Who would have predicted the season the New York Knicks had? The new coach, Tom Thibodeau, who was a questionable hire to some, made the Knicks relevant again. In the draft, they landed "ain't no stoppin', Obi Toppin" with the 8th pick, and found a gem in Immanuel Quickley in the latter half of the first. Julius Randle took on the captain role, and rose to become an All-Star, and was the league's Most Improved Player. Derrick Rose returned back to NY via trade and shined off the bench. RJ Barrett had a lights-out sophomore year, and the Knicks returned to glory as a four-seed in the playoffs.
All of this is great, and as a fan, I hope the team doesn't become complacent. There is still plenty of work to be done, in order for the Knicks Fever wave to continue. The team finds themself in a unique situation to improve. They hold four draft picks and an ample amount of cap space to become serious contenders.
Leon Rose, Scott Perry, and the entire front office have a lot of work to do, so let's address the three key pillars of the offseason. The NBA Draft, the free-agent market, and potential trade acquisitions.
- No. 19
- No. 21 (via Dallas)
- No. 32 (via Detroit)
- No. 58 (via Philadelphia)
There are three approaches they can take this year, and it's quite simple. They stay put and fill two holes with two first-round picks. They package the picks together to move into the lottery. Or they take the picks and create an offer for an all-star caliber player. Any of these avenues will have pros and cons.
The issue with two first-rounders (essentially three with No. 32), is that the Knicks already have a crowded rotation, so moves will need to be made to fix that. If they do stand pat and looking at the mock draft trends, there are a few names that stand out.
Usman Garuba, PF/C, Real Madrid
Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky
Keon Johnson, SG Tennesee
Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn
Kai Jones, PF, Texas
Ayo Dosunmo, SG Illinois
Garuba has been cited as a defensive star, which would fit well in Thibs' system. His offense is a question mark, but he faced quality talent in the EuroLeague, which impressed scouts. The Knicks do love Kentucky players (Randle, Knox, Noel, Quickley) so Jackson would be welcomed with open arms. He is a phenomenal athlete who could become a quality rim-protecting center. Johnson was once considered a lottery pick and still remains to have plenty of upsides. Although undersized, Cooper offers great depth at the guard position, and he is a quality ball-handler with a smooth transition and a nice pick-and-roll style of play. Jones proved himself to be a versatile defender, with a high ceiling to be a solid contributor for any team for years to come. He has a great basketball IQ, solid rebounding, and can place the floor quite nicely. Dosunmo would provide an excellent scoring option off the bench, as he is one of the most put-together shooters in the entire draft.
My pick? I like the versatility and defense of Usman Garuba and I think Ayo Dosunmo would be an excellent addition. I also think Isiah Jackson would fit well too.
If they do somehow move up in the lottery, I don't know where the pick would fall, but I would love prospects like Jalen Suggs (PG- Gonzaga), James Bouknight (SG-UConn), Moses Moody (SG-Arkansas), and Jalen Johnson (PF/SF- Duke)
Charts via Spotrac
Playing a lot of NBA 2k recently has helped me grasp the salary cap a little bit more. I am no expert, but the club option on Mitchell Robinson is a no-brainer. On this entire list, the only guy I really want to return is Derrick Rose. I hope the feeling is mutual. I also think bringing back Alec Burks and either Nerlens Noel or Taj Gibson would be ideal.
What's beautiful about the current state of the Knicks is they have the money to spend, and they rekindled the spark that makes NY an attractive free-agent destination. Assessing the notable free agents and what the team needs, I have come up with my wishlist of realistic targets that would excel the team well beyond the playoffs.
Kawhi Leonard would obviously be the creme-de-la-creme, the ultimate superstar that New York has been craving. There are some concerns with his recent knee injury and also Thibs getting the most out of his players rather than "load management", but this would be the most ideal opportunity to put New York back on the map. He is a perennial talent and a future Hall of Famer, Kawhi is built for The Mecca.
Spencer Dinwiddie would fit into this core like a puzzle piece. He is younger than some of the other guards on the market, and he won't be as pricey as them as well. He is returning from injury and is ready to showcase his rising talent once again.
To close out the squad, Duncan Robinson, would be a solid addition. He not only is an elite long-range shooter, but he has great skill scoring off screens. The second team of him, IQ, Obi, and DRose would be so fun to watch.
With all of that said, I give you, the 2021-2022 New York Knicks.
I don't know about you, but I absolutely love this squad. It is well rounded, and the perfect combination of shooters and defenders, playmakers and floor generals. Other players that they should at least consider if they fall short of the team above include Lonzo Ball, Kyle Lowry, Will Barton, DeMar Derozen, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kelley Oubre Jr., Andre Drummon, and Serge Ibaka.
I made this the final section because I like the team formed above. Now I don't think or expect the Knicks to make a splashy trade, even though they should consider it.
I don't think the Knicks should entertain the idea of trading RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, or Immanuel Quickly. They provide way too much promise. If anything, RJ should be the only untouchable on the squad.
Damien Lillard to the Knicks makes so much sense. He is a superstar point guard that the team would die for. The Knicks have the cap to retain his contract, and could surround him with RJ and Randle would be an unreal combination. I would trade three first-round picks and probably IQ to make it happen.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be unreal, and if OKC wants more draft picks, then they can have all of the Knicks picks they want. He's 23 and is a budding star. He averaged 23.7 points last season and is on pace to becoming an All-Star in no time.
Marvin Bagley has shown promise in his career, averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds as a career 50% field goal shooter while also knocking down 34% from the three-point line. The Knicks can buy extremely low on Bagley and trust in Tom Thibodeau to help turn him around. He could provide a solid big presence and spread the court.
Malcolm Brodgen could be an intriguing option. He has the ability to knock down outside shots efficiently, pass out assists left and right, and play very physical defense. He is a perfect two-way guard that the team would thrive with. If the Pacers want to get freaky, Myles Turner would be a major boost at the center position. He is a shot-blocking specialist and provides great scoring at the five.
If it was my ability to choose the path, I would avoid trading the core youth players and focus on the free-agent market and land players who can fill the missing pieces. Ship the picks out, and move guys like Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox, and hold onto what makes this team special. It is an exciting time in Knicks basketball, the next few weeks are about to be a whirlwind.
July 29: NBA Draft begins (8 p.m. ET)
Aug. 2: Teams can begin negotiating with free agents (6 p.m. ET)
Aug. 6: Teams can begin signing free agents (12:01 p.m. ET)