While the New York Knicks signed several veterans this off-season to help bolster the active roster and transform the team into a playoff-caliber squad, their focus remains on the youth.
The Knicks drafted RJ Barrett in the first round of the 2019 NBA draft, then proceeded to trade up in the second round to grab Ignas Brazdeikis and offensive-minded player from Michigan.
There is plenty of talent on the team to help them succeed in the 2019-20 season. Aside from their veterans, the youth will play an integral part in helping the Knicks walk away with positives in the next campaign.
What are the New York Knicks three deciding factors?
1.) Dennis Smith Jr. must develop a perimeter shot
New York Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has worked all off-season with Coach Keith Smart to help improve his jump shot and fundamentals. Smart is the former Indiana shooting guard best known for splashing the biggest baseline dagger in Syracuse history. In other words, he is one of the best options to help Dennis refine his game and increase his efficiency from the field.
Smith Jr. is one of the more elite athletes at the point guard position in the NBA. However, he is not a consistent shooter which has limited his offensive production exponentially in his first two seasons. Averaging just 14.7 points per game last season, he will need to elevate in that category to help the Knicks overcome the 17 win benchmark they created for themselves.
We should give him the benefit of the doubt, though, due to his unfamiliarity with Coach David Fizdaleâ€™s system.
2.) Kevin Knox
Knox had one of the worst rookie seasons of any player in NBA history, but there were signs of progression and optimism around his game. The primary goal for Kevin Knox is to attack the rim with the same mentality he did in college. He looked unsure and lacked confidence driving to the rim last season which limited his production and overall efficiency. At 6-foot-9, he should have much better rebounding numbers and success in the paint.
He averaged just 4.5 rebounds per game in 28.8 minutes in 2018. Both numbers are reduced and attest to his lack of defensive talent as a rookie, but that shouldnâ€™t damage his potential in the long run. In 75 games, Knox had double-digit rebounds just four times.
Aside from his rebounding woes, his shooting efficiency was awful. In December, however, he averaged 17.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game earning him the NBA rookie of the month award, despite barely shooting over 40% from the field. His final slash line was .370/.343/.717.
As a top 10 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, he did not live up to his potential. Luckily, he has plenty of time to prove himself, and the Knicks will make sure to utilize him early and often next season.
3.) RJ Barrett
The Knicks donâ€™t have much of a choice but to feature first-round pick RJ Barrett with the starting five. Â He is an incredible offensive talent that has the potential to be a star in the NBA. He must earn starting minutes early on in the season to quickly adapt his game to the physicality and speed at the professional level.
In his lone season with Duke, he averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game over 35.3 minutes. He was one of collegeâ€™s top players alongside Zion Williamson and likely wouldâ€™ve been the top pick in the draft given Zion didnâ€™t overshadow him. Barrett still managed to earn awe-inspiring numbers playing second fiddle.
He is an integral piece to the young Knicks team, and he will be treated as such in his rookie season. However, he will need to succeed if coach Fizdale is keen on showing ownership his team is progressing.