New York Knicks: Three players who could make or break the 2019-20 season

Kevin Knox, New York Knicks (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Kevin Knox, New York Knicks (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

After a whirlwind free agency, the New York Knicks roster looks vastly different compared to the team that suited up last year. With all notable signings likely completed, the lineup for next season is set. But which players are going to be true difference-makers?

With seven new players being added to the Knicks via free agency, it’s hard to tell how this upcoming season is going to play out. It could bring the Knicks back into the running for next year’s number one pick, but it wouldn’t be hard to see this New York team make the playoffs as a 6-8 seed either. Here are three players who will likely determine the outcome of the 2019-2020 season for the blue and orange.

Julius Randle

When the signing of his 3-year, $62 million contract was announced, it was clear that Randle would be the Knicks’ new starting power forward. Julius Randle is quietly one of the best young players in the league, with the 24-year old’s points per game increasing with every season he’s been in the NBA. This culminated in averages of 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 52% from the field last season with the Pelicans.

These numbers are even more impressive given that Randle only started in 49 of the 73 games he appeared in, with the majority of his playing time coming after Anthony Davis‘ trade request. His numbers as a starter are promising, putting up 23.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game while posting a +/- of +2.2.

The former top 10 pick will be given every opportunity to showcase his talent in New York. He will display his strength in the paint as well as an underrated three point shot. (34.4% from downtown last season) The Knicks desperately need someone who can consistently and efficiently put up points, as their previous leading scorer was Emmanuel Mudiay at 14.8 points per game. If Randle can finish with upwards of 20 points and ten rebounds every game, the Knicks playoff chances are boosted.

Kevin Knox

While it was well known that Knox was a raw prospect entering his rookie season, it’s fair to say that his first year left a lot to be desired. He showed flashes of elite talent but was also incredibly inconsistent, shooting over 38% from three in December and March but even shooting under 30% from downtown in January and February. Additionally, he was slow on the defensive end and had a problem of committing too many turnovers.

With that said, Kevin Knox will likely be the key to this year’s Knicks offense. Knox already showed growth in the summer league, averaging 16.8 points on 40% shooting from the field and 38% from three. After displaying an improved style of play in Las Vegas, it’s not a stretch to think that the former Kentucky star could get even better before the season begins. He also demonstrated budding leadership qualities, which is extremely encouraging to see from a 19-year old.

While it is possible that he may begin the year on the bench behind a more-experienced veteran like Marcus Morris, Knox could make the offense deadly if he has a refined sophomore season. He showed signs of becoming an elite scorer last year, although it didn’t always seem like it. In the 35 games in which Knox was on the floor for over 30 minutes, he put up 17.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 40% from the field and 36% from three on just under seven attempts from behind the arc each game.

The signs of becoming a future elite scorer are there for the young forward. If he can continue to increase his output and efficiency this season, both Knox and the Knicks will benefit.

R.J. Barrett

Although R.J. Barrett has yet to play a single game in the NBA, he could be a significant reason why the Knicks might secure their first playoff berth in 5 seasons. It has become more common than ever to see rookies with a prominent role on playoff teams. Players like Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, and Jayson Tatum all sniffing postseason action in their freshman campaigns.

Barrett needs to focus on finding his opportunities within the flow of the offense rather than playing hero-ball, as he found out in the summer league. In his final three games, the 19-year-old averaged 19.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game on 44% shooting. If Barrett can learn from his experience in Vegas and continue his upward trend of play, he could be a significant part of the Knicks’ postseason pursuit.

Next. New York Knicks: Showcasing a summer of transition and development. dark

With Kawhi Leonard leaving the NBA Champion-Toronto Raptors, the Eastern Conference playoff picture is as open as ever. With the right players stepping up when called upon, the New York Knicks could be playing more than 82 games next year.