It’s been a roller coaster three seasons for the New York Knicks.
After finishing 12th in the Eastern Conference and not being invited to the bubble in the 2019-20 season, the Knicks finished 4th in the East the following season. Julius Randle was named Most Improved Player, and Tom Thibodeau was named Coach of the Year.
New York was subsequently bounced from the first round by the Atlanta Hawks and finished 11th in the Eastern Conference this past season with a 37-45 record. The Knicks were making a turn in their franchise, but instead, they took one step forward and two steps back.
Free Agency this summer is vital for the Knicks if they want to succeed in the future. Last year, their two big free-agent signings were Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker. Fournier played well but not up to expectations. The Walker signing was horrible, as he and the Knicks agreed for him to sit for the remainder of the season starting February.
Here are the free agents the Knicks should target this offseason to improve their chances of making the playoffs once again.
Zach LaVine, Guard
The top unrestricted free agent this offseason is Zach LaVine, and the Knicks should absolutely target him. Unless you have a top 5 shooting guard on your team, every team should be going for LaVine.
New York’s current shooting guards are Evan Fournier and RJ Barrett, but Barrett has been used at small forward due to Fournier slotting into the two-spot. The Knicks can keep Barrett at small forward and move Fournier to the bench, bolstering both their starting lineup and their bench.
LaVine brings well-needed scoring to a Knicks team that was a bottom five NBA team in scoring. He averaged 24.4 points per game, ranking him 12th in the league. In addition, LaVine shot 47.6% from the field and 38.9% from deep, which would make him one of the more efficient shooters on the roster.
Julius Randle was the top scorer for the Knicks, and Barrett emerged as a consistent 20-point scorer as the season progressed. Adding LaVine would take New York to the next level.
Jalen Brunson, Guard
Zach LaVine is the dream-free agent for New York, but signing Jalen Brunson is more of a reality. Brunson can slot into either guard spot, giving the Knicks more flexibility when figuring out the depth chart.
Brunson has steadily improved since joining the league in 2018, garnering the most starts of his career this season. He averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists while shooting 50.2% from the field and 37.3% from three.
During this season’s playoffs, Brunson has been one of the top players for the Dallas Mavericks. He’s averaging 23.3 points per game and has scored over 20 points in eight games, including a 41-point performance in the first round.
New York has an interesting rotation at the point guard position that Brunson can be the answer to. Both Alec Burks and Derrick Rose are in their 30s, and it seems Walker doesn’t fit within this rotation. Also, Immanuel Quickley serves better coming off of the bench.
Jusuf Nurkić, Center
The Knicks need a strong big man to play alongside Julius Randle, and with it being uncertain whether Mitchell Robinson will return, they should go after Jusuf Nurkić. New York has Jericho Sims, Taj Gibson, and Nerlens Noel without Robinson at the center. Sims is on a two-way contract, Gibson turns 37 this June, and Noel missed most of the season with an injury.
Nurkić would be an immediate upgrade over Robinson. Last season, Robinson averaged 8.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks on 76.1% shooting. However, he hardly got any assists and didn’t record a single three-pointer. Nurkić averaged 15 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 0.6 blocks on 53.5% shooting and 26.8% from three. While his percentage from deep is low, it still gives the Knicks the option to spread the court.
Though he missed the last 23 games of the season with a foot injury, Nurkić will be ready to go by the start of the 2022-23 NBA season. Nurkić is also a bigger body in the paint, not allowing himself to get bullied down low, giving the Knicks less to worry about on defense.
Victor Oladipo, Guard
If the Knicks want an explosive guard who can score, Victor Oladipo could be the answer. While he hasn’t played a full season of basketball since the 2017-18 season, he’s continued to rehab his injuries and play well every time he comes back.
Oladipo missed most of this season but returned in March in a limited capacity. He dropped 40 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in the Heat’s final game of the year. During the playoffs this year, Oladipo is averaging 12.4 points per game and 26.6 minutes off the bench.
There shouldn’t be any concerns regarding Oladipo’s health. However, if there are, he can easily come off the bench for New York to start. Over time, he can return to all-star form during his Indiana Pacers days.
The Knicks can land a diamond in the rough in Oladipo for not that big of a price tag.
Montrezl Harrell, Power Forward
If the Knicks don’t land a true center, Montrezl Harrell could be someone to look at this offseason. But, even if they sign one, the former Sixth Man of the Year would still be a good pickup to come off the bench.
New York’s bench was lacking last season, ranking 23rd in points per game and 15th in rebounds per game. Pairing the veteran Harrell with two budding stars in Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley would be dangerous. Harrell averaged 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds on 64.5% shooting last season for the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets.
Harrell could play behind Randle at power forward, allowing Toppin to play center or vice versa. But, it could also be time for Harrell to become a full-time starter. He only started three games last season, averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds.
New York would be running a small lineup with the pairing of Randle and Harrell, but Harrell is still an upgrade over Robinson.
Featured Image: NBA Analysis Network