Ever since their 2012-13 season, the New York Knicks have been a rollercoaster ride of utter dysfunction and disappointment. They have missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, and with a 10-26 record, the Knicks are on their way to missing the playoffs for a 7th straight year (ESPN). Despite remaining to be the wealthiest team in the entire league, the Knicks have managed to win over 35 games just once during this 6-year draught, somehow sufficing only 17 wins in two of those six seasons instead (ESPN).
At this point, every Knicks fan can pretty much agree that this “rebuilding phase” has been going on for a little too long. But that being said, it appears that the Knicks have finally reached the closing stage of this repetitious, tanking-for-draft-picks cycle. Essentially, the Knicks have five, key young players that they should develop and build around as their new groundwork for their franchise. And with the likelihood of landing yet another Top 5 draft pick in 2020, the Knicks will have all the young talent they need to assemble around for long term success. These are the following five players that need to stay with the New York Knicks:
1) RJ Barrett: Let’s start with the obvious. The 19-year-old from Duke has certainly not posted the flashiest rookie numbers so far, currently putting up 13.4 ppg, with 5.2 rpg, 2.7 apg and 1.1 spg as well (ESPN). But considering the team he’s on and what he’s had to work with, RJ Barrett looks very promising and has delivered strong numbers day in and day out. He’s one of those players that will develop more and more every single year into the elite athlete and scorer he can be. He has the potential to be like Kawhi Leonard or DeMar DeRozan, and in time, will become lethal. He’s naturally not going anywhere, but he continues to be the biggest and most important piece the Knicks must build around in order to develop into the winning franchise they can be.
2) Julius Randle: This is Randle’s 6th year in the NBA, and at 25 years old, he’s certainly a vital piece the Knicks should not trade away (ESPN). Yes, one can definitely say he’s not exceeded expectations after coming off a breakout season with New Orleans. However, he remains to be a productive and complete scoring talent for his size and position. He attacks the post and paint with creative shots and turnaround jumpers but also has amazing versatility through his mid-range game and 3-point shooting. The biggest question with Randle comes down to defense and consistency. But he’s coming off a hot month in December, posting 21.4 ppg with 8.6 rpg, 2.8 apg and shooting over 45% from the field (ESPN). He needs to stay and the Knicks should respect the $63 million, 3-year deal they gave him last June.
3) Mitchell Robinson: You can say all you want about Mitchell Robinson, but the numbers don’t lie and they’ve gone up significantly in his sophomore season with the Knicks. Although he’s only started 7 games, playing about 22 mins on average, Robinson scores more points than he did last season, grabs more rebounds, and is shooting better from the field (ESPN). He still averages almost 2 blocks per game, his athleticism is second to none for a 7-foot center, and at only 21 years old, young Mitch has unlimited potential that can transform him into the Knicks own version of Rudy Gobert (ESPN). He has still plenty of growing to do but Robinson needs to stay put with the Knicks. He loves to own the paint on both sides of the ball, and with more playing time, Robinson can be the perfect big man for the Knicks.
4) Kevin Knox: Knox’s is an interesting case because his role on the team has utterly changed. After starting 57 games as a rookie, Knox has only started 4 in 34 appearances this season (ESPN). His numbers have dropped pretty much across the board, but his shooting percentage hasn’t (ESPN). And at the young age of 20 years old, he has so much room to improve into an influential role player. He has a flexible variety of skills that can meld into any playing structure whether he comes off the bench or not, which is why the Knicks should keep him. However, the key component that’s lacking for Knox is playing time, which will have to change if the Knicks want to capitalize on his potential. The Kentucky prospect has a lot to prove; he just needs the minutes.
5) Ignas Brazdeikis: What?! The guy who was tossed down to the G-League?? YES!! The 20-year-old Lithuanian from Michigan needs to remain a Knickerbocker. In fact, within 10 games played for the Westchester Knicks, Ignas puts up an average of 19.3 ppg, 6.4 rbg, and 1.6 apg, shooting 47% from the field as well. This stat line right here is a snapshot of just what kind of player Brazdeikis can be. Similarly to that of former G-Leaguer and now current NBA All Star Khris Middleton, Ignas can grow and form into a vital asset for this new-look Knicks franchise. In addition, much like Middleton as well, Ignas is a complete offensive talent that knows how to penetrate defenses for high percentage looks yet has the ability to rely on his strong mid-range game and 3-point shooting to pour on points. He’s still really young and an investment the Knicks need to believe in and hold on to.