The Knicks summer business proving its worth
After finishing the season with the worst record in the entire NBA and plenty of cap space, the Knicks summer plans seemed simple, get the No.1 draft pick (Zion) and sign two of the many superstars who were to become free agents (Durant & Kyrie). A great plan no doubt but one that could not have had a worse outcome. The New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery and got pick No.1 and Durant & Kyrie signed with city rivals Brooklyn, the likes of Kawhi, Kemba & Jimmy Butler never even considered a move to New York, the plans were there but now they were dead, so whats the next move?
This was a question the Knicks front office asked themselves and the answer they came up with appears to be in-genius. The ended up with the 3rd pick in the draft, which they used to select Duke's star shooting guard, RJ Barrett. Around the new face of the franchise they brought in veterans, Wayne Ellington & Taj Gibson and a fresh set of four wannabe starters in Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Elfrid Payton & Bobby Portis. Now while these guys are not the superstars the Knicks front office and fans were hoping for at the end of last season, they are just the type of players this franchise is desperate for.
Portis and Randle have been on the fringes for their entire NBA careers and they play like it, both want to be the best they can be and have a chip on their shoulder that helps drive them to succeed. While the opening four games of the season have season Randle from the start and Portis coming off the bench, both have shown the important role they will play in this Knicks team. Randle has struggled with his shot and turnovers but he has shown dogged determination and an eye for a pass, which is something that the Knicks lacked in last season, as for Portis he has had his ups and downs coming off the bench for New York but against his former team the Chicago Bulls, he stepped up and showed his ability to score in clutch moments, to give the Knicks a huge comeback win, their first of the year.
As for Marcus Morris Sr, he feels like he was mistreated by the Celtics and is out to prove they made a mistake in not offering him a new deal. While he is not the most talented scorer, he is willing to take charge and take the hate if he fails. This is key as it helps take pressure of the young players on the roster, who may not have the mental strength to deal with failure. Morris wants to be the clutch man for New York, he fights hard on both ends and disputes every decision made by the referee's. He certainly has his negative attributes but he is a warrior that is determined to come up trumps and who wouldn't want that in a struggling team, whose star player is a 19 year old rookie.
RJ Barrett may not have been the Knicks pick if they had got number one in the lottery but not getting that first pick may have been a god send for New York. Barrett played alongside number one pick Zion Williamson for Duke but was still the top point scorer on the team. He is the brightest prospect the Knicks have seen since KP and a flash of talent that New York desperately needed, especially after losing Porzingis. Barrett has made mistakes in his opening four starts, he's 19, that is going to happen, but the important thing to focus on is how he has reacted to making these mistakes. He has registered 82 points to start his Knicks career and that is second in a rookie season to the Knicks last superstar draft pick, Patrick Ewing. In the Knicks win over Chicago, Barrett registered a double double with 19 points and 15 rebounds, this included six offensive rebounds. He fights for everything on the court and plays with an offensive aggression you rarely see in a rookie.
No doubt a player with the ability to lead New York back to the playoffs but a player who has come into the ideal situation to develop. The players the Knicks have brought in this summer are guys who will take the heat when the Knicks are struggling and Barrett will be able to go about his development with a sense of freedom that no Knick rookie has had in the last 20 years, while also getting lots of minutes and ball handling opportunities.
The Knicks did not recruit the most talented players this summer but they brought in fighters, a fresh group that help pump up the young players and get in the face of opponents. Their summer business also appears to be helping last years lottery pick, Kevin Knox, who is thriving in his minutes off the bench. It will be another tough season for the Knicks but they are in position where they should be earning at least 10 more wins than they did last year.
The Knicks may have finally begun a successful rebuild after seven years of trying but ask me again at the end of the season...