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New York Knicks Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The New York Knicks are days away from beginning a pivotal 2021-22 season.

It’s a prove-it year. After so many lousy seasons, the Knicks burst from the depths of the NBA to the 4-seed in the Eastern Conference. Now, they have to prove it’s not just a one-hit-wonder.

Good news: all signs indicate the Knicks will at least match their 2020-21 win percentage, if not improve it.

The 2021-22 NBA season is a prove-it year for the New York Knicks, and these three players are the X-factors to how far the team goes.

The Knicks’ core remained intact. Julius Randle, who signed a four-year, $117 million contract extension, and RJ Barrett return as the franchise’s two most valued assets. The front office re-signed Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks and Taj Gibson.

A couple of notable names such as Reggie Bullock, Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina signed elsewhere, but the additions in place more than make up for the subtractions.

Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier join the Knicks and will be starting backcourt mates. They both played for the Boston Celtics last season, starting three games together. Coincidentally, or not, the Knicks open their season against the Celtics.

New York also selected two guards in Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride in the NBA Draft. They’ll likely be at the end of the rotation barring injuries to the starters and backups.

The offseason acquisitions from both free agency and the draft have been exhibited in the past week through a couple of preseason games. And the dominant wins in both contests are yet another reason why the Knicks should improve from last year.

How much they improve is the question. It’ll be answered by the play of these three players — the Knicks’ X-factors of the 2021-22 NBA season.

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