The Knicks are looking to bounce back after a disappointing season, and The Knicks Wall staff is here to predict exactly what form that will take.
The Knicks had their struggles last year, but with a major point guard upgrade and some internal development, they’re looking to shed the memory of last year’s lottery season and come back strong.
Likewise, The Knicks Wall staff looks to bounce back from predicting, on average, a 45-win season and 60 games played from Kemba Walker last year.
Let’s see what TKW is predicting for 2021–22 in our annual roundtable.
1. Will Any Knick Qualify For All-Star or End-of-Year Awards?
Nick C: No. This will be a middle-of-the-road team in a crowded Eastern Conference. The lack of team success will keep the Knicks from any individual success. There will be growing pains to get the fit together with RJ Barrett, Jalen Brunson, and Julius Randle. Tom Thibodeau will do nobody any favors in terms of helping the roster to blend together.
Ace: Absolutely. I think at a minimum, Jalen Brunson could get an All-Star nod or end up on an All-NBA team when it’s all said and done. If I’m thinking big, though, I’d like to at RJ Barrett on that list for All-NBA (maybe second-team defense) or even as a reserve All-Star. Gonna also go with Obi Toppin for Most Improved Player, just because I do not see Randle really redeeming himself at all this season and can see Toppin getting FAR more minutes as a result.
Pat: The east is stacked at the point guard and wing positions. But, I do believe there are Knicks that can go out and earn awards and recognitions. I believe Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle all have the ability to earn themselves at least reserve All-Stars selections this coming season. I also believe they can go earn spots on the second All-NBA team. If all goes according to plan Immanuel Quickley is a dark horse for the Sixth Man of the Year award. While a long shot, Obi Toppin with constant minutes can insert himself in the Most Improved Player award conversation. And, finally, Mitchell Robinson with health on his side can be a legit contender for Defensive Player of the Year.
Nick S: I think the one guy on the Knicks who will be an All-Star is RJ Barrett, who I think will take tremendous steps towards stardom this season, into 25 points per game territory. If Obi Toppin isn’t held back by Tom Thibodeau’s lack of willingness to play the young guys, I think he will take a quantum leap as well and be right there for Most Improved Player. Defensively, if he stays healthy, don’t be surprised if we see newly-resigned Mitchell Robinson in the conversation for DPOY.
Trey: I think for this Knicks team to be in the hunt for .500 play, either Jalen Brunson or RJ Barrett will have to be in the 22-25 PPG range, putting them in at least consideration. Hell, with enough buzz around this team, the city of New York may get one of them in the All-Star Game. Though it would be a huge jump for Barrett (+5 PPG), it is something well within the realm of possibility if he does a better job at the free-throw line this season. Last season he shot just 73%, which is rather disappointing given his fearlessness in attacking the rim and playing through contact. As far as End-of-Year Awards, I really do think Immanuel Quickley has a shot at the Sixth man of the Year. He averaged just 23 MPG last season and his PER 36 numbers are phenomenal (17.6 PPG, 5.5 APG, & 4.9 RPG). I think if Thibs is smart enough to lengthen the leash and get him to the 28-32 MPG mark, IQ has a real shot at the award.
Mike: RJ Barrett for both. I think this is the season Barrett figures out how to enforce his will consistently. He spent the first part of last season standing in the corner while Kemba and Julius dribbled the ball into the hardwood. At the midpoint of the season, RJ took control and began to drive relentlessly and make his living at the free-throw line. RJ builds on that to start this season. He looks noticeably bigger which will serve him well on those drives. The end result should be a 20-25 point per game season, at least heavy All-Star consideration, and if all goes right, Most Improved Player. Load up on that RJ stock now before the talking heads start gushing over him because by then you’d already be too late.
Marko: I think RJ and Obi could make a run at Most Improved, and Mitchell Robinson has an outside chance at DPOY, but to be frank I wouldn’t bet on any of them. And as for All-Star, there are only 22 spots on the roster, and Knicks fans may be setting themselves up for disappointment. Brunson, Randle, and RJ all have a chance at nabbing a reserve spot, but don’t get too hung up on these accolades – focus on the wins and losses.
Quentin: I see a few. If RJ Barrett makes an All-Star game, I could certainly see him nabbing some Most Improved Player consideration. Mitchell Robinson’s early looks on defense could certainly get him some DPOY buzz, but the most intriguing is Immanuel Quickley for Sixth Man of the Year. Quickley was electric at the end of the season and if he gets the proper amount of minutes he deserves, he’ll be in that race.
Jake: It’s definitely possible. It’s hard not to think of Brunson or RJ Barrett when thinking of MIP candidates or All-Star reserves. Both players have something to prove, and their ability to play off each other will help the team immensely. An underrated pick for an End-Of-Year award is Immanuel Quickley for Sixth Man of the Year. Despite an increased role heading into this season, IQ will continue to come off the bench, putting him in a prime position to torch other teams’ second units. While starting lineups may be important, closing lineups are just as crucial. With Quickley being one of the best fourth-quarter performers in the league, the Knicks will look to keep him out there late, which could boost his campaign for the award.
Eugene: For sure, the easy candidates for either end-of-season honors or All-Star nods will be down to Jalen Brunson and R.J. Barrett, possibly even Julius Randle if he can turn things back around, but it seems like Brunson and Barrett are the best bets. Barrett has been getting better and better, and if he can build off of his strong second half of last season, this can be his biggest season yet. As for Brunson, he’s got the bag and the opportunity to be the lead guard, which should let him take that massive leap that he began toward the end of last season. One last Knick to keep an eye on, Mitchell Robinson as a candidate to potentially squeeze in an All-Defense spot.
Dean: RJ Barrett has a very real chance to make the All-Star team this year. As long as he ups his scoring to 23 PPG or higher on better efficiency and the Knicks are in the playoff mix, I think the fans will help get him over the hump. Jalen Brunson also has a shot at his first All-Star berth, but in my opinion, it would take some other point guards in the east battling injuries come February. Also, Mitch for All-Defense and Deuce for G-League MVP.
Pete: I think this year is RJ’s true breakout season and he gets his first All-Star appearance. RJ has taken big step after big step each season, so hopefully, Thibs will run the offense through him more this year and give him the chance to truly become a star. As for end-of-year awards, I think Mitch Rob is a dark horse for DPOY if he just stays healthy. He legitimately changes the game on defense, so I don’t think it’s too big of a stretch to say he can win it if he can stay on the court consistently.
Danny B.: This question should automatically bring RJ or Jalen Brunson to mind. As Trey mentioned, RJ would have to make a bigger jump than he has years prior in PPG, but with his improved shooting and JB running the point, as we’ve seen in preseason, his point totals can add up quick. Brunson is another candidate; after averaging 21.6 PPG/4.6 RPG/2.7 APG in the 2022 playoffs where he was handling primary point responsibility, he is someone who can penetrate at will, is surrounded by guys who can shoot and can shoot well himself. Another underrated opinion: if Mitch is putting up big numbers, impacting the floor defensively, and staying healthy all season, he could very well make an All-Defense 1st team. For me, these are the combination of guys who have the best shot at a MIP/AS-type season.
2. Will The Knicks Make Either A Consolidation or Star Trade?
Nick C: Again the Knicks will disappoint fans who are hoping for a trade on either end of the spectrum. You have one half of the fanbase that is hoping for a star trade for whatever disgruntled star gets reported by Woj (Adrian Wojnarowski), and another half that wants to offload contracts and veterans to make room for Toppin or Quickley. Based off of the Leon Rose era, neither of those should be expected; no trade will occur other than adding another bench piece.
Ace: If they do, it’ll be either to offload Randle & Fournier for additional role players to make up for the bump up of Grimes and Toppin to the starting rotation, or it’ll be quite similar to their last two midseason trades (Rose & Reddish acquisitions for one expiring smaller contract and a pick). But I definitely do not see a star trade happening after the Donovan Mitchell saga. At least not until next season. They’re gonna ride this season out as is unless presented an opportunity to make a minor upgrade on both the roster and on their books.
Pat: As far as trades, I don’t foresee anything significant unless they try to offload Julius Randle later on in the season. I still think the Knicks love Randle and would prefer if he gels with the team. I think a more realistic move is possibly moving Evan Fournier to a contender looking for firepower down the stretch. This would open the door for Quentin Grimes to start if he’s showing signs of taking a leap forward. Ultimately though I feel the Knicks will stand pat at the deadline unless some disgruntled star emerges.
Nick S: Ideally, it’d be nice to get out from Randle’s and Fournier’s contracts, but I don’t think they will have the opportunity to do that. One team to keep an eye on though is the Lakers, who have a history with Randle and are currently bereft of three-point shooting, which Fournier could help solve. If they are struggling and/or if Anthony Davis is hurt, expect Rob Pelinka, and more so LeGM, to try and save the season with a move like this, as they previously have been reported to be willing to move first-round picks.
Trey: I really don’t think so. It’s possible that if Julius Randle has another lackluster season, that ship may finally sail. However, mid-season trades are very gutsy. They are full of risk and they are not for everybody. The Knicks’ unwillingness to pull the trigger in the offseason, with all of the time in the world to properly put together a package, leads me to believe they would be even less likely to participate in a quick, last-second effort come February.
Mike: Star trade? Don’t make me laugh. My hottest take that I pray becomes freezing is Tom Thibodeau gets married before the Knicks make a star trade. The front office has proven to be a competent one, a stark improvement from regimes past, but have been gunshy on pulling the trigger on blockbuster deals. Small trades have been the norm. Sometimes those trades are a grand slam like Derrick Rose, and sometimes they are just a fart in the wind like Cam Reddish. A smaller trade feels more likely, although the current roster feels like the one that ends the season.
Marko: What about Leon Rose’s tenure makes you think that he plans to do anything other than kick the can further down the road? Rose has plenty of ammo and has opted to keep his powder dry at every turn. It seems obvious that they value the young guys more than most of the league does. Maybe they’ll give up on Cam Reddish and recoup another second-rounder, and then hopefully they’ll cash in a few of those surplus picks to dump Evan Fournier, but anything more isn’t worth getting worked up over. It ain’t happening.
Quentin: Consolidation. I don’t see a star available on the market, so I think the best bet here is New York making a risky, but probably needed, consolidation deal involving Fournier and/or Randle. That said, I think the Knicks should keep their eye on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in OKC and Jaylen Brown, with the latter set to become a free agent at the end of the year.
Jake: I don’t see a trade for a star happening anytime soon, but consolidation seems likely. With so much talent on the roster and minimal minutes, someone is going to be left out. I think Cam Reddish could be a name we hear in a couple of months being shipped out. His arrival in New York was exciting, but between injuries and falling outside the rotation, Reddish has struggled to find his footing thus far. His preseason has shown promise from time to time, but chances are he falls outside the rotation once again. The former lottery pick may look to move ship elsewhere should the odds work against him.
Eugene: It feels like every year we get our hopes up for some big trade or move, but none of that is likely happening this season, especially not in the middle of the year. If any trades do happen, it’ll likely be to shed some contracts or for depth in the case of injuries, etc. Maybe in a year or two, but definitely not this one.
Dean: It may not be up to the Knicks whether they attempt to make a star trade; once again, a star player becoming disgruntled and the Knicks entering the sweepstakes for that player is probably what we’ll have to wait for. I don’t see a consolidation trade along the lines of trading two rotation players for one in the cards either.
Pete: Unfortunately, I agree with pretty much everyone else. I don’t see the Knicks pushing for a star this season, and I definitely don’t want to get my hopes up after the Donovan Mitchell saga. I would like to see Randle and/or Fournier get moved, but again I don’t see that happening this season. I think the Knicks more or less ride out the roster they have through the season.
Danny B.: For me, it seems the direction this team is heading, shedding some vets in the off-season, accentuating pace, it’s becoming more and more clear that they’re trying to take advantage of the youth and speed that this team can play with. We saw the beginnings of it last season after AS break, really showcasing the youth (of course not by design); it makes the most sense to consolidate a bit. Between the log jam of guards and then of course the surging play of Obi Toppin, these two positions create the most congestion. Consolidating those two problematic areas would be most beneficial to the overall performance of the team. We saw the FO attempt to swing for a star ala Don Mitch but with how that ended up, I don’t see it happening again for at least another season or so.
3. Which Young Knick Will Take The Biggest Leap?
Nick C: Obi Toppin will continue the leap he has shown from the end of last season, and Tom Thibodeau will show the same flexibility with roster management that he did last year. Fans clamoring for a Julius Randle trade to create space for Obi will be sorely disappointed as he continues to get limited minutes and no time as a small ball 5. He will feast against bench units alongside Isaiah Hartenstein and put on shows in transition. His efficiency will continue to improve as well as the three-point shot. While this will do little for earning victories as he is playing 22 minutes a game, it will help his eventual trade value and price on the open market.
Ace: Quentin Grimes. Whatever strange mind games that Thibodeau is playing to, I guess, motivate the second-year guard so he can “prove” himself and start over Evan Fournier, I need them to stop. Even with Grimes out for most of the preseason (potentially all of it), you know he’d do at minimum a better defensive job than the Frenchman. Thinking with my galaxy brain, I think he could be a formidable three-and-D starter who helps to space the floor out even MORE for Brunson to truly cook in the paint and for Barrett and Mitchell Robinson to really thrive off the ball. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, if he does start, he’s going to average somewhere close to 14 points per game with three assists and two steals.
Pat: As I’ve mentioned before, I think Grimes takes the biggest leap this season – at least the Knicks are banking on it. After reports that the Knicks were unwilling to include him in deals for Donovan Mitchell, it seems they have very high hopes for Grimes entering his sophomore campaign barring any health issues.
Nick S: Obi Toppin. Toppin showed marked improvement at the tail end of last season and has really gained a lot of confidence and is prime to explode this season. Many people still view him as just a dunker, but Toppin can shoot, defend, pass and of course, fly high and be a galvanizing force for this team. Although I am very skeptical of Thibs giving him a plethora of minutes, I think that Obi will almost force him into playing more and combine that with Randle’s current situation, expect some fireworks from the former first-rounder.
Trey: Does Jalen Brunson qualify as young? The 26-year young floor general will be asked to do a lot this season, and I have a good feeling plenty of that will be late in the shot clock. Brunson is blazing quick, slippery, and has phenomenal positional awareness. As young as these Knicks are, I can definitely see Brunson having to work some magic at the end of some bad offensive possessions, and that alone may push him to the 20-23 PPG range. It’s going to be fascinating to see Brunson operate with a higher usage rate after spending his first few seasons next to ball-pounding and facilitating Luka Doncic.
Mike: Obi Toppin is (rightfully) the trendy answer here, and RJ does seem poised to take another leap, but in terms of the biggest leap, I still think the answer is Quentin Grimes. It took Grimes a few months to see consistent minutes last season and had already worked his way up to consideration for the starting job before that foot injury. The fact that Thibs, who has had a tight leash on the young core’s minutes, even acknowledged that Grimes had a shot speaks volumes to Grimes’ standing. Once Grimes supplants Evan Fournier as the starter I think he starts to flourish and become the glue-guy in the starting lineup. If he can emulate what Fournier does on offense, while still doing his thing on defense, he is an ideal fit next to Jalen, RJ, and Julius.
Marko: People are going to take notice of RJ this season. I don’t see him making a huge leap statistically because of Randle and Brunson’s roles in the offense, but RJ will shine when given the opportunity. Another year of maturation paired with another off-season of work, and I expect his finishing and his defense to continue to improve. Adding Brunson as a distributor should help the former, unlocking RJ as a cutter, while also putting more of an onus on him to cover defensively. Smart people have already gotten their timeshares on Barrett Beach, and after this year property values are going to skyrocket.
Quentin: Jalen Brunson. I think the team is set for him to another mini-leap as a shooter, but this time, with some volume. He’s crafty at getting to and around the rim and I think adding 2-3 threes per game into his skillset could put him on the verge of an All-Star-level argument. RJ will take another decent leap, but everyone else has a fight to minutes that makes it tough to pick them.
Jake: Immanuel Quickley. While it may seem like Grimes could join the starters at some point this season, Quickley continues to go under the radar when it comes to taking a big leap. After averaging around 23 minutes per game last season, Quickley is being given an expanded role heading into this year. We’ve seen what IQ is capable of when given the minutes, so I think it’s fair to assume that Quickley will take the biggest leap. If he continues to play crucial fourth-quarter minutes, I can picture Quickley scoring upwards of 14 points per game this campaign.
Eugene: Obi Toppin. Riding the preseason buzz and highlights, while also trying to temper expectations because it is preseason – but this is looking like a potential breakout year for the athletic big man. He’s been patiently waiting for his time, while steadily growing throughout his time with the Knicks, and this is his time to take off. Also, keep an eye on Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley, they’re bound for breakout campaigns, but expect Toppin to take the biggest leap.
Dean: I expect RJ’s leap to be the most meaningful and for him to solidify himself as a star. Whatever leap Obi makes will once again be a nice development but stifled by his lack of minutes, I wouldn’t expect more than 15 MPG when Randle is available.
Pete: As I said earlier, I think this is RJ’s breakout season where he becomes a star in the NBA. Given what we’ve seen from him since he got drafted, it makes too much sense for him to take the leap this year. I also think Grimes can become a really solid three-and-D guy this season and take the starting two-spot at some point. He was great in the limited minutes we saw him in last year, and it’s clear the Knicks front office loves him.
Danny B.: The beauty of this question is that there are so many candidates and for good reason. I’d have to throw RJs hat in the ring. I feel that after the All-Star break last year, he really found himself, becoming more successful in getting to the rim. He honed in on those strengths in the off-season. RJ has the hunger, work ethic, and athleticism to keep getting better not only by the numbers but also by adding to the overall impact on the team.
4. Predict The Knicks’ Record and Give One Bold Prediction
Nick C: Everybody here is expecting 40 wins and hitting the over on the DraftKings line of 38.5 wins. I am here to play devil’s advocate: this team will get off to a slow start and never quite make it to the promised lands. They will come short of 40 wins and be outside looking in at the play-in conversation. 38-44 will be the final record in another disappointing season for the Knicks after a 7-13 start in their first 20. Also, their bad lottery luck will continue and they will not hit the Wemby lottery nor the Scoot Henderson consolation prize but will take a wing such as Cam Whitmore in the mid to late lottery.
Ace: Last season, I might have given the most ridiculous prediction for the season by saying the Knicks would finish with a record of 51-31. Boy, was I way off. This season, I’m going with a prediction of 44-38, and I’ll say I see them finishing with a play-in spot. This preseason has given me a ton of hope in our youth, but at the same time, that was never my concern. My concern lies with the fact that Randle and Fournier could still eat a lot of playing time from that youth, and might not mesh very well with Brunson. But my bold prediction? They make it out of the play-in and get to play in a bonafide playoff series. I think their defense is going to be back in the upper echelon of the league, and that’s going to propel them at least into a first-round matchup.
Pat: Last season my final record prediction was 45-37, they finished 37-45; right numbers, wrong columns. Last season, The wheels completely fell off due to injuries and some unforeseen regression from certain players caused the Knicks to underachieve. I think having a bonafide offensive point guard in Jalen Brunson makes the Knicks a much better team and with the bottom half of the Eastern Conference not much to write home about I think the Knicks can scrap their way to a record just above .500. I’m going to have some conviction and roll the dice again on a 45-37 finish.
Nick S: 44-38 for the Knicks. This young core has some of the best depth and talent in the league. Expect huge strides from Toppin and Grimes to help the cause. I think this record earns them the 8th seed. Clearly, there are many more talented and better-coached teams in the East, but a bold prediction I have is that the Knicks will upset whoever they play in the first round of the playoffs after they advance in the play-in tournament.
Trey: Assuming they’re able to squeeze out a few losses from the bottom of the barrel and steal a few games against the second-tier teams in the league, I think they finish 42-40. They will certainly be in contention for a lower seed heading into the playoffs. However, this going to be heavily dependent on Julius Randle’s play, the continued growth of RJ Barrett, and the production entrusted to the young guys by Thibs.
Mike: 44-38. In addition to my Thibs getting hitched before the Knicks make a star trade scorcher, my hot take is RJ Barrett wins Most Improved Player this season. The Knicks have been building toward a homegrown star for years. After flirting with sending him to Utah in exchange for an All-Star caliber player, I think RJ takes that close call personally… in a good way. Like I said before, Barrett looks bigger this season and has more help around him. Jalen Brunson is going to provide the scoring and attention-drawing Kemba was supposed to. Grimes and/or Fournier will provide spacing, and his chemistry with Julius and Mitch will take care of the rest. As the legend Earl The Pearl said on The Knicks Wall Podcast once upon a time, to team build you actually have to keep a team. This core has been building, and now is the time for them to put it all together, with RJ leading the charge.
Marko: 40-42, but that’s absolutely as low as they are going. The East is going to be brutal, but these Knicks are deep and better suited to withstand injuries than some “better” teams. With some luck, they could end up closer to their 2020-2021 pace, which would put them around 46 wins, though I’d expect them to end up closer to .500 and around the play-in. However, Draftkings lists this Knicks team at 38.5 wins so this is not gambling advice buuut 👀. My bold prediction is that Randle posts more triple-doubles this season than he did in 2020-2021. That season he had six and last year he had only one. Randle puts last year’s disappointments behind him and rediscovers his All-Star offensive identity. Pair that with improvements from the young guys and the acquisition of Brunson and Julius could also post a career-high in assists.
Quentin: I’m feeling 42-40. This team has good depth, decent starters, and a defensive mindset. Some nights, they’ll be able to win off that alone. I still think they need to find a way to move Randle and I wish Quickley had an easier path to more minutes. They have good shooters, three centers who can impact the game defensively, three point guards; they’ll be fine, but leave us wanting more. My one bold prediction? I think we see a ton of Obi Toppin, whether it be because the fans demand it or Thibs finally sees it. I think we get 12-15 minutes early before we look up in January and see a consistent 20-25 min stretch from Obi and he plays well.
Jake: I’m going to try to keep my expectations low for this season. I think that the Knicks will finish with a 41-41 record. Ideally, the Knicks exceed the bar I’ve set, but you can never be too sure. I believe Julius Randle will have a great season for the Knicks. Looking outside of his basic statistics, I think that Randle will fit into the role the Knicks want him to play. With a solid guard manning the point, the spotlight won’t be on Randle, allowing him to put his head down and get to work. Playing his role will not only help him become successful but the overall success of the team can and will spike if Randle buys in.
Eugene: Definitely hitting the over on the Knicks season-win total (which is set at 38.5) – 45-37, with the Knicks making at least the play-in rounds for the postseason. Consistency will be key, and they should be able to get a better sense of that with a real point guard in Jalen Brunson. Hopefully no disastrous mid-January and February slump like last season! As for a bold take, Obi Toppin and/or Immanuel Quickley make a push to be in the running for NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
Dean: As of right now I’m thinking 42-40, 9th seed finish. The defense will remain above average and the Brunson acquisition will help the starting lineup be better enough offensively that the Knicks’ overall offensive efficiency gets to 14th or better leaguewide. Hard to come up with hot takes for a Thibs team as predictable as he tends to be; I’ll go with Mitchell Robinson making All-Defense.
Pete: 44-38, Knicks make the play-in. This season can be an exciting one, and I think FINALLY having a legit PG will make this team significantly better than last season. This East is pretty deep and I don’t see the Knicks finishing any higher than a play-in berth, but if we can watch some winning basketball and have a shot at the playoffs, I’ll be satisfied. As for a bold prediction, I think Obi makes the leap and has a great year. Since Thibs is vehemently against playing him with Randle though, I don’t know if he’ll take a starting spot. I say Obi becomes a really good piece off the bench and maybe even makes a push for 6MOY.
Danny B.: I’ve stated them going 44-38 this season. I feel that they’re being underestimated and we’ll see a bit better than what the sports bettors have them at which is 38.5; I’d say put your money on the over for sure. Hot take: Randle, RJ & Brunson all average over 20ppg to be the first non-GSW team to have 3 players do so since 1990.