Photo Credit: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images
By David Sheets
As a lively summer of free agency settles, the landscape of the NBA heading into next season is quickly taking shape. The influx of contending teams in the Western Conference and the spreading of superstar talent throughout the league has anticipation mounting for the 2019-20 season.
After what was widely considered to be a disappointing off-season for the Knicks which failed to land one of the many superstar talents available in free agency, Knicks fans have reason to be optimistic. The Knicks signed a solid combination of improving young players and veteran big men to scatter around last years young core.
They acquired 24-year-old Julius Randle on a three-year, $63 million dollar deal, who I believe has all-star potential. The Knicks also signed 24-year-old power forward Bobby Portis and 25-year-old point guard Elfrid Payton to two year deals with team options after one. Couple these young guys with the recent theft of Marcus Morris from the Spurs, the signings of Taj Gibson, Reggie Bullock, and Wayne Ellington, and the Knicks have what appears to be one of the more well-rounded lineups in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference.
While I don’t anticipate seeing Knicks basketball come mid-April, I don’t think it’s outlandish to suggest the Knicks can legitimately fight for the 8th seed. Especially in a weaker bottom half of the Eastern Conference that saw three teams make the playoffs last year that hovered around a .500 win percentage throughout the season.
With a starting lineup that will likely be centered around the young talent on the Knicks roster, the Knicks’ rotation as a whole is actually looking solid. Former NBA player Kendrick Perkins said this on ESPN during the summer league last week when he said he “wouldn’t be surprised if the Knicks make the playoffs this year.”
“Yeah they didn’t land a big free agency, but, so what?” he said. “They end up getting a stud in Julius Randle, they’ve got R.J. Barrett, and they’ve got Knox. They’ve got some good pieces to build around and I think they’ll be alright.”
Knicks fans should be optimistic about the future and proud of the Knicks front office this summer for three reasons.
First, Scott Perry and Steve Mills managed to assemble a competitive basketball team for next season. They’ve done this by collecting a strong mix of veteran presence and young talent on the rise as a way to stay competitive this year in a top-heavy Eastern Conference.
Secondly, this year’s free agent signings not only make the Knicks competitive heading into next season, but they also compliment the young core of 21-and-younger players in a way that can boost their development. Dennis Smith Jr., Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, and RJ Barrett, are all 21-years-old and younger. Many people anticipate all four of these players will be in the starting lineup of the first Knicks game come October.
That should speak loudly to the potential of this young Knicks core.
Lastly, Knicks fans should be proud that the front office has done all of this while staying financially flexible for the future by limiting most of the free agent signings to one-year and two-year deals with team options.
So, while many Knicks fans may feel their playoff aspirations went out the window when Kyrie and KD signed with Brooklyn, get ready for this new Knicks squad to surprise you.
Let’s instill a winning mentality now because we have a roster that can compete in the East. If everything comes together, don’t be surprised to see this Knicks squad floating around .500 and fighting for the 8th seed come playoff time next season.