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Kevin Knox thinks Knicks can win at least 35 games and contend for a playoff spot

Kevin Knox, Knicks

New York Knicks rookie forward Kevin Knox said on Tuesday’s edition of ESPN’s “First Take” that he thinks his team can win 35 games this season and be a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference.

Knox was selected No. 9 overall in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft from the University of Kentucky. The 6-foot-9 swingman averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in college. He felt the pressure of playing in The Big Apple when Knicks fans booed him on draft night, but the youngster is not shying away from the spotlight.

Knox set a reasonable goal at 35 wins for the season. Kristaps Porzingis is expected to make his NBA return from his season-ending ACL tear sometime between December and February. With him in the fold for the home stretch, the mark Knox set for the team could be within reach.

The Eastern Conference is noticeably weaker than its counterpart in the West. Last year, the Washington Wizards claimed the last spot in the East with a 43-39 record. The year before that, the Chicago Bulls made it in with a 41-41 record. Now that LeBron James has joined the Los Angeles Lakers, it is likely that the Cleveland Cavaliers will fall from grace. Any team that saw their chances thwarted by James could sneak into the playoff picture.

The Knicks have an intriguing roster that new head coach David Fizdale can play around with. With Porzingis out, Enes Kanter, Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh and rookie Mitchell Robinson will see an increased opportunity in the frontcourt. In the backcourt, Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay and Tim Hardaway Jr. will be key players. Knox should see plenty of time as a rookie, and veteran Courtney Lee is still in the picture for now.

If this personnel can hold things down until Porzingis makes his return, they could have a shot to make a playoff appearance. However, even with this shift in power in the Eastern Conference, they’ll probably need more than 35 wins to get there.