The Knicks Wall staff gives their predictions for the upcoming season, including answering pertinent questions on the status of the team.
The New York Knicks are ironically in a similar position now as they were this time last year: they left free agency with mediocre players on short-term deals, and more importantly picked up a lottery selection in the NBA draft with focus on “development.”
The difference between now and then, however, is the quality in the free agency haul along with the pedigree of their lottery pick, R.J. Barrett. Despite winning 17 games during the 2018–19 season, second-year head coach David Fizdale and the Knicks have a mix of established veterans, young-but-hungry 20-somethings, and draft talent all vying for minutes.
As we do every year, The Knicks Wall staff shared their thoughts on the upcoming season, with three key issues constructing the basis for this year’s expectations of the ‘Bockers.
1. Will Fizdale be on the hot seat at some point this season?
Lawrence Scotti, staff writer: Yes, he will. Even if it isn’t entirely his fault, the large influx of new players will bring lofty challenges for Fiz.
Quentin Haynes, staff writer: Maybe? I can’t envision him being fired this season unless the Knicks have an insane losing streak like last season or if James Dolan gets involved. I can see him being criticized by the fanbase if he doesn’t settle in with his rotation and his tactics continue to look poor, though.
Sam DiGiovanni, news writer: I think he might be. Last year he had no serious expectations because he had guys that were almost out of the league, guys just entering it, a couple of decent to crappy vets, and Enes “I hate losing but I still opted into my player option” Kanter. This year is different. No one is expecting a deep playoff run, just competent rotations, improvement from the young guys, a better defense and an actual offense. If he can’t deliver on these, I can see him being on the hot seat.
Harrison Liao, features writer: He’s going to live on the hot seat. Knicks fans love nothing more than to be recreationally angry at their team—well, maybe they’d love to win something just a little bit more—and now that the team has pieces fans are clamoring to see succeed (R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson), there’s a responsibility to start building an actual culture.
Nick Scolaro, staff writer: I do not believe Fizdale will be on the hot seat at some point this season. This is a young team with low expectations. Nobody in their right mind should expect the Knicks to be competitive for a playoff spot this season, and I believe Steve Mills and Scott Perry view this year as a developmental year where where the youngsters can grow with some savvy veterans in the building.
Mike Cortez, staff writer: For a normal team, that not-so-quietly tanked last season, the answer would be no. But we are talking about a team that changes head coaches more than Kanye changes styles.
Fizdale has not made a compelling case to keep his job secure either. There was no clear offensive system in the preseason, and once again a veteran appears to be the starting point guard over the homegrown kids. If these trends remain consistent well into the season, and the losses keep piling up, it would not be all that shocking to see Fizdale given walking papers.
Eli Cohen, features writer: Absolutely. If there’s one thing the Knicks are consistent about, it’s building crappy teams and then firing the coach when he can’t make mountains out of molehills. This team is better than past ones have been, but there’s even more potential for volatility with all the big personalities they paid mid-major money to. Fizdale needs to show that there’s method to the madness of his lineup “creativity” and that his reputation as a player developer is well-earned.
Tyler Marko, features writer: Fans won’t hesitate to start calling for his job, but the front office won’t want to hire a fifth coach in four years.
Zach Locascio, features writer: Yes, although this is no contender, there is a competent roster on the Knicks this year. If Fizdale throws out the same free-form offense and defense every possession and the Knicks are under 30 wins, he’ll most likely be the most obvious answer as to why the Knicks are failing.
Jaan Choudhri: news writer: Fizdale will most definitely be on the hot seat this year. Last season was his first in New York, and he didn’t have much to work with. However, with a much-improved and deeper team, he needs to show that he can run an offensive scheme outside of isolation plays.
Michael Corvo, features writer: Unfortunately, yes. The Knicks don’t have to crash the playoff picture, but they do need to show steady improvement for Fizdale to keep the seat cool. Fiz was brought in to develop and bond with young players, and his performance in that respect this season will be what he’s graded on—although an uptick in wins will be crucial as well. So far it’s not going great, as players are reportedly already “grumbling” about their roles, and any underperforming will inevitably give fans, beat writers, and blog boys like us the opportunity to speculate and vent about Fiz. There may not be pressure on the Knicks to win a ton of games, but there is a substantial amount of pressure to make progress—especially after being bested in free agency by the Nets. Any stretches in which that isn’t happening will lead to questions about Fizdale—fairly or not. Welcome to New York.
Eugene Rapay, news writer: Fizdale shouldn’t be, but if there’s an ugly stretch, especially early, I wouldn’t be surprised if fans start dialing up the heat. He should be able to get a fair chance, especially since his first year was a designed tank job.
Ty Jordan, staff writer: I think Fizdale will be on the hot seat about 50 games in. Even if they get off to a strong start, I think that stretch of games where playoff teams really begin to pull away will have a strong reaction since this is the best the roster’s been in years. They’re not a formidable team by any means, but if they’re floundering near that late-middle of the season when they’re supposed to reach peak chemistry, all that bail we shot Fizdale last season will be for naught. He’d make it out of the season, but I doubt much longer than that if the team hits a seven-plus game losing streak. As common as they were last year, Knicks brass won’t stand for it. And he’s the perfect scapegoat, especially since there’s a case that he’s what’s wrong with the team.
Nick Carannante, news writer: David Fizdale should not and will not be on the hot seat this season. As a team that should be prioritizing player development and focused on the future, Fizdale should not be the scapegoat for a team losing now but instead focus on his ability to help the team win in the future.
Harley Geffner, features writer: Fizdale is absolutely going to be on the hot seat this season because every Knicks coach is on the hot seat every season. Even if the Knicks win 35 games, fans will still riot because of one or two stupid decisions he makes.
2. Can R.J. Barrett win Rookie of the Year?
Lawrence: I don’t believe R.J. is in contention for Rookie of the Year. There are players in much better situations like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant who are going to be playing at a higher level, with more minutes.
Quentin: No. I think Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, health permitted, are better bets. I also think Barrett may struggle early if the jumper isn’t there and the Knicks fail to supply adequate shooting around him.
Sam: Yeah, but so can a bunch of other guys. Zion will probably be the best rookie and Ja will probably run Memphis’ offense, which could mean some impressive stats (which is almost always what the ROTY award is about). I can comfortably predict an All-Rookie first team appearance, but I think the top-two picks have the best chances.
Harry: Sure, provided he can shoot consistently. R.J. is going to buy himself a ton of minutes by virtue of: a) his defense b) his matchup versatility. If he can grow into this team’s leader on offense, and the Knicks at some point make an inspired push for the playoffs in a dreadfully top-heavy Eastern Conference, I don’t see why Barrett can’t win ROTY. Zion looks insane, though.
Nick S.: R.J. can absolutely win ROTY. Obviously his good friend Zion is the front runner, but Barrett is one of the best offensive players in this draft and will likely be thrown right into the mix being that he was picked so high. If R.J. can improve his offensive consistency and become a volume scorer quickly, he will be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year for sure.
Am I the only one who is already 100% sold on RJ? pic.twitter.com/ebQka7l38I
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) October 17, 2019
Mike: Without a doubt. To win Rookie of the Year you need two things, talent and volume, and can take over with a third skill. Barrett has an abundance as both as the preseason proved to us with 37.3 minutes per game. Zion is the superior player, yet there is a world where he doesn’t play enough games or Barrett is buoyed by that third thing I mentioned: narrative.
Mitchell Robinson is living proof that playing above average does not go unnoticed when you play for the Knicks. After what transpired in the lottery and free agency, if R.J. puts together a season in which he averages 17 points a game and the Knicks improve their win total, R.J. will get that “savior” bump that Zion will never be able to achieve on a good Pelicans team.
Eli: If Zion misses more than 15-20 games, R.J. will absolutely be in the mix. Opportunity plus visibility plus an NBA-ready body to withstand the wear and tear of the season should let him put together a respectable, decently rounded rookie season. But if Zion’s knee scare turns out to be no big deal and he plays out most of the season, R.J.’s chances drop to just about zero.
Tyler: Before the preseason I would have said no, but he’ll certainly have the opportunity to tally the necessary numbers. He’ll lead rookies in minutes played if Fizdale keeps it up, and the Knicks may improve enough to attract some attention from voters. Of course there’s a Zion-shaped cloud hanging over this whole rookie class, his health will be the biggest factor in shaping this race.
Zach: Yes, It’s clear from preseason that he’ll have the minutes and opportunity to play. He has made the most of his time in the preseason as he averaged almost 16 points per game on 46% shooting. His defense and rebounding have been excellent as well. If Fizdale continues to let him run for over 30 minutes a game during the regular season, Barrett will fill up the stat sheet. It will be difficult to steal the award away from Williamson and Morant but if Barrett can continue his preseason excellence, he’ll be more than deserving of being titled the best rookie.
Jaan: I think it’s possible, but extremely unlikely. Zion Williamson’s flashy play will give him loads of media coverage, and the only way I see R.J. winning is if Zion gets hurt and he averages 17 points per game.
Michael: Yes! The Rookie of the Year oftentimes goes to a player who is afforded the opportunity to post high-volume numbers, and R.J. looks to be firmly in that position. He played over 37 minutes per game in the preseason and played well, averaging 15.8 points, 3.3 assists, and 6.8 rebounds. He’ll probably need better numbers than that to actually win the award, but his rookie campaign would be considered a disappointment if he’s not in the discussion. He’s not as flashy as Zion or Ja, but the New York spotlight will bring him extra attention (the Pels will also be cautious with Zion’s health/minutes).
Eugene: He’ll definitely be in the running, and he’s shown some good habits on the court early on. He’s versatile which makes him intriguing, but if he’s able to become a go-to player for a bucket or in crunch time, it’ll help him stand out and maybe just enough to snag it from other early candidates like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant.
Ty: It could happen. The wildest part is that it’s less about Barrett and more about the no. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson being out six to eight weeks, just before his regular season debut. From the hype surrounding him, it looked like it was Williamson’s award to lose. Barrett however had a surprisingly strong preseason. I’ve been thoroughly impressed by his grit and how multi-faceted he’s shown himself to be. If there’s a battle between Ja, Barrett, and another guard I wouldn’t be shocked. He’ll have the ball in his hands, enough of a green light, and just competent enough teammates to showcase everything he needs to make a case for himself.
Nick C.: With Zion Williamson starting the year with injuries, the ROTY voting will be up for grabs. R.J. Barrett will put up good enough scoring numbers to be a ROTY finalist, but ultimately will lose out to player with more complete stats.
Harley: 16-5-3 could get R.J. Rookie of the Year honors in a world in which Zion plays fewer than 30 games this season. Let’s all make a prayer circle for that not to happen, though. If Zion is healthy, there’s no competition.
3. Will the Knicks be sellers at the trade deadline?
Lawrence: The Knicks will be sellers at the trade deadline, and if history proves to us anything, they won’t be getting quality draft selections back for the players they will try to sell off.
Quentin: Yes. I still have my doubts about whether the Knicks can net a first-round pick back, but between their potential win-loss record and the need to play the kids, I think New York will be sellers.
Sam: I doubt they will but they should. Part of me wants to believe they will be because they signed everyone to such team-friendly contracts, but another part thinks that was only done in order to maintain flexibility. I think everyone they signed but Julius Randle (and maybe Marcus Morris) will be available, but I don’t think they’ll actively try to sell.
Harry: Yes. And they absolutely should be, whether the season is going well or not. There are about three too many guys on this roster that think they should play more minutes than they should. The first few months of the season will determine who those players are, and when the Knicks see an opportunity to compress those guys into less burdensome assets, they should jump on the opportunity.
Nick S.: I do believe the Knicks will be sellers at the deadline. With many veterans on short-team deals on the roster, they can sell of pieces to contending teams and acquire more draft capital. Let’s face it, guys like Taj Gibson and Wayne Ellington aren’t part of the future. I anticipate there being some teams looking winning minded vets who can help down the stretch run and the Knicks’ players will surely be on their radar.
Mike: Yes, and please let Elfrid Payton be the first one shipped out. This is an improved roster, but still not anywhere close to a playoff roster. Players like Payton, Morris, and Ellington can help playoff teams. In the case of Morris, who is not one of those one-and-one deals, it would be hard to imagine a team not wanting him and the Knicks letting him leave without receiving an asset.
lmao Mook is ready at a drop of a hat pic.twitter.com/VC2glIFy6B
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) October 8, 2019
Eli: For the love of god, please, yes. It’s the only way the deals they made this summer make sense. It’s possible they use one of their many guards (Trier or Dotson, most likely) as a sweetener to get a higher-value asset before the deadline, but either way, if they’re not selling, they’re making a huge mistake. Last year they could be forgiven for not getting anything out of their many expiring players, as the names involved were unlikely to make any real difference in the playoffs. Morris, Bullock, Ellington, and even Taj are different stories. They can help teams win games. Just probably not the Knicks.
Tyler: Not for the sake of selling. There’s value in keeping all the newly signed veterans around, be it leadership or toughness. That said, the reason they signed these vets to these deals was to make it easy to flip them; they won’t pass up an overpay.
Zach: They better be. One of the reasons the front office should have signed players to those contracts was to trade them to contenders for picks or young talent. If the season ends with players like Morris and Gibson seeing more minutes than Damyean Dotson and Kevin Knox, then it’s clear the front office doesn’t have a plan for the future.
Jaan: The Knicks will definitely be sellers. Expect Morris to be gone by then. Morris will be scoring a career high given the lack of an offensive alpha dog so far, and if the team isn’t meeting his expectations, he’ll definitely want out.
Michael: Hopefully. Overall, the Knicks don’t seem particularly committed to this roster. They signed a handful of useful, “good locker room” veterans (with little regard for positional need) on team friendly, short-team deals—guys that would likely appeal to playoff teams trying to fortify their bench (Gibson, Morris, Ellington). If the Knicks aren’t firmly in the playoff race and can gain some value back for those guys, they should absolutely look to do so. The more interesting question will be whether they consider moving on from some of their younger players, such as Frank, DSJ, or (gulp) Kevin Knox.
Eugene: Yes, they’ll likely make some moves. Whether or not they’ll be the right ones is another question, but they shouldn’t break up with Mitchell Robinson, Knox, or any of those other promising young guys unless (huge emphasis on the unless) the price is absolutely right.
Ty: I highly doubt it. Their recent history will show that they refuse to sell low on “valuable” assets. See: Noah Vonleh and Enes Kanter. Both had rumored value on the market, but the Knicks couldn’t find a way to benefit from letting them go, allowing the players to leave in free agency. Any of the new signees won’t have enough playing time to demonstrate their abilities anyway—the young guns on the team will suck up too many minutes. The Knicks have tried to present themselves as a risk-averse organization (usually) and boast inferior players almost exclusively. A smooth talker could probably flip Marcus Morris’ contract or even Bobby Portis to a desperate pseudo-contender. The Knicks have as much charm and poise as a rat on the 2 train.
Nick C.: The Knicks’ depth will work in their favor, as they have as many potential role playing contributors as they do roster spots. Unfortunately with the quantity not outweighing the quality they will be out of the playoff conversation by the trade deadline and will unload some of their bench pieces. They will hold on to their core and young pieces but find value in guys like Taj Gibson and Wayne Ellington, who they will unload to teams competing for playoff spots.
Harley: The Knicks should be sellers at the deadline. There’s a lot of redundancy on the roster and a playoff team could certainly use a Wayne Ellington or Reggie Bullock for a second-rounder. Morris might even net a late first if a team gets desperate. The Knicks are in asset accumulation mode now.
4. Give your final record prediction and any bold or outstanding forecasts
Lawrence: 26-56. Julius Randle will flirt with an All-Star appearance, and Mitchell Robinson will lead the leagues in blocks per game.
Quentin: 27-55 is my call, which would be an improvement of 10 wins. Despite my questions about this offseason, the Knicks did improve. My bold prediction is Kevin Knox has a solid sophomore campaign, giving Knicks fans another young player for their core heading into the 2020 summer.
Sam: I think All-Star Julius Randle and All-Defensive teamer Mitchell Robinson will lead NY to about 30-35 wins, placing them somewhere between 13th and 11th place in the East.
Harry: 36-46. Take the over! As far as bold predictions: I think Damyean Dotson is the team’s starting shooting guard at the end of the season.
Nick S.: 30-52. Based strictly off of talent, the Knicks will increase their win total by 13 from last year, but they aren’t good enough yet to even be a fringe playoff team. Bold Predictions: Mitchell Robinson will win DPOY and Julius Randle will be an All-Star.
Mike: 30-52. This is a much better team than whatever the hell last year was. If Fizdale can figure out a good rotation, it’s not inconceivable this team can go on a few runs. There is legitimate young talent on this roster as well as veterans that can contribute to winning games. Having said that, any talk of a miracle run at the playoffs should stop. Even 30 wins sounds like a stretch, but given the conference they’re in, it’s attainable.
My hot take for the year is Frank Ntilikina is the guard who takes the “leap,” not Dennis Smith Jr. Ntilikina looked the best of the three guards during the preseason, and the FIBA experience has had a noticeable impact on his confidence. The only thing holding him back right now is his head coach, but I believe even he has noticed the improvement.
Eli: 27-55. Ten wins seems about what their summer additions and internal improvements should be worth. If Dennis Smith can make a leap some are expecting, that number could be a few games higher. Bold(ish) prediction: Wayne Ellington hits at least(!) one game-winner for the Knicks this year.
Tyler: 28-54, an 11-game improvement is more than respectable. Frank-Mitch lineups will have one of the best defensive ratings in the league, and we’ll barely see them.
Zach: I see the Knicks finishing 27-55. Although an upgrade over last season, this team has a lot of overlapping talent as four to five players in the starting lineup struggle playing without the ball in their hands and outside the paint. It will be hard for the Knicks to put out a lineup with their top talent, since it would be easy to defend as the opposing team would go under screens and stay inside the three-point line. It’s going to take some excellent lineups and rotations from Fizdale to make the Knicks play better than the sum of their parts and that’s something the coaching staff hasn’t proven they can do yet. I also see Ntilikina earning the starting point guard spot as he fits the best with Barrett and Randle and could bring more defense to the starting lineup.
Jaan: I think we’ll probably finish somewhere around 30-33 wins. We have a chance this year to sneak in to a seven or eight seed in the Eastern Conference given how wide open the East is, and with exemplary play from R.J .and a breakout season from Julius Randle, I could see us making the cut.
Michael: Prediction: 32-50, but in a good way. They’ll hit the over and linger on the outside of the race for the eighth seed long enough to have Knicks fans feeling good before a late season dip. R.J. will be in the ROTY discussion, Mitchell Robinson will earn All-Defensive second team consideration, and Randle will even garner some All-Star votes. Kevin Knox will shoot over 35% from three, Smith Jr. will not—but he will have the best Knicks dunking season since…J.R.?
Eugene: The Knicks will double up from last year and go 34-48! Playoff hunt continues elsewhere.
Ty: 26-56. They’ll do better than last year, but this season’s roster construction is still awful. There’s no proven All-Star or much continuity. At least the games will be closer. A bold prediction? The Knicks will start six different players at point guard this season. If there was a prop bet for none of them being Ntilikina, I would take it.
All 3 Knicks point guards on the bench after finding out NONE of them are starting pic.twitter.com/twHAKpnUZ7
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) October 22, 2019
Nick C.: The Knicks will end the year 31-51 and miss the playoffs. They will end up just outside the top five in the draft and take Deni Avdija.
Harley: 25 wins sounds about right. There are a lot of me-first shot creators on the roster, which is a sort of weird construction. On one hand, it could lead to serious issues where players don’t play as hard on D or cut hard because the ball doesn’t touch their hands enough. On the other hand, a bunch of microwaves means someone is bound to get hot every game. The upper end is probably 35 wins if Julius Randle turns in to a star and DSJ takes a major leap.
Hear from the rest of our staff
Stone Strankman, social media editor: I think they’ll go 31-51. Randle will be an All-Star. R.J. will show some promise but will struggle at times. Knox and Mitch will take some leaps but won’t be enough to propel the team into the eighth spot of the playoffs. We’ll still need a point guard come next summer. One more lottery job and we’re off and running!
Bryan Gibberman, podcast co-host: My expectation for the Knicks this season is between 25-30 wins. Whether that’s an enjoyable 25-30 wins depends very much on how head coach David Fizdale handles the rotation. The Knicks need this season to be a first step towards respectability.
Aaron Summers, social media editor: This will be a fun, watchable Knicks team that’s going to compete every night. They’ll go 29-53, but Frank Ntilikina will be incredibly handsome in all 82.
Kyle Maggio, podcast co-host, social media manager: I think they’ll be a fun team. I expect, maybe foolishly, that they’ll be a very fast-paced team looking to play in transition. I think R.J. Barrett is legit, Julius Randle will complement Mitchell Robinson well while averaging something like 23, 11 & 4 assists, and I expect a big jump from Dennis Smith Jr. (27-55)
Jess Reinhardt, site admin: Can we have some fun this year? I just want to have some fun. Give me some DSJ dunks. Give me some Mitch leading the league in rejections. Give me a couple games where R.J. electrifies the Garden. And then let me get Isaiah Stewart becoming a Knick with like the third pick. (27-55)
Kevin Lewis, social media editor: The Knicks have enough competent NBA players to not be a complete doormat, assuming they all don’t lose their minds with inconsistent playing time. It shall be interesting to see how the minutes are given out. I think Barrett shows progress in a season that is mostly about him. I have the Knicks winning 29 games.
Ryan Gray, lead graphic design: I don’t care if we go 2-80, as long as those two wins are against the Mavs, I’ll be happy.
John Priest, deputy managing editor: What did we do to deserve 82 games of Elfrid Payton and Bobby Portis? Actually, I don’t want to know. 22 wins.
Reid Goldsmith, managing editor: The last time the Knicks won 17 games, the next season they won 32; it was Porzingis’ rookie year. With Barrett in tow, but no established star like a Carmelo Anthony on the roster, New York will have a similar bump from their prized, top-five pick, but it’s the lottery again at 26-56.
Jared Hamburg, associate media strategist: Hope and hypotheticals, peaks and valleys—these will be common themes of the 2019–20 season for the New York Knicks. 32-50.
Anthony Corbo, podcast co-host:
Shaun Geddes, social media editor: 43-39 *ducks as chairs are thrown at the idea of optimism* I believe in this team. We’re quietly one of the deepest teams in the NBA and have a plethora of young players to the extent where if even half show their potential we’ll be good. Julius is an All-Star, R.J. will excel, Mitch will continue to grow. We’ll fight for a sixth to eighth playoff spot.
Steven Louis, features writer: I have our beloved Knicks at 34-48. Leading scorer is Julius Randle, leading rebounder is Mitchell Robinson, leading dimer is DSJ. I think we’ll trade two of our power forwards, and at least one of our guards, at the deadline. Ellington, Morris, and Gibson? Sure. R.J. Barrett plays more games than Zion Williamson, thus making him better. Kevin Durant gets thunderously booed at all four New York games, not just the two at MSG. He tweets at Marc Berman to “eat a dick” and is fined after he calls the borough Manhattan “total cheeks no cap.” Frank Ocean releases a new album before a Knick scores 30 points. Bobby Portis fights at least one NYU kid at Momofuku. We start to talk ourselves into making a run at Giannis. Everyone at this site gets banned from the Garden.
»READ: Almost there: Knicks grades for preseason performances
»READ: Applying Frank Ntilikina’s surprising FIBA performance to next season
»READ: Will the Knicks find stability in the backcourt this season?