Knicks Bold Predictions Ahead of 2021-22 NBA Season

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2021

Knicks Bold Predictions Ahead of 2021-22 NBA Season

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    Year 1 of the Tom Thibodeau era was a resounding success for the New York Knicks.

    They went from an Eastern Conference afterthought—to put it politely—to its No. 4 overall seed. They had their first All-Star since 2018 with Julius Randle making the leap. They saw substantial growth from sophomore RJ Barrett and found an unexpected spark when trading for Derrick Rose in February.

    So what's on deck for Round 2? Great question.

    Time will ultimately reveal that answer, but for now, let's toss on our creativity cap and plot out three bold 'Bockers predictions for the 2021-22 NBA season.

Knicks Have an All-Rookie Selection

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    Bart Young/Getty Images

    The Knicks had a busy draft night, brokering three trades and making four picks. Two of them could turn into rotation regulars for the upcoming campaign and have a chance to make an even bigger splash.

    Both showed well at the Las Vegas Summer League, where Quentin Grimes (the 25th pick) averaged 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds, and Miles McBride (36th) tallied 15.2 points on 53.2/50.0/87.5 shooting and nearly tripled his 1.3 turnovers with 3.5 assists.

    Each appeared capable of handling significant minutes on opening night. The only question is whether they can get the green light from Thibodeau. Maybe this is overly bullish, but we'll say at least one makes the cut. Both get after it defensively, and neither lacks for hustle. Those are the kinds of qualities that can endear a young player to Thibs.

    For the Knicks to repeat—let alone build off of—last season's success, they'll need at least one of these rookies to contribute. Whether it's Grimes with his shooting and shot-creation or McBride with his decision-making and range, one will be productive enough to play his way on to an All-Rookie roster.

Mitchell Robinson Gets Traded Away

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    Brad Penner/Associated Press

    It wasn't too long ago that Mitchell Robinson seemed like the centerpiece of New York's rebuild. But this roster has grown considerably since, and the big fella has stagnated a bit because of myriad injuries.

    It's possible the Knicks still see him as a keeper. Few players can match his combination of length, mobility and athleticism, a package potent enough to eventually put him in the Defensive Player of the Year consideration. Team president Leon Rose is reportedly open to extending Robinson's contract before the season opener "as long as it's not crazy," per Marc Berman of the New York Post.

    But the Knicks could just as easily decide that Robinson is no longer worth the investment. He hasn't proved capable of staying on the floor, nor flashed much offensive growth when he has. After locking up Nerlens Noel, bringing back Taj Gibson and drafting Jericho Sims, New York could be set at the center spot, especially if it wants to experiment with Randle and Obi Toppin as small-ball 5s.

    Robinson might hold the most value as a trade chip, then, especially if he can stay healthy enough to flash that sky-high defensive potential. If New York can sniff out of a deal for a two-way wing between now and the deadline, that could spell the end of Robinson's tenure in the Big Apple.

Knicks Have 2 All-Stars for First Time Since 2013

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    While Randle's 2021 All-Star selection was the first of his career, it kind of feels like that's his spot to keep. Critics might question his sustainability, but the fact is only he and MVP Nikola Jokic averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

    That means Randle was so productive he gave himself a bit of breathing room for a return trip to the world's greatest pickup game. If his numbers take a small hit this season, they could still be strong enough to get him a selection.

    And our crystal ball shows not one, but two Knicks getting the nod.

    Maybe Barrett takes an even bigger leap in year three. Maybe Rose keeps dialing back the clock and sways voters his direction. Maybe Kemba Walker's left knee finally holds up and he once again proves to be a top-shelf scorer and shot-creator.

    New York has options, and if this team is as good as it can be, it will deserve its first pair of All-Star representatives since Tyson Chandler joined Carmelo Anthony at the 2013 festivities.

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