After an underwhelming season ending with a record of 21-45, there are many New York Knicks players that need to show they deserve to play in New York. These players will need to prove themselves this season. Otherwise, the front office will be forced to move on from them. Here, we’ll go into the players that fall under this category and what Tom Thibodeau will need to see from them.
Kevin Knox was the Knicks lottery pick back in 2018. He has done little to prove he was worth it. Last season, he averaged a disappointing six points and two rebounds on 35 percent shooting from the field. Knox will likely be the second option behind Alec Burks due to his quiet season last year. After two preseason games against the Detroit Pistons, Knox has looked more confident but hasn’t changed drastically. Fans will hope the game slows down for him this year and will show his worth.
Newly hired head coach Tom Thibodeau’s philosophy is to get everything out of a player possible. The former Kentucky Wildcat is known as an unenergetic presence on the court, which Thibodeau will surely try to fix. If Thibodeau along with his coaching staff can unlock something out of Knox, he’s in for an impressive season.
Dennis Smith Jr. was only traded to the Knicks to free up cap space over the 2019 offseason. However, when the Knicks failed to sign a star later in free agency, this trade became very questionable. Despite losing a franchise player in Kristaps Porzingis, New York was hopeful they could still benefit from this trade through the young athletic guard Dennis Smith Jr. He looked very promising in Dallas, however, as soon as he came to New York, his career took a turn for the worse. The point guard is now coming off his worst season in the NBA where he averaged only five points and two assists per game. It looked as though he lost a lot of confidence as he did lose his stepmom during the season.
Despite this bad season, the Knicks coaching staff strongly believes they can turn him into a dominant player. The guard out of UNC is still only 23 and is one of the most athletic guards in the NBA. This will be a make or break season for the 23-year-old, as he’ll surely be traded away if this season doesn’t pan out for him.
Frank Ntilikina is a difficult player for the Knicks to get rid of. It’s clear he has a very high ceiling, however, it’s unclear if he will be able to reach it. Although he is one of the strongest defensive players on the squad, his offensive game needs a lot of work.
The Frenchman showed flashes of brilliance for short periods of time but has suffered much longer spells where he struggled to have a positive effect on the game. If Ntilikina can prove he is the point guard the Knicks can count consistently, he’ll surely become one of the most important players on the team. However, if he struggles to make an impact, the front office may need to evaluate whether or not it’s worth it to bet on him.
If these players all manage to find their rhythm, the Knicks could make a run for the play-in games. However, if they all struggle, New York is in for a long season.