A Big Offseason in the Big Apple
The Knicks had an unexpectedly stellar season on the backs of Julius Randle, R. J. Barrett and company. How can James Dolan and the front office to follow it up?
“If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.”
The biggest priority for the Knicks this season is to keep that youthful core of Barrett, Toppin, Robinson and Quickley together for the foreseeable future. With an average age of just 22, this posse of young guns will hit their prime in five to six years, leaving them plenty of time to develop around each other.
Randle, 26, could be more difficult to fit into this timeline, but if his All-NBA-caliber season this year was anything to go off of, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to keep him around.
And before lamenting that it didn’t translate to playoff success, think of it this way: how often is it that consistent small fry like the Knicks shoot up to serious playoff competition in one season? The ’04-’05 Suns come to mind. They improved from 29 to 62 wins, powered by Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni. But that was a decade-and-a-half ago: Pluto was still a planet and no one knew what an iPhone was! What the New York Knicks managed this season was monumentally impressive, and it’d be a terrible mistake to break it all up again.
Players to Keep
It’s starting to look like Derrick Rose’s career may end up being a feel-good story, rather than a what-if question. D-Rose has had an incredible resurgence in the past few seasons, culminating in this season, where he posted averages of 15 points, four assists and three rebounds on efficient splits—not to mention these numbers ballooned in the playoffs. He’s a veteran with a great sense of professionalism, and on top of that he doesn’t just ride the bench. And so the writing is on the wall: Keep. Derrick. Rose.
Nerlens Noel is a name not many keep on their radar. Here’s the memo: the dude is a bona-fide shot-blocking machine. His grittiness perfectly suits the ethos of the city, and he most likely won’t be terribly expensive this summer—the mid-level exception could be enough. In addition, he’ll likely be a great mentor to the next player on this list.
Mitchell Robinson, who has a team option this offseason, is an interesting one. He’s seemed incredibly injury-prone this season, but in the limited time he’s been on the floor, he’s been a defensive stalwart. There’s a case to let him enter Unrestricted Free Agency at the end of next season and match any reasonable offers he receives. However, he has a relatively stable floor as a mobile, defensive big man, and it wouldn’t be ridiculous to give Robinson an extension of around $10 million a year.
A Dolla Saved is a Dolla Earned
The preeminent mystery of this offseason will unequivocally be the fate of superstar Damian Lillard. Another early exit, this time at the hands of Sombor’s finest, Nikola Jokić, has opened up a multiverse of possibilities regarding Dame Dolla’s next buck. Indeed, while Lillard has been the poster-boy of loyalty in an era of big-name moves, could it potentially be time for someone to swoop in and Save Private Dame?
The Case for New York
The Knicks have just $54 million on the balance sheet going into next year, undoubtedly enough for even the fattest of superstar paychecks. On top of that, they’ve got picks: many of their own, and two more from the Porziņģis deal. Money isn’t a problem, and assets aren’t in short supply either, so… is it time to go all-in?
LeBron in LA, Jordan in Chicago, Harden in Houston, Kobe in… LA again—big names are destined for big markets, and, ignoring all the basketball floundering, New York City is the king of big markets. Imagine Madison Square Garden with less than a shot-clock left in the fourth quarter. Lillard has the ball. With a defender in his face, he pulls up from the parking lot and wins the game, mouthing, “It’s over,” repeatedly to the cameras—how electric would that be?
The Case against New York
Daydreaming aside, where does Dame really fit on the Knicks? Randle and Barrett, while neither are ball-dominant per se, do need the ball in their hands to truly be effective. Will either of them be alright with shoving the ball off to Dame and sitting in the corner? It’s unlikely.
In addition, Portland won’t bite for anything less than a juicy young prospect and a treasure trove of good picks. Can the Knicks afford to give Barrett and their entire future away to “win now” with just Randle, Rose, and Lillard? Those odds seem slim.
Picking up a Point, Perhaps
Assuming Lillard is off the table for New York, there will be plenty of other lead guards available this summer. The key for the Knicks organization is steady, stable growth, and a serviceable point guard—and not Frank Ntilikina—will no doubt be a step in the right direction.
Players to Consider:
Okay. This one might be a bit of a pipe dream as well. Nonetheless, there have been rumours circulating that Paul will decline his player option with the Suns in search of one last behemoth contract. Paul is a wily vet, sure to bring backbone and a winning culture to the Knicks’ young core—it happened during his tenure in OKC. However, Paul’s exorbitant contract could be a waste for New York, perhaps better used on signing younger talent. Regardless, gossip during the season suggests Paul isn’t looking to babysit Barrett, Quickley and the rest in blue and orange.
It doesn’t look like Dennis Schröder is going to be a Laker next season. The German national’s fate appeared all but sealed following the Lakers’ first-round elimination via the Suns. Among the top teams expected to make a jab at Schröder are the Raptors and, indeed, the Knicks. However, a potential price tag of $20 million a year have made New Yorkers think twice making a move. Schröder and his family seem fond of New York City, though—a quick look at his YouTube channel can confirm this—and he brings a characteristically Thibodeau grit and intensity.
Ball would be a marquis signing compared to Schröder, and his flashiness and notoriety would make New York basketball must-watch TV. He’s more than capable on defense, has an improving jumpshot and just came off what should be heralded as a career year for the 23-year-old. However, his bromance in New Orleans with front-court counterpart Zion Williamson will prove difficult to break up in restricted free agency.
Forecast: It’ll Be a Summer to ‘Remembabout.’
It seems impossible, but the New York Knicks look to have a bright future ahead of them. It remains to be seen whether James Dolan and his band of cronies will fumble the bag with a young, exciting core once again; but, just this once, it may be different
Don’t expect any truly blockbuster moves—the Knicks will most likely use this offseason to maximize potential and add important rotational pieces along the way, through free agency and through the draft. Thus, it’s with great honour and respect that New York basketball is back, baby.
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