As we’ve covered since the New York Knicks were eliminated from the playoffs by the Miami Heat, almost every star player is potentially a trade target for the Knicks as they push to build a true NBA title contender.
However, while fans and analysts debate whether Karl Anthony Towns or Kristaps Porzingis is a better fit on this current Knicks roster, there is a much bigger question under the surface that the team needs to answer first.
Does the Knicks’ front office actually believe in their young core or not?
As it stands now, the Knicks are locked into long-term contracts with Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson. It’s likely that they’ll also sign Josh Hart to a multi-year deal in the offseason. That means that New York realistically only has one spot open in their starting lineup for a star player (unless they deal Randle, which is a whole other can of worms we covered here and is complicated by his ankle surgery).
As a result, there is an overly simple equation in the Knicks’ future; if they want to add a star, they will need to trade at least one of Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley, plus a plethora of draft picks and maybe Obi Toppin, Miles McBride or even Robinson.
If New York believes in the potential of Grimes, Quickley, and Barrett then they shouldn’t feel inclined to make a big swing for a star player this summer. Instead, they can wait for one of those players to develop into a star themselves or perhaps find a star to replace Randle or Robinson in two years when Grimes, Quickley, and Barrett have developed into a formidable trio alongside Brunson.
However, if the Knicks start to sniff around adding an established All-Star this off-season, it would likely be an indictment on the upside they feel those three players have. With Toppin and Quickley both set to be restricted free agents next summer, the Knicks would get the most value in a trade for them now, if they don’t see them as part of the team’s future, rather than waiting for them to leave in free agency.
As we covered earlier this week, the new CBA incentivizes teams to build through the draft and re-sign their own players. That would seem to push New York towards keeping their young core intact, potentially signing Quickley to an extension this summer and then doing the same for Grimes next summer.
When paired with the upcoming slew of first-round picks, the Knicks would be able to build a roster of young talent that could be a consistent playoff team filled with players who are under team control for years.
That would logically pair up with the Knicks’ window as a true title contender.
For all the talk of the team adding a player like Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, or DeMar DeRozan in the offseason, there aren’t many people who think the Knicks are actually just one player away from being a title contender. Unless that player is Giannis Antetokounmpo or Luka Doncic, which is about as unlikely as unlikely can be.
That means that New York’s championship window is likely about two years from now with the possibility of adding a star player to take the place of Randle or Robinson by then. As a result, the best plan of attack for the team this offseason might be to round out their rotation with a solid veteran to raise the floor of this version of the team and establish them as a perennial playoff team.
That would mean not taking a swing on adding one of the available All-Star players this offseason.
That might not be the popular strategy for a fanbase that is starved for an NBA championship, but not every transaction has to have title ramifications. Leon Rose and company could instead ensure that the organization becomes a great one and save the push for a championship for a few years down the road.
We’re watching Nikola Jokic, a two-time MVP, play in his first-ever NBA Finals in his eighth season. Jimmy Butler, his opponent this year, didn’t make the finals until his ninth season, and Giannis, who everybody would love the Knicks to acquire, didn’t make the finals until his eighth season as well.
These things take time, even for the best of the best in the NBA.
Considering the Knicks don’t have one of the best of the best on their team right now, it might make more sense to trust their young core to develop.
The question is whether the front office agrees or not. They can’t have it both ways, so this offseason is the time to decide once and for all.