The New York Knicks fell to the Atlanta Hawks in five games this past week. It may be disappointing as the Knicks were the four seed, but the season remains a success. The majority of NBA fans and pundits didn’t even think the Knicks would sniff the playoffs, but they played admirably all season long and are finally on the right path to improvement. They’ll have money to spend this offseason too, and although it’s not the greatest free-agent class, the Knicks can certainly improve their roster.
New York Knicks: 2021 Free Agents to Consider
Players the New York Knicks Must Bring Back
New York will have some free agents of their own. Ten players could be released from the books.
The Knicks have to prioritize Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, and Reggie Bullock.
Rose allowed the offense to ascend and reminded the league that he’s still a legitimate player. He can surely make another sixth man of the year bid. Noel was a huge reason as to why the Knicks’ defense was elite. The starting center is a fantastic shot-blocker and rim protector.
Burks, like Rose, brings instant offense off the bench. Burks remains underrated and is also a strong two-way player. Lastly, Bullock was quite good as a starter. Bullock is now an established “three-and-d” player and fits perfectly in the Knicks system.
Mitchell Robinson, on a team option, will surely return. He missed the end of the season due to injury but brings strong depth behind Noel. If the Knicks decide Robinson isn’t the answer, he remains a strong trading asset.
Elfrid Payton, Taj Gibson, Frank Ntilikina, Theo Pinson, and Jared Harper are the other free agents.
Payton was a starter but is replaceable. Gibson is a solid veteran, and a Tom Thibodeau favorite. Ntilikina remains a defensive stud but could get a better offer elsewhere. Pinson and Harper won’t be prioritized, but can perhaps return as two-way players.
Backcourt Free Agents
There’s a number of role players available, but the Knicks have to be aiming for at least the second round of the playoffs next season. They’ll have to think bigger than role players in free agency.
Options here include Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball, and Spencer Dinwiddie.
Paul is obviously the home run here. He can certainly stay with the Phoenix Suns by accepting his $44 million player option, but there’s always a possibility that he leaves. Since leaving the Houston Rockets, Paul completely elevated both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Suns. The Knicks are already a playoff-caliber team, and Paul would make them a real threat in the Eastern Conference.
Lowry brings a lot of what Paul would, but at a slightly lesser level. With that being said, Lowry can form a terrific partnership with Julius Randle. A back-court rotation of Lowry and Rose brings incredible veteran leadership as well as talent.
Ball is different than the aforementioned players as he’s still “unproven” to a degree. He’s a good player already, but there’s still untapped potential. Giving him the reins may unlock this. Ball is also a terrific defender which will attract Thibodeau.
Lastly, Dinwiddie can stay in the state of New York. He’s now a surplus in Brooklyn, and although missed all of this season due to injury, is still a dynamite offensive player. He may have the keys to unlock the Knicks offense.
Frontcourt Free Agents
If Noel is re-signed, and Robinson returns, that sets the Knicks center rotation. The same goes for bringing back Gibson. In addition, Randle remains a starter and RJ Barrett will still start. Barrett, however, can shift to shooting guard if the Knicks sign a small forward.
The targets here are DeMar DeRozan and Kelly Oubre.
DeRozan brings leadership and two-way talents. He’s still a strong scorer as well as a superb defender. As a Knick, DeRozan can average 20-plus points per game and completely elevate the offense. He’s also a clutch player, a situation the Knicks found themselves in a lot last season.
Oubre isn’t as talented as DeRozan but still brings instant offense. He was somewhat stagnant with the Golden State Warriors this season, mostly due to injury and the dominance of Stephen Curry. Having scorers/shooters like Barrett and Oubre, who can both create their own shots as well, will ease the burden on Randle and the Knicks’ offense.
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