Over the past weeks, months and years, Knicks fans have grown accustomed to waiting. Waiting for one of their young pieces to blossom, for the NBA Draft Lottery, the NBA Draft and free agency.
All of that waiting and things have not really changed. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are headed to the rival Brooklyn Nets, and New York's faithful will have to sit patiently through yet another losing season for yet another promise of a return to glory.
However, the Knicks completed a flurry of signings before the calendar even flipped to July, filling out a roster of legitimate NBA players -- something they haven't often possessed lately.
Scott Perry and Steve Mills have stuck to their assurance of no long-term, inflexible contracts, so this talent likely isn't going to remain in its current form, but they'll be donning the blue and orange come October.
Even with more to wait on, there's a reason to be excited about seeing these players on the hardwood, although there are questions: how do the pieces fit, and how many games can they actually win?
As of right now, the Knicks' projected rotation - in no specific order -- will look something like this:
Dennis Smith Jr.
The Knicks could still add young or veteran fliers as we head into Summer League and the late stages of free agency, of course, but as it stands it's a wing-heavy lineup. Trier is arguably a guard, though, and we should see plenty of Knox and Bradeikis at the four. Semantics aside, how will they fare?
Head coach David Fizdale ran with a free-flowing offense last year, and experimented in a few different ways defensively. It was hard to get a strong read on either, but we can begin to piece together the puzzle with this team.
A lot of the scripted actions for Tim Hardaway Jr. last season will seamlessly transition to this year's cast of wings. Ellington is the purest shooter on the Knicks with nearly 1,000 career baskets from three-point range while shooting 37.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Barrett will get some looks, too, but will likely aim to attack more than Ellington or Hardaway ever did. His meal ticket is when New York freelances and he's able to be creative with NBA-spacing spread pick-and-rolls, but some other issues may arise.
Knox spent most of his rookie season looking purposeless on offense, just creating when he saw fit. Spot-up threats like Ellington and Bullock may slide in fine here, but Knox and Dotson can only develop if they're utilized and put in different situations to see where they can excel. Fizdale may want to be a touch heavier and more creative with his play-calling to get these guys opportunities.
How these wings will share the floor, especially if someone is manning the four spot at the time, will be in flux all year. They have some interesting options, though, such as always having at least one passable defender in the game (Bullock, Ellington, Dotson), keeping a veteran tied to a developing talent (Barrett or Knox with Bullock or Ellington) or an off- and on-ball specialty mix that sticks to a previous rule (Ellington and Barrett).
The guard spot gets trickier. They'll be handed the keys to the read-and-react offense with few other creators on the team. This is part of the reason New York finished among the league's highest-volume team of two-plus dribble, very early shot clock and very late shot clock shooters. So, who can be trusted to score and create shots for others on this team?
Smith Jr. has yet to score efficiently, and although his passing touch is very impressive, he doesn't have the point guard feel to use it enough or more effectively yet. Trier is fun, but still plays with blinders on. Payton is a crafty and smart creator for others, but he has failed to evolve as a scoring threat in his years. A Ntilikina trade seemed all but certain by now, yet he remains on the roster thus far. Unless he's made big-time improvements over the offseason, no luck there.
Beyond the guards, Randle hasn't made the passing leap yet, although he'll have more opportunities as the best player on this team. How much Fizdale will mold his team's game around Randle is tough to determine.
The Knicks' biggest free agent acquisition has remained efficient while taking on bigger workloads every season - a good sign for someone about to take on the No. 1 scoring role for the first time. However, it will be tough to tell if he is suited for it given he didn't play a meaningful stretch of games without Anthony Davis in uniform. It would be fun to see him try some new things, like working the pick-and-roll handler spot with Robinson setting screens.
Randle will likely get some time at center, too. He could easily become a good-stats-for-a-bad-team guy, averaging 25-10 and rocking a Knicks pin at the lottery stage.
That leaves Barrett (Knox isn't in this world yet), who we just don't know enough about until he plays in an NBA game. There's many reasons to expect greatness -- even right away -- but this is still a rookie, and betting your NBA success on one has rarely proven to be a sound move. Fizdale was a fan of running dual point guard lineups last year, and should throw them out plenty this year to make up for the lack of creation.
But a compounding issue here is the Knicks may not have enough shooting. This is especially bad at the guard spot once again, with all three talents providing little threat from deep. Ellington and Bullock are great, but the rest of the roster falls in the "okay" or worse department.
Randle bumped his three-point shooting up to 34.4 percent on a healthy number of attempts last season, but his 27.3 shooting percentage on the same number of attempts over the rest of his career could mean it's a fluke. Portis saw a similar uptick last season, to 39.3 percent, but every year prior he shot below average. Knox and Barrett are question marks, although anything short of average from Knox this season would be a major disappointment. Dotson must get minutes to produce.
Defensively, the roster is still a mess. Robinson is the anchor, of course, and coming into his second year should be more comfortable saddled with that duty. In a competitive year the Knicks would want to deny the three-ball and force teams to make inside shots over Robinson, but with his youth, foul troubles and playing time likely in the 20-30-minute range, this may not be the strategy for this season.
The guard spot isn't all that bad if Payton and Ntilikina spend a good amount of time on the floor, but trying anything aggressive on this end, as Fizdale did last year, will crumble under the reads and rotations required by New York's swingmen.
Knox and Barrett need some years under their belt, Trier and Dotson have shown signs but also need serious work, and Ellington and Bullock are serviceable. In the bigs department, Randle's struggles may forever be linked to his frame, lacking the length to deal with giants and speed to deal with guards. This side of the floor will undoubtedly be the Knicks' downfall, though they can partially make it up on the defensive glass with these rebound-happy bigs.
How all these disjointed pieces fit together is a mystery, likely to the Knicks' front office as well. Fizdale tinkered a ton in his first season coaching the Knicks, and this realistically being another rebuilding year, expect the same.
Payton, Smith Jr. and Ntilikina will be battling it out for the starting one spot. You're likely to see any combination of the four big men listed on the floor on any given night, ditto for the wings, and it'll take dozens of minutes to see who works well together. And we have absolutely no idea what kind of strides or regressions these neophytes have made, nor what Barrett or Bradeikis will look like. An optimistic bet is a win count in the low 30's, a realistic or pessimistic bet is… fewer, and New York can fall anywhere in between.
Knicks fans will just have to wait for answers here, too.