj, RJ, or Dot could as well (I discount RJ, because I’ve only seen him in preseason and Summer League, and rookies are so rarely positive contributors). The problem is these guys are like onions — they’re best when they compliment a primary option. If, for example, we put those guys around Luka Dončić in the East, I think we’d make the playoffs, and have a shot at the fourth or fifth seed. But, the problem is we don’t have a Luka, and those guys are hard to find. It’s probably likely that most of these guys are gone before we find one, because onions by themselves just make you cry. I’ll say two are still here: Mitch and RJ.

BennyBuckets: Very few. If anything, some of their grandsons might be making it to the NBA by the time the Knicks are good again.

Lames: RJ, Mitch, Knox, Frank, JDR, Bigzdickus, and... Ellington? Yeah.

Bootum: The year is 2037. Things are finally looking up for the Knicks. The only player remaining from the 2019-20 roster is Frank Ntilikina, who Perry is still desperately trying to ship off for a late second-rounder.

Prez: RJ, Mitch, Knox, Frank, Taj (plot twist - he becomes the honorary vet who’s actually useful on the court as 12th man).

Drew: Four.

Chiniqua: What does it mean, this “Knicks are good again?”

Where do you see RJ Barrett in five years (the first year after his rookie deal)?

Joe: You mean will RJ break the Curse of Charlie Ward, and actually make it to his second deal as a Knick?

Dillon: Probably in a suit on the lottery dais hoping to bring good fortune to the Knicks’ ping pong balls for a shot at landing presumptive No. 1 pick Bronny James?

Shwinnypooh: He’s made an All-Star team, has signed the first designated rookie max extension the Knicks have ever handed out, and after leading the Knicks to the playoffs for a third year in a row, is the centerpiece around whom the Knicks can enter free agency with more than mystique and allure to pitch to star players.

None of this will happen though, because Knicks.

Alex: OK but I actually think he’s signing that designated rookie max, as long as Pills are still in place to write the check. They got the goo-goo eyes for RJ. I could see one All-Star appearance as well. Hopefully the Knicks have made the playoffs as a high seed in RJ’s third and fourth years behind him, Mitch, and whatever free agent the Knicks can convince to sign with them in 2021. No. 9 is well on its way towards the rafters.

MMiranda: Sitting up in the balcony seats beside me, a la Statler and Waldorf, deriding all those Doubting Thomases with the Jarrett Culver hard-on last spring.

BennyBuckets: On a team that isn’t the Knicks, unfortunately.

Dallas: I don’t see him. The only celebrity sighting I’ve ever had was Ethel Beavers crossing the street in LA. That’s enough excitement for me.

Lames: I don’t know how to talk about this without sounding like an olde timey baseball scout, so I might as well lean into it, Sheryl Sandberg-style. Alright, here goes:

This RJ kid, hooooo boy!

/spits a bunch of dip on the ground.

Some people just get it and BY GAWD this kid gets it! This Barrett fella, I tell you what, he’s a raaaare breed. One of those fellas who just knows how to play the game. Limitations? You wanna talk about LIMITATIONS? This kid’s got the GOODS, I tell ya what, and he’s gonna work his fanny off ’til he finds himself exactly where he needs to be.

I ain’t no psychic, just ask my second wife’s new husband, but five years from now this RJ kid’s an All-Star. EASY MONEY! If you’re not buying Dinwiddie-derivates, get yerself some RJ bonds and thank me later. All I ask in return is a frosty cool Bud Heavy when your train comes in.

Prez: As co-point guard along with LaMelo Ball. Putting up a fake-good 37 percent from three where it’s a decent number, but it’s only high because the shots are wide open and no one respects it. Twenty-one points per game on 45/35/75, the kind of useful-but-flawed player who is working on how to not get exposed in the playoffs, and people wonder if he should have the ball in his hands so much.

Drew: I see RJ becoming the third co-host of the Posting & Toasting Show, the greatest Knicks podcast in all of the multiverse. Make sure you subscribe, rate 5-Stars, give a glowing review, download the episodes, delete the episodes, unsubscribe, and repeat as much as possible.

Chiniqua: Actually, as opposed to my usual doom and gloom, I think he’ll be OK. His torso isn’t supple enough but a little yoga and that should loosen up. It’s like a binary, right? He’s good, he won’t be on the team. He’s a bust, we’ll probably still be seeing him in 2024.

Will David Fizdale be the coach of the Knicks in 2020-2021?

Joe: Nope.

Dillon: Probably, but I think the seat will be pretty damn hot from fans if we see little-to-no growth in guys like Knox, Barrett, etc. His X’s and O’s didn’t take much critique last year because it never mattered, but if his rotations neglect the younger core AND his X’s and O’s fail to impress, it will get noisy.

Shwinnypooh: Yes, but I don’t think his job will be secure going into that third season at all.

MMiranda: There’s only been one coach in Knick history to start at three-plus seasons as head coach without making the playoffs: Buffalo’s own Eddie Donovan. Here’s Eddie being interviewed by a couple of hacks.

Though his teams never made the playoffs, Donovan was general manager when the Knicks drafted Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Bill Bradley.

I don’t think Fizdale deserves to be canned. I just don’t see how winning 20-something games is going to compel Knick management to buck a 70-something-year trend.

BennyBuckets: No! Realistically, probably. But if and when the Knicks underachieve significantly again this season, Steve Mills will need to find a scapegoat so he can continue to run the team forevermore. That scapegoat could very well be the coach.

Dallas: Yep! I’d bet all of my no money on it.

Bootum: He gone. Best case scenario we do decent but still Joerger him. At least that’s what I hope happens eventually.

Lames: Tough to say! So far he hasn’t proved to ME — the only person whomst matters — that he’s the coach of the future, but I’d rather he do that than put my thing down, flip it, and reverse it. We’re all sick of the coaching carousel at this point, no?

Here’s THE thing: coaches deserve room to grow, same as players (this is not very controversial), but Fiz has got to show a lot more this season than he did last year in order to deserve the job going forward. It’s not even about results. Wins are largely irrelevant given the obvious talent deficiency this team will face on a nightly basis, but he’s gotta show he knows what he’s doing. This largely comes down to understanding his personnel and putting out the right lineups that play the right style of ball for their skills. I have 41.7 percent confidence in this happening.

Alex: Yeah, he’ll get at least three years, barring something bizarre and catastrophic happening. I can’t think of another front office/coach combo that’s as buddy-buddy as Pills and Fiz.

Prez: Yep, Perry won’t can him during this transition year, and it’ll be the first year we see the outlines of development from kids on the team.

Drew: Fizdale isn’t getting fired. He’s going to be with this team until it plateaus at a certain win total for multiple seasons in a row. Then he will be let go.

Chiniqua: Yes?

The season is over. You say, “Wow, this year sure was _________!”

Joe: “...Canadian.” RJ and Iggy the new Gretzky and Messier.

Dillon: “...not what I expected! I can’t believe we’re NBA champs! TOP OF THE WORLD!”

Shwinnypooh: “...pretty normal for a rebuilding team, but still not sure Fizdale is the right guy to take us forward.”

MMiranda: “...anticlimactic. We learned some things, but the biggest questions — Who’s the head coach moving forward? Who’s the team leader? Is the regime in power capable of being anything beyond not incompetent? — persist into next summer.”

Dallas: “...better than last year.”

BennyBuckets: “...spectacular!” But not because of the Knicks. I’ll have a lot of great personal stuff going on.

Bootum: “...Classic Knicks. Why did I think things would be any different? Next year is the year for sure tho.”

Kyrie Irving: “...an illusion.”

Prez: “...an entertaining prequel to the LaMelo Ball era!”

Stingy: “...good for exposing the self-loathing Knicks fan as the worst kind of person. Just be a cool loser, you grundle wart.”

Drew: “...the year where Nets owner Joe Tsai sided with a government who is imprisoning its population and raping them in ‘re-education camps.’ I won’t let this be forgotten.”

Chiniqua: “...waaaay better high.”

Alex: “...actually pretty fun. But if I have to watch another designed iso for Julius Randle at the top of the key I’m gonna pour bleach in my eyeballs.”


And now you’re ready for the 2019-20 Knicks season! Go the Knicks!