While the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors prepare to battle in the NBA Finals, the New York Knicks are well into their planning for the off-season. Unless in the room, most people will have zero idea on what the plans are for the team as Leon Rose and his group try to get the Knicks back into the playoffs and have Madison Square Garden rocking like the New York Rangers have been able to do in May and will continue into June.
As we get closer and closer to the NBA Draft, scheduled for June 23rd, and to the start of the new basketball year on July 1st, it’s time to compile a wishlist for the front office.
Find a point guard
Knicks fans thought they had found their point guard. They thought Leon Rose found the guy and maybe he could take a dive into the fountain of youth. But after a tough season from Kemba Walker that surely puts a bow to his Cardiac Kemba days, the franchise continues to look for a difference maker at the point guard position. No matter where you stand on the “Immanuel Quickley is our starting point guard” debate, the consensus from Knicks fans should be that they need to find that guy.
Now, whether the next starting point guard is already on the team, or he will be a free agent or will be traded, is the next question. Again, some understandably are clamoring for Immanuel Quickley to be given the opportunity. Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brodgon has been linked to Draft Day rumors involving the Knicks and the Wizards. The free agent class doesn’t seem too exciting. John Wall, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving can all become free agents if they decline their player option. But, questions about Wall are valid as he has played in 40 games since 2019. Russell Westbrook had quite the season in Los Angeles last season, and not exactly in a good way. Kyrie Irving and his off-the-court headaches can surely turn a team off.
There are really slim pickings with the free agent point guard class. Jalen Brunson is projected to get a big day in July with a team, but any hesitancy is understandable. Anything in the $20M-$25M as reported might be unjustifiable for a guy who averaged just 16 points per game last season with Luka Doncic by his side. Collin Sexton could be appealing, but he is a restricted free agent.
Not much after that, however. Ricky Rubio, Delon Wright, Rajon Rondo, Tyus Jones, Avery Bradley, Austin Rivers, Elfrid Payton… no thanks.
Find a trade partner for Julius Randle
This must be number two on most Knicks fans list. Maybe even number one.
The honeymoon is over. It seems like both Julius Randle and the New York Knicks fell out of love quicker than college freshmen in their first week.
Fans thought Randle was turning the corner after an incredible 2020-21 season in which he won the Most Improved Player and a Second-Team All-NBA honor. That season led to him getting a contract extension, which means he won’t be a free agent until 2026.
But the regression from Randle was frustrating as he reverted to the player he was in his first season with the Knicks: a turnover machine with not enough assists to justify it mixed with an inability to hit a three-pointer with a measurable step back in field goal percentage. His awful play led to him getting booed by fans, which led to his feelings getting hurt and turned into a thumbs down after he finally had a good game, which was scarce last season. He explained that the thumbs down gesture was to tell the fans to “shut the f— up”, which is always a smart idea, especially in New York.
The fans were mad at him and he was mad at the fans. Someone in Knicks PR must have told him that he made a boneheaded decision but the relationship was already fractured. The only way he could repair the relationship was by performing well on the court.
But again, those performances were scarce.
A change in scenery would probably do well for Julius Randle. After his breakout season, he became the guy in New York, but it seems like he lacks the trait to be the guy in New York.
Leon Rose is going to have his money cut out for him if he is able to find Randle a new home after pulling the trigger too quickly on reupping his contract.
Find a trade partner for Evan Fournier
Evan Fournier’s short tenure with the Knicks has also been a rollercoaster. He came along with Walker. They had their introductory press conference together as they both played with the Boston Celtics the year before.
Fournier’s signing seemed to have been the best signing of the offseason after game one when he exploded for 32 points on 52% from the field and hitting six threes against the Celtics. The Garden was rocking, as were the streets. Bing Bong was born that night. Things looked like they were trending in the right direction after that playoff appearance. Boy, we were naive.
Fournier would go on and have a bad season. A turnstile on defense and an unreliable marksman led to much ire from fans. His excuses for off nights, including blaming a bad steak for a bad performance.
The only time Fournier would make Knicks fans hearts happy would be his performances against the Celtics. Fournier scored 30 points five times last season, and three of those games came against Boston.
His 14 points a night and, most importantly, laughable effort on defense has put him on this list.
It’s time to move on, but he’s contracted for this upcoming season and the following one at $18M with a club option in 2024-25.
Re-sign Robinson, figure out backup role
Mitchell Robinson is an unrestricted free agent. The Knicks could lose him and get nothing in return. The fan favorite and defensive anchor has to return. He may never develop that jumper or may never develop that post game. His ceiling may just be a Rudy Gobert-like player. But, he brings an energy on defense to the team that is too valuable to lose. His pogo-stick jumping ability along with his emphatic blocks brings The Garden to its feet, a place where good defense is well appreciated.
The next issue is the man coming off the bench to replace Robinson. As detailed above, the Walker signing was a bad choice, Randle’s contract extension came too soon and Fournier is overpaid. Simply put, Leon Rose had a bad offseason last year.
Well, the bad offseason is amplified by the signing of Nerlens Noel. At around $9M per year for three years, Noel was hardly on the court. The former Kentucky Wildcat missed the first seven games of the season which foreshadowed the rest of the campaign. He would end up missing the final 28 games and played 25 games. When he was on the court, it was an atrocity. He still has not learned how to catch a basketball, which leads to a turnover and kills momentum on offense. His defense, which was the major reason he got this $9M a year contract, took a major step in the wrong direction.
Noel has been surpassed by the kid.
Jericho Sims was very fun to watch when he got his opportunity. A high flying player with oodles of potential but still incredibly raw. Sims was the best option for the Knicks off the bench and that was evident from the preseason. But again, Sims is an incredibly raw player and we know what we have in Noel.
Remember, Noel was not 100% healthy all season, so give him some benefit of the doubt. But, Noel should be behind Sims in the depth chart heading into training camp. If completely healthy, it’s up to Noel to get back to being the first center off the bench.
But if we go into next season and Noel still doesn’t look healthy… It might be time to take a deeper look at Leon Rose. That laundry list would be getting longer and longer and dirtier and dirtier.