Can the new Knicks roster compete next season?
With the signing of Marcus Morris, it is safe to say the New York Knicks have completed their off-season string of signings. Without landing a single All-Star, the team created a mix of young talent and gritty, hard-nose grinders. Now that the dust has presumably settled, the Knicks roster can be fully scrutinized. Of course, fans hoped that the front office would have winning in mind when assembling this group. Looking forward, the question is how achievable is that goal?
Between Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, and Marcus Morris, the Knicks have no shortage of big men. Additionally, the team has added shooters in the form of Reggie Bullock and Ignas Brazdeikis. Moreover, the team drafted R.J. Barrett with hopes of a big season, which he has shown glimpses of in the Summer League. Lastly, the team has mostly held on to their young core from last season, including Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., and Mitchell Robinson. All that being said, the team has actually improved and may have what it takes to make some noise. Then again, they aren’t the only ones to get better.
The League Is Better
Going into next season, the starting line up for the Knicks will presumably be Smith Jr., Barrett, Knox, Randle, and Robinson. With the other previously mentioned pieces, the team is relatively deep. However, the competition in just the East alone is relatively deep as well. In spite of the fact that Kawhi Leonard has headed West to lead the Los Angeles Clippers, there is no lack of talent on this side of the Atlantic.
The reigning MVP is still running the Milwaukee Bucks. The Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics are still looming threats. Jimmy Butler took his talents to South Beach. Lastly, the Brooklyn Nets added Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to kill their “little brother” status in New York. These are the teams that the Knicks have to go through to break into the playoff picture. That of course doesn’t include the juggernauts in the West such as the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Rockets, and Trail Blazers, all of whom improved as well. Additionally, the younger teams like the Sacramento Kings, the Dallas Mavericks, and the Utah Jazz may be dark horses. In other words, this Knicks roster will have a difficult journey ahead.
A long, starless season ahead
Now, this New York squad isn’t the first team to try to make a playoff run without a star. The Clippers were in a similar predicament last season, giving the Golden State Warriors some trouble early in the playoffs. Ultimately, that team was escorted out of contention, but not before attracting the attention of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. It stands to reason that top Knicks brass is hoping for a similar result. However, this is different.
At the end of next season, the free agency pool will not be nearly as big as it was this season. More importantly, James Dolan is still the owner of this team. The infamous executive has been notorious for both over paying players and chasing away stars. As this offseason showed, big name free agents don’t want to deal with Dolan and his management style. Perhaps a playoff push by this starless squad could turn some heads, but that’s a very high expectation. With no guarantees ahead in a wildly improved league, it’s difficult to gauge how much success this team can realistically have.
Is there any hope?
Now of course, anything can happen. Without cycling through the same reasoning, the Knicks have some solid pieces on their squad. The team isn’t lacking any scoring or rebounding options, in addition to the newly joined shooting threats. Objectively, one can’t simply say that there is no chance of this team seeing any success. In fact, given the remaining teams in the East, the Knicks could possibly sneak into a low tier playoff placement. Additionally, the continuous improvement of Randle could create similar waves to those created by D’Angelo Russell in Brooklyn. That, with more pieces, can surprisingly make the Knicks a potential dark horse in the East. While long term success may be a long shot, the Knicks may end up surprising fans next season.
There’s no sugarcoating it, next season will be a rough one for the Knicks. Yet, while teams have certainly improved, there is still a question mark near the bottom of playoff contention. The Knicks could very well find themselves in that spot, but it won’t be easy. James Dolan didn’t make it easy. However, fans can expect that the players on this team do want to let the fans down. To that end, there could very well be an underdog culture forming in the Knicks that could turn the team a dark horse next season. There is only one way to find out.
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