Evaluating the Knicks’ Offseason (So Far)

With the NBA Draft over and most of the major deals in free agency done, the New York Knicks’ roster additions and subtractions seem to be close to complete. The new front office, led by Leon Rose, William Wesley, and Scott Perry, have been awfully quiet about their moves in the brief time they’ve been with the team as a unit, but they’ve clearly been effective. When Rose took over as the team president in early 2020, the Knicks were a lowly lottery team, with little to no direction for the future. Since then, however, they’ve hired a new coach in Tom Thibodeau, who won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award this past season, who helped push this team to the fourth seed in the playoffs, where they made their first postseason appearance in eight years. 

All of that to say, there should be trust in this front office. At the NBA Draft, the Knicks owned picks 19 and 21, but they traded them both away and grabbed the 25th pick, where they selected Houston three-point specialist Quentin Grimes. They also found two second round selections, where they picked point guards Rokas Jokubaitis, from Lithuania (although he’s likely to stay playing there) and Miles “Deuce” McBride, from West Virginia. All in all, not a bad haul. While I was bummed the Knicks couldn’t find their way into the lottery to take someone like Chris Duarte, or even move up just a couple selections to take Trey Murphy III, I’m happy with the young guys we got, and think they’ll fit really well alongside the other players on the squad.

So, that was the draft. Now, let’s talk free agency. When free agency opened at 6 p.m. on Monday, the Knicks were nowhere to be found. Some of their dream targets available, like Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball, Duncan Robinson, and Norman Powell, quickly signed new deals with other teams. I was confused on what they were going to do, they had been linked to certain names, but nothing was even close to confirmed. The first moves the team made were to re-sign two players from last year’s squad on team friendly contracts, Alec Burks (3 years/$30 million) and Nerlens Noel (3 years/$32 million). Both guys have two guaranteed years, followed by a team option on the third year. Later on, New York smartly gave their backup point guard, and Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Derrick Rose, a new deal, signing him to 3 years/$43 million, with a similar team option on the third year. Taj Gibson, a veteran leader and the third-string center, also re-signed on a one year/$2.7 million deal.

The first player from this year’s team to go elsewhere was Reggie Bullock, who signed a 3 year/$30.5 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks. I knew that the team was going to have to choose between Bullock and Burks, and I thought Bullock would’ve been the cheaper option, but considering they ended up with nearly identical contracts, Burks was the better choice to stay with the team due to his superior shot creation and well-roundness. The Knicks, however, did find an upgrade to Bullock on the wing. On night one of free agency, New York signed former Boston Celtics guard/forward Evan Fournier to a 4 year/$78 million contract, with a team option for the fourth year. He is an upgrade to the starting lineup over Bullock because of his strong shooting and ability to create and facilitate. This year, he averaged a career high 17.1 points, a much-needed scoring addition to this team to take the pressure off Julius Randle offensively.

The biggest need for the team to address this offseason was a reliable and strong starting point guard. For literally decades now, the Knicks have struggled to find a starting point guard with any star power or longevity. The first two days of free agency were depressing. All of the top point guards found new homes, options were running thin. Dennis Schroder and Reggie Jackson looked to be the only two viable choices left, which was horrifying to think about signing one of them. Then, out of nowhere Wednesday morning, the Knicks made a huge move. They signed former All-Star point guard Kemba Walker with their remaining cap space, on a team friendly deal that’s reported to be two years in the “$8-9 million range,” according to Ryan McDonough. Walker was traded from the Celtics to the Oklahoma City Thunder and was subsequently bought out by them. He then turned around and signed with New York. He’ll give the team long awaited point guard help. Injuries and inconsistency are a bit of a concern, as a knee injury cost him a lot of time this year, but when he’s healthy, he’s a four-time All-Star who is valuable to any team. As long as he stays healthy, the Knicks are just fine at point guard.

The Knicks definitely got better this offseason, already. The only issue for them is that so many other teams, like the Wizards, Heat, and Bulls, took greater steps to get better sooner. But the Knicks are playing the long game. They remained committed to the squad that brought them back to relevancy this year, and they will all look to grow together. While they aren’t contending right now, they can definitely have a solid enough few years to demand the attention of a disgruntled star or marquee free agent in the future. This is still definitely a perennial playoff team. 

I’ll leave you with a look at the team’s depth chart heading into next season, barring any other moves that might come (they could do some small trades, but this will likely be their squad next year). You tell me this isn’t a playoff team in the eastern conference…

  • Point Guard: Kemba Walker, Derrick Rose, Miles “Deuce” McBride, Luca Vildoza
  • Shooting Guard: Evan Fournier, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes
  • Small Forward: RJ Barrett, Alec Burks, Kevin Knox
  • Power Forward: Julius Randle, Obi Toppin
  • Center: Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel, Taj Gibson

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