It’s been a busy summer around the NBA and a very busy one for the Knicks as well. While the Knicks missed out on their top target, it wasn’t necessarily bad.
It might have been disappointing but it certainly didn’t cripple the franchise in any sort of manner. I’ll try to break down how the Knicks did this offseason and what we saw in this year’s summer league.
Yes, it is disappointing that the Knicks didn’t land Kevin Durant and to a lesser extent, Kyrie Irving. The fact that they went to another New York team really doesn’t matter and shouldn’t affect how Knicks fans feel. The Nets were a couple of steps ahead in their rebuild process and the Knicks still need some time.
There were murmurs of James Dolan not wanting to offer Kevin Durant the max deal since he’s coming off of arguably the worst injury a basketball player can suffer. That’s neither here nor there, as we don’t know if this was even true or simply said after the fact. What we do know is that James Dolan was doing his due diligence, as were the guys in the front office. A ruptured Achilles is no sure thing to recover from and there is very little to no chance Kevin Durant is the same player again. In fact, he won’t even approach a full load of regular-season games until the 3rd season of his deal most likely. That’s not to say he isn’t worth the max, KD is certainly worth that risk. However, once he went down with a ruptured Achilles, missing out on him didn’t mean as much. And the reverse would have been true as well, signing him wouldn’t have been exciting because we wouldn’t know what type of player was coming back after injury.
Missing out on Kyrie Irving doesn’t really mean anything, as sources said the Knicks weren’t too keen on signing him to lead a young team with KD out a year. The best-case scenario was Durant bringing along a guy like Kawhi with him but with Kawhi wanting to head home, this plan was never truly feasible.
While NY missed out on the big fish, that doesn’t mean the team didn’t improve. The front office executed a free agency plan effectively, especially knowing they would have to pivot from their original plan. The Knicks signed many new players, including Julius Randle who was coming off a career year with New Orleans. The Knicks signings were as follows:
Julius Randle (3 years, 63 million, team option year 3)
Taj Gibson (2 years, 20 million, team option year 2)
Bobby Portis (2 years, 31 million, team option year 2)
Wayne Ellington (2 years, 16 million, team option year 2)
Elfrid Payton (2 years, 18 million, team option year 2)
Marcus Morris (1 year, 15 million)
Reggie Bullock (TBD, reworking deal after medical issue arose)
As you can see from the signings, the Knicks really addressed their issues of shooting and competitive basketball players. The most important thing is that they kept flexibility for the future, with only Julius Randle on the books past year 2 for free agents signed this year. And ultimately, that is key for this team. Next summer’s free agency class isn’t great but the class of 2021 will be packed with talent. Even so, that shouldn’t change the Knicks plans of continuing to build organically while maintaining flexibility. As we have seen this offseason and in recent seasons, there are always star players that want out of their situations. If the Knicks continue to maintain flexibility, as well as their draft picks, they will be in line for any star trades coming in the future.
Missing out on your top targets is tough. And with a fan base that was excited to potentially land some big fish, the beginning of the offseason was certainly disappointing. However, as the free agency period continued, the Knicks front office made some shrewd moves. The most surprising signing was landing Marcus Morris after he backed out of a previous agreement with the Spurs. Yes, you read that right. A player turned down the Spurs, a franchise known for consistency and excellence, to come to play for the Knicks. And this is in line with what we’ve touched upon before. The front office under Perry and Mills have turned the reputation of the team completely around.
This offseason certainly improved the team. The young players will benefit from having competition and good veteran players to challenge them over the course of the season. However, missing out on top talent affects the grade for the Knicks here.
Offseason Grade: B-
Summer League Update
Knicks fans got their first taste of RJ Barrett and Ignas Brazdeikis over the course of 5 games. The Knicks finished 2-3 and ended up playing in the consolation bracket. While none of that matters, it was nice to see Barrett, Brazdeikis, Robinson, and Knox all play together. We also got to see Allonzo Trier play a game before being out with an illness the rest of summer league. The Knicks youngsters should be commended for wanting to stay and play to start building some chemistry with the newly drafted rookies.
RJ Barrett can play. While RJ struggled in his first two games, he finished with 3 straight double-doubles to finish the summer. This includes a near triple-double in his last game, where he notched 21 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds. He has shown the ability to do everything on the floor. While his shooting percentages will certainly improve, he already has pretty good handle and footwork for a stepback jumper. He’s also an excellent rebounder and has great court vision. While listed as a shooting guard at 6’7, he has an opportunity to develop into a point forward type of player. He had a fantastic finish to summer league and he’s only going to get better.
Ignas Brazdeikis is making his case as Scott Perry’s latest 2nd round steal. He played really well over the 5 games, showing a nice lefty stroke from 3 and smart defense. He’s also not bad off the dribble and showed a great ability to finish around the rim. He scored 30 points in the Knicks 2nd summer league game, looking very comfortable. It’ll be interesting to see where he fits in this year’s rotation but he looks to be a real player.
Is It October Yet?
With summer league over now, we have 3 months until we get to the new NBA season. The Knicks roster is much improved and it’s certainly going to be challenging for Coach Fizdale to find minutes for everyone.
Not everyone will finish the year on the roster, as they will be used as trade assets in order to earn some picks at the trade deadline. But this team should be vastly improved and it will be fun to see how the young guys develop over the course of the season.