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Knicks have questions to answer as training camp opens Monday

RJ Barrett of the Knicks drives against Jevon

RJ Barrett of the Knicks drives against Jevon Bess of the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2019 NBA Summer League on July 5, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Ethan Miller

The Knicks don’t figure to contend this season, so it’s another year of player development and that leads to many questions. As the Knicks start training camp Monday they have yet to address the issues that have trailed them through the summer.

Is RJ Barrett the new franchise centerpiece as the highest pick in team history since Patrick Ewing?

Barrett may not have come with the hype that accompanied his college teammate and friend Zion Williamson, but he was the No. 1 player coming out of high school a year ago. But at the Las Vegas Summer League the critics were out in force, noting that his brand of bully ball would not work as well in the NBA as it did at Duke, that he wasn’t quick enough to get by NBA wings and his shooting wasn’t good enough to force them to respect him from the perimeter. The one thing we know so far, he isn’t lacking confidence.

What’s the point?

The Knicks used a lottery pick on Frank Ntilikina and have spent two seasons doing little to give him a chance to prove his worth. Part of it has been his fault — he's been bothered by nagging injuries. But they also have wasted time with an assortment of journeymen put ahead of him who are all gone. They have to make a decision shortly on his rookie contract option and now have lined up Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton as obstacles for him.

What next for Knox?

Kevin Knox was one of the youngest players in the NBA last season and he was given plenty of chances to show what he can do. His shooting has to get better as does his defense, but there will certainly be a battle to get the sort of minutes and usage he got as a rookie with the Knicks bringing in a number of forwards.

Is Mitchell Robinson going to be just a freakish athlete blocking shots or will his skill set blossom in year two?

Robinson was a raw talent as a rookie; without having played college ball he established himself as a shot-blocking force. But he also stagnated in actual defense, fouling too often and falling for the simplest of shot fakes in an effort to block everything. Offensively, his range was dunk. He is young and athletic and insists there is much more to his game.

What happened?

The Knicks banked on stars coming aboard in free agency and instead had to settle for seven, well, not stars. They’re not bad players although other team executives shook their heads at the value the Knicks placed on them. The top six salaries on the team this season come from this group with only rehabilitating Reggie Bullock outside the top spots. So what are these short-term pieces here for — to win games, help develop the young players or simply run in place for another year until the team can chase talent again next summer?

Whose jobs are on the line?

The roster has been shuffled, but the Knicks' leadership group of team president Steve Mills, general manager Scott Perry and coach David Fizdale is back — along with Garden chairman James Dolan. They’ve all absorbed plenty of criticism, but how safe are they if the team struggles continue? The blame has regularly trickled down over the last two decades, which would put Fizdale on the line to show not just an increase in wins but establishing a style and producing the player development the team preaches about regularly.

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