The New York Knicks are one piece away from contending again

David Fizdale, New York Knicks. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
David Fizdale, New York Knicks. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

After hijacking Marcus Morris from the Spurs, the New York Knicks are inching closer to the playoffs once again.

Although they have an abundance of Forwards on their roster, the New York Knicks are constructing themselves towards being an Eastern Conference powerhouse for the first time since 2013. With that being said, there’s still one more missing piece that if the Knicks acquire, it will catapult them back into the playoff picture.

At their current state, I don’t think the Knicks are too far away from being a playoff team. Coming off of a dismal 17 win season, they weren’t looking like a powerhouse that was going to contend anytime soon. After missing out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, people were willing to throw the Knicks right back into the lottery, but not so fast. With the few solid players that they already have on the roster plus the additions they’ve acquired throughout the offseason and the draft, they’ve bounced back well and put themselves in a good position moving forward.

Coming back from the team last season, the Knicks will return players like Dennis Smith Jr., Allonzo Trier, Kevin Knox, and Mitchell Robinson. These four, along with other returning role players on the team are all incredibly young and talented. They are pieces that are due for breakout seasons once their minutes and overall roles get increased.

Knox and Trier are both coming off of significant summer leagues averaging the most Points Per Game on the Knicks’ roster. Smith is going into his third year in the league and is being helped by a ‘shot doctor’ so that he can have a more well-rounded game. I fully expect the 21-year-old to make an All-Star level jump this year. Robinson is a shot-blocking, rebounding machine that saw plenty of offensive touches and shot opportunities during the summer league. This core group of guys will be crucial in helping the Knicks improve.

In terms of their newly acquired talent, they could do a few things with all of the options they have. This offseason, they picked up Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock, and Marcus Morris. These are all great pickups for New York in terms of individual talent. Randle was one of the more coveted assets of the summer and can do a little bit of everything on the offensive end. Portis, Bullock, and Payton are all developing players that have shown that they can produce when their number is called. Ellington is a seasoned veteran with a knockdown shooting ability that can give the Knicks a much needed three-point threat. It was an incredibly busy Free Agency for the Knicks, but one that left a lot of question marks with this new rotation.

If the Knicks keep all of the forwards they acquired during this offseason, they’ll end up running the risk of dissatisfied players due to lack of minutes split between the team. The younger players will want to hit the court more often and will more than likely take up the majority of the time due to developmental purposes. Some of the veteran players like Gibson and Portis run the risk and taking a back seat to the young guns. This could cause a little bit of tension within the locker room and end up hurting the overall team chemistry. In return, their expectations and actions could rub off on the incoming rookies and affect them down the line. As of right now though, those rookies look fantastic and are off to a great start in their young careers.

From what we’ve seen from the New York’s 2019 picks RJ Barrett and Ignas Brazdeikis, they’ve opened their first summer leagues off with a statement and are giving Knicks fans plenty of reasons to get excited. Both averaging 15.4 Points in the five games they played, they were able to show that they can stand out and take over a game when need be. In terms of individual play, Barrett was inefficient when it came to shooting percentage, but showed that his all-around game makes up for it. Averaging 8.6 Rebounds and 4.2 Assists Per Game, Barrett flashed his playmaking ability as well as his overall capability to play nearly any position offensively and defensively.

Brazdeikis was arguably the standout player of the summer for New York and made the organization look good for drafting him over other available players. Shooting 51 Percent from the field while hauling in 5.2 Rebounds Per Game, Brazdeikis is going to be able to provide solid shooting and a great work ethic off the bench. Both him and Barrett will make massive strides in their rookie seasons, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these two both end up on All-Rookie teams when the 2019-20 season comes to a close.

Despite losing out on KD and Kyrie, the Knicks are honestly in a great spot. I expect them at their current state to win 30 games this season which for them would be a massive success. This is the most in-depth and most structured they’ve been as an organization in over a decade, but they’re missing their leader. It could be Barrett in a few years, but people shouldn’t expect him to come out of the gate leading the charge at the caliber of an NBA superstar. They need one more piece, someone that can put them over the top and put them closer to a win-now situation. Packaging a bundle of those Forwards and a few future picks to the Washington Wizards for Bradley Beal is personally my favorite choice, but there are a few other options they could go for.

Next. Jarrett Allen deserves to start over DeAndre Jordan. dark

For the first time in a long time, the Knicks are close to contending, and there’s almost no way that they can mess this up. One more piece is all they need, and then people will start to question if Brooklyn is really where the best basketball resides in New York.