(COVINGTON, La.) — Though it’s not likely the New York Knicks end their 45 year championship drought in 2019, their stockpile of young talent sets them up tremendously for the upcoming seasons. The Knicks held the 9th and 36th picks in the 2018 NBA Draft held last June. They ended up selecting Forward Kevin Knox and Center Mitchell Robinson respectively. Both rookies along with Undrafted Free Agent Point Guard Allonzo Trier have provided a spark in the Knicks season so far. Knicks’ All-NBA Center Kristaps Porzingis suffered a torn ACL last February, and while he could potentially return soon, it simply does not make sense to rush back a franchise player in what already looks like a lost season. The Knicks will have extremely high NBA Draft Lottery odds once again leading to another prime spot to add yet another young phenom. All of that said, here’s why the New York Knicks will soon win their first NBA Championship since their 1973 squad took down the LA Lakers in 5 games.
Obviously the Knicks will expect the most out of their most recent 9th overall selection Kevin Knox. Knox, a forward who played under legendary basketball mind John Calipari at the University of Kentucky, led the Wildcats to a Sweet 16 appearance before being upset by a scrappy Kansas State team. Knox immediately slides into a starting role and should see plenty of minutes of action to develop.
At pick number 36, The Knicks selected Center Mitchell Robinson from Chalmette High School (LA). At the time this was deemed a very risky selection by experts but early data suggests Robinson will be a force for years to come. Mitchell Robinson has a very peculiar story compared to most rookies nowadays. At one time, he was committed to play college ball at Western Kentucky University, but later backed out of the offer citing personal issues. He still attended classes at WKU but opted to train on his own and declared for the 2018 NBA Draft, a move sharply criticized by scouts. Despite going an entire year without playing competitive basketball, Robinson has already worked his way into the starting lineup. Truly impressive considering about 34% of second-round picks never see an NBA court.
Definitely the most surprising and perhaps the most impressive of the Knicks’ trio of rookies is undrafted guard Allonzo Trier from the University of Arizona. Trier was a McDonald’s All-American as a high school senior and decided to continue his education and basketball career at the University of Arizona. However, he tested positive for PED’s as a sophomore. This made many teams question his character and work ethic and therefore he was not one of the 60 players drafted on June 21, 2018. The Knicks knew there was some upside in a dynamic talent like Trier, and signed him to a 2 year contract as an undrafted free agent. The rest is history, as Trier is currently on pace to break the rookie scoring record by a player who had gone undrafted. Even though many undrafted players have carved out roles with teams throughout the years, no one has ever done it at the pace of Trier.
Summer 2019 NBA Free Agency:
Kevin Durant. Kawhi Leonard. Kyrie Irving. Jimmy Butler. Klay Thompson. Just a few of the names of players who will presumably test the market this summer. Fortunately for the Knicks, they already have the 8th most salary cap space in the league as well as expendable contracts that would open up even more space. The opportunity to play in a city such as New York City also benefits their odds of landing a top talent. The 2 upcoming free agents that make the most sense here are Boston Celtics’ guard Kyrie Irving and Philadelphia 76ers’ wing Jimmy Butler. The Knicks already have 3 promising young studs in the front-court in Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and NBA All-Star Kristaps Porzingis, and in order to win in the modern NBA, teams need shooters, and either Irving or Butler can add a 3-point threat that the Knicks currently lack. The Knicks are only knocking down 3-point shots at a 33.1% clip, 6th worst in the league (via NBA.com). The last 4 NBA champions all ranked extremely high in this category.
Putting It All Together:
Teams can no longer win championships with just one superstar as seen in the last 2 NBA Finals which showed even LeBron James playing his best basketball could not knock off the Golden State Warriors. The dominant strategy to win games in the league nowadays is all about building a well-balanced young core of players. The Knicks are doing exactly that. While it is hard to believe at the moment as the Knicks are tied for 12th in the Eastern Conference, positive regression is inevitable with how the roster is structured. The Knicks are doing everything right in terms of building a formidable franchise, and it will undoubtedly show in the coming years as they will be a powerhouse for years to come.