The Big Picture
Most fans are frustrated that the Knicks didn’t make any splashy trades or free agent signings this offseason. Everyone was expecting Leon Rose and World Wide Wes to use their connections to get a star player to come to New York. Fans think that Rose was scared to make a risky move since he is new on the job, but that is not the case.
The pressure is on
The truth is that Rose has been under the gun since he was hired back in March 2020. The guy writing the checks, Dolan, is actually more impatient than the fans. You think the Cable TV billionaire is happy that the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving led Brooklyn Nets are getting better ratings?
3 Year Plan
Rose isn’t dumb, he knows has less than 3 years to turn the Knicks into a contender before Dolan turns on him. According to Marc Berman, Rose tired to fast track the rebuild, but no stars were interested. The reason is because the Knicks are short on talent. That is why Rose has gone all in on development. He needs to hit on some of the young players in order to have something to sell to stars looking to change teams. Rose is going to be allowed to have one rebuild season, so he needs to make the most of it. Let’s see how his plan is unfolding.
Early season results
Coach Thibodeau(Thibs) have done a masterful job in maximizing the talent on this roster. Julius Randle, a player most fans wanted to give away has posted LeBron like numbers. The other returning vets, Elfrid Payton(Elf) and Reggie Bullock have also looked better. As for the young players that were labeled busts, Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox, have looked promising. If they continue to improve, the outlook for the Knicks is going to be bright. Thibs and his dream team staff of coaches has taken 5 players with no trade value and turned them into assets.
The Knicks turned also turned the 8th,27th, and 38th picks in the draft into Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and 2nd round picks for the 2023 draft(double draft). Both players look like talented, hardworking, humble guys that make their teammates better. Credit the Knicks for taking the best player available with 8th pick even though they have Randle starting. That is two more young players that can be core pieces or used as trade assets.
The front office also deserves props for signing the right free agents. One of the biggest criticisms of Steve Mills was that he didn’t understand roster construction, he just collected talent and didn’t consider fit.
This offseason the Knicks have found gems shopping in the dollar store. Alec Burks (1 yr/$6M), Nerlens Noel (1 yr/$5M), Elf (1 yr/$5M), and Austin Rivers (3 yrs/$10M), only his 1st season is guaranteed. Not only are the players productive, but their games also compliment the young core. Most of these players will might not be on the roster when the team is ready to compete, but can be used to acquire more assets.
Contenders in need
Let’s be real, after a handful of games we already know that the Lakers are far and away the best team. Everyone else is going to have to make moves if they want to catch them. Below is a list of teams that are in their championship contention window and the needs they have.
- Clippers: point guard
- Nuggets: shot blocker
- Jazz: ball handler/point guard
- Mavericks: outside shooting, big man
- Trail Blazers: big man
- 76ers: outside shooting, other scorer
- Brooklyn: ball handler
- Celtics: big man, ball handler
- Heat: big man, ball handler
As you see, there are 9 teams chasing the Lakers. Most of these teams are looking for the right role player to fill a need. The Knicks will most likely not want to help their rivals so expect them to trade with the teams out West. The Clippers are the most desperate of the contenders, they will be aggressively looking to acquire a point guard. Rivers is a former Clipper and Elf’s improved outside shooting makes him a viable option as the 2nd unit point guard that can alleviate some playmaking duties from Kawhi and Paul George. Payton would need to waive no-trade clause. The Jazz only have 1 point guard, Mike Conley Jr., I could see them being interested in Elf or Frank. The Nuggets could be interested in Noel since they don’t have a back up center.
Then there is the market for Randle, Dallas and Portland need size and scoring. Randle’s improved playmaking and outside shooting could make him this season’s Marcus Morris. A big man in high enough demand to warrant trading multiple picks for.
Pretenders in need
Then there are the teams that are not competing for a championship, but need to make the playoffs. The Timberwolves, Rockets and Warriors come to mind. Their front offices are under pressure to win and will be looking to add vets. The Wolves don’t have a power forward and will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for several weeks because of a dislocated wrist. Their GM Gersson Rosas is fighting to keep his job as the team is being sold and the new owner will probably be looking for an excuse to hire his own guy.
There are also the teams that realize they are not going anywhere and want to create cap space. They will be interested in the Knicks vets, Burks, Rivers, Noel, and Bullock because they are are cheap expiring deals. Since the Knicks are $18M under the salary cap, they don’t have to match salaries. This could be another way for the Knicks to upgrade their talent.
Things are coming together
All in all the Knicks are moving in the right direction and are finally making good decisions. While the moves they made are not sexy, the franchise is setting itself up nicely to make major moves when the opportunity presents itself.
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