New York Knicks

NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Are the New York Knicks poised to exceed expectations this season?

#Barrett #Smith
(NBA Getty Images)

With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.

Today, we're looking at the New York Knicks.

2018-19 season record

17-65 (15th in Eastern Conference)

Projected 2019-20 season record

28-54 (12th in Eastern Conference)

Notable additions

Julius Randle (free agency)

RJ Barrett (draft)

Bobby Portis (free agency)

Taj Gibson (free agency)

Elfrid Payton (free agency)

Wayne Ellington (free agency)

Reggie Bullock (free agency)

Notable departures

DeAndre Jordan (free agency)

Emmanuel Mudiay (free agency)

Mario Hejonza (free agency)

Lance Thomas (free agency)

Noah Vonleh (free agency)

Depth chart

Starter 2nd 3rd 4th
PG Dennis Smith Jr. Elfrid Payton Frank Ntilikina Kadeem Allen
SG RJ Barrett Wayne Ellington Allonzo Trier Damyean Dotson
SF Marcus Morris Kevin Knox Reggie Bullock
PF Julius Randle Taj Gibson Ignas Brazdeikis
C Mitchell Robinson Bobby Portis

3 key storylines

The RJ Barrett era is here

The No. 3 pick in this year's NBA Draft enters the season with big expectations as the Knicks' highest draft pick since Patrick Ewing went first in 1985.

The Canadian averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists in his lone season at Duke. On a team that ranked 28th in the NBA in scoring (104.6 points per game) last season, the Knicks will no doubt look to Barrett to contribute right away on the offensive end.

Barrett will likely play the bulk of his minutes at shooting guard, alongside Dennis Smith Jr. in the backcourt. However, head coach David Fizdale this week said that he plans to have the 19-year-old initiate the offence in stints at point guard.

"I'm going to sprinkle that in here and there," Fizdale said.

"I think it adds another layer to how dynamic he can be ... He's really poised. He looks really comfortable. The kid likes having the ball in his hands."

Barrett has both the confidence and talent to shine under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden and he will no doubt be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year, alongside his college teammate Zion Williamson.

The Knicks have how many power forwards?

After missing out on their dream free agents, the Knicks ended up signing a glut of big men, adding Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson, giving them a gigantic rotation.

But are there enough minutes to make it work? How will they squeeze all these players into the minutes available at power forward and centre? Not to mention they already have Mitchell Robinson at centre, as well as rookie Ignas Brazdeikis, who may spend some time as a stretch 4.

Randle signed a three-year, $63 million deal in the offseason and stands as the team's centrepiece after an impressive season in New Orleans, where the 24-year-old averaged a career-high 21.4 points per game, adding 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists while knocking down 34.4 percent from beyond the arc.

At present, Randle is the Knicks' best player and will serve as the focal point of their offence, leaving coach David Fizdale with a tough job of fitting all their frontcourt pieces around him.

After an up-and-down rookie season, Kevin Knox will likely spend more time at the small forward position, but Marcus Morris appears to be their best option for the starting spot. Striking the balance between the development of the younger Knicks and playing the veterans to win games will be quite the juggling act for Fizdale.

The Knicks smartly signed players to one or two-year deals, outside of Randle. As the season goes on, they may well use them to trade for more young assets and picks.

Carving out an identity

Coming off a 17-win season led by a band of youngsters, the Knicks are still trying to find their identity under David Fizdale.

With the addition of veterans like Gibson, Morris, Randle and Wayne Ellington, the Knicks have added toughness and experience, something that was sorely lacking in 2018-19.

Morris has already shown in preseason that they won't be shying away from mixing it up with opponents, and the 30-year-old is ready to set the tone for his new team.

"Guys that's not going to back down," Morris said of the new-look roster. "Guys that are going to go out there and compete every night."

That identity starts with improving in their own building after going 9-32 at Madison Square Garden last season, which included an 18-game losing streak, one shy of the NBA record.

5 games to watch

Oct. 25 at Brooklyn Nets

After missing out on the free-agent signings of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to their crosstown rivals in Brooklyn, their first matchup at Barclays Center will tip off what is sure to a tense local rivalry this season.

Oct. 26 vs. Boston Celtics

The Knicks host the Celtics in their home opener, which will be Enes Kanter's first game back at the Garden. Kanter traded barbs with Julius Randle over Twitter in the offseason, so the battle of the bigs is going to be worth tuning in.

Nov. 14 vs. Dallas Mavericks

Arguably the most-anticipated Knicks game of the season will see Kristaps Porzingis return to Madison Square Garden for the first time in a Mavs uniform for what is sure to be a frosty welcome from the home fans.

Jan. 10 vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Former Duke teammates RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson will be linked for their entire careers and their first meeting of the season at MSG is going to be must-watch TV.

Knicks fans wanted Zion in the draft and Barrett will no doubt seize the moment against his good friend to let everyone know The Garden is his house now.

Jan. 22 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James at Madison Square Garden is always appointment viewing. The King's "favourite playground" has given us some special performances over the years and after the Knicks pulled off a thrilling upset win over the Lakers at MSG last season, expect James to put on a show at the Garden this time around.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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