The Knicks’ season is barely over but after putting together an impressive year that saw them win 47 regular season games and make the Eastern Conference semifinals, the organization and fanbase are now hungry for more. With the focus now turned on how to make the team a legitimate contender this offseason, the Knicks will need to answer a few key questions.
1. Will the Knicks (can they) trade Julius Randle?
This will, again, be the biggest question of the offseason.
After Randle seemingly answered these questions with his best regular season to date, averaging 25.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists on his way to being named third-team All-NBA. However, in the playoffs, he took a clear step back both with his play and his attitude. He averaged just 16.6 points on 37.4% shooting while turning the ball over 35 times and dishing out just 36 assists. He also loafed around the court on defense and suggested after Game 4 that the Heat may have “wanted it more.”
Randle was playing through various injuries but after a poor 2021 playoff performance as well, there are some legitimate concerns that Randle’s game and mental fortitude (or lack thereof) don’t translate to postseason basketball.
However, if the Knicks and their fans see that then certainly other teams do as well. Could New York really expect to get much of anything back for a mercurial player who has two years and around $26 million per year left on his deal, not including a player option for $29.46 million that he’ll likely pick up.
Moving Randle may have to include throwing in multiple picks or taking back a player who has lesser value just to clear Randle from the roster. It may not be a popular trade, but it may be one that makes the Knicks a more well-rounded team for the future.
2. Will the team part ways with Tom Thibodeau?
The reputation of Tom Thibodeau is that he’s great for getting a bad team to be good but doesn’t have the chops to take a good team and make them a champion. After he took Chicago and Minnesota to the playoffs multiple times he was fired from both jobs when he was unable to take the next step. We might be seeing that right now in New York but it’s unclear if the team will move on.
All of Thibodeau’s teams share the same DNA. They play slow, they don’t shoot particularly well, they rebound the ball near the top of the league, and they rank out in the top third of the league’s net ratings. However, that style of play seems to have a firm ceiling, especially in the modern NBA when shooting is so important.
With Thibodeau so far unable to adapt his offensive philosophy to fit with the modern NBA, instead relying far too much on ISO-sets, it might be time for the Knicks to part ways, perhaps picking up recently dumped coaches like Monty Williams or Mike Budenholzer instead.
3. Will they part with assets to trade for a star?
Many Knicks fans and NBA analysts want the Knicks to bring in a star this offseason; however, that seems much easier said than done.
Four of the Knicks’ five current starters are signed to multi-year deals (Randle, Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson). That leaves just one spot open in the starting lineup unless the trade for a star also includes one of those starters. The Knicks are not moving Brunson, and we just talked about how difficult it might be to move Randle, so that would likely mean Barrett and/or Robinson is moved in a deal for a star, along with other players and picks.
Would the Knicks be willing to do that? They weren’t last year when it could have netted them Donovan Mitchell, and it’s hard to see them being willing now since the decision to sign Brunson and rely on their young talent paid off.
Now, if the Knicks can move Randle in a deal for a star, it might be more feasible, but if Randle and Brunson stay then the star the Knicks get would have to be a shooter to help with the team’s floor-spacing issues.
4. Can they get free of Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose’s contracts?
As of now, Evan Fournier is set to count $18.86 million against the cap in the final year of his contract and Derrick Rose has a team option for $15.59 million in the final year of his. In order for the Knicks to have the flexibility to build a contender, they will probably need to get out of both deals.
Moving on from Rose is the easiest, feasibility-speaking, because they can simply deny his team option. That appears to be a near-lock to happen even though the team values his veteran leadership. Finding a team for Fournier may be more difficult given his lack of production over the last two years. However, now that he is on an expiring deal, the Knicks could be able to find one rebuilding team who wants to take him on.
5. Will Josh Hart re-sign?
The Knicks seemed to click as a team once Josh Hart came to town. Both the team and the player have said they want to renew their relationship next year, and we covered in detail what that might look like, so expect it to happen.
6. Will they extend Immanuel Quickley?
Immanuel Quickley will play next year on the final year of his rookie deal and then will be a restricted free agent. While the Knicks could give him a qualifying offer and keep him for the next two years, it might be time for them to think about locking IQ up long-term.
The former Kentucky Wildcat had a poor postseason before spraining his ankle and missing the final three games of the Miami series, but he took clear steps forward this year. In 81 regular season games, Quickley averaged 14.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists while shooting 44.8% from the field and 37.0% from beyond the arc on 5.6 attempts. He should have won 6th Man of the Year, and could easily move into the Knicks starting rotation if they wanted or remain a spark off of the bench. Regardless, the team should try to keep him around.
7. Where can the Knicks find shooting?
A key reason to keep Quickley is that he’s one of the few Knicks who can shoot.
One of the major problems for New York in the postseason was those lineups that featured Barrett, Hart, and Robinson lacked the necessary shooting ability to space the floor for Brunson. That’s why Brunson performed much better with Quentin Grimes on the floor. Brunson, Grimes, and Quickley were the only three regular members of the Knicks rotation who shot over 35% from beyond the arc this year.
That’s simply not enough shooting in this day and age. The Knicks will need to find a way to space the floor more effectively whether that means adding a free agent, making a trade, or trying to get into the 2023 NBA Draft to snag a shooter late.