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Analyzing the Knicks Offseason So Far

Josh Hart, New York Knicks

The biggest takeaway from analyzing the Knicks offseason so far is they are remaining patient. It’s clear they are waiting in the weeds for a star that fits their needs and contending timeline. The New York Knicks only acquisition to date has been Donte DiVincenzo in free agency. A fine deal for a coveted 3-and-D wing depth piece. Yet, hardly a move to catapult the Knicks after their weaknesses were exposed by the Miami Heat in the Conference Semis.

Analyzing the Knicks Offseason So Far

They still have some spacing issues in the starting lineup, lack ideal size and scoring at small forward, and they do need another scorer to help Jalen Brunson. This move feels more complimentary, in my opinion. Heightening the need to make a trade.

However, the fact the Knicks have their star in Brunson, lighting up this year’s playoffs, plus an All-Star in Julius Randle. Combined with tenacious defenders in DiVincenzo and Josh Hart, the Knicks have themselves a very solid playoff team as it stands. Not even mentioning RJ Barrett, who, after a disappointing regular season, had a very assured playoffs. Mitchell Robinson is deficient offensively- but remains one of the best rim protectors in the NBA.

Flush with assets, plus Evan Fournier‘s $18 million expiring contract, the Knicks remain poised to augment their team via trade. We will get into which one’s they’ve been watching to this point a little later. First of all, let’s start by analyzing the Knicks offseason so far.

Knicks Sit Out Second Straight Draft

When analyzing the Knicks offseason so far, I remain perplexed by the decision to sit out this draft. I understand they traded their pick to acquire Josh Hart, which turned out well, and Dallas surprisingly tanked to preserve the protection of their pick. However, by failing to even acquire a second-round pick in this fairly deep draft, the Knicks bypassed the entire draft. Failing to select a player for two straight drafts. Considering the Knicks have since traded Obi Toppin, they are light in front-court depth and currently don’t have a backup to Randle.

On the other hand, the Knicks front office likely figured they have a set rotation anyway and don’t want to interfere with the minutes they already have allocated to younger rotation pieces like Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett, and Quentin Grimes. Understandable, but I still can’t entirely agree with this philosophy. New York are still in the phase of building their roster to become a contender.

I feel the draft is one of the critical components of that. Despite their success last season, they are not really in a position to sit out full drafts. Plus, at worse, it provides cost-effective developmental depth. At best, a pick could be a valuable piece and allows flexibility to perhaps move an RJ or Quickley to land that star to partner Brunson.

Leon Rose should have been far more aggressive here. There was quality talent to be had at the back end of the draft. Particularly Jordan Hawkins of UCONN, who went No. 14 to the Pelicans. Also, Cam Whitmore went No. 20 to the Rockets. On the upper end, Taylor Hendricks, the power forward who was selected at No. 9 by Utah, was another player who would have fit well. By failing to do so, it adds a greater emphasis on making a larger deal this summer.

Knicks Sign Donte DiVincenzo

The Knicks bring in their third Villanova guy to partner Brunson and Hart, signing DiVincenzo to a four-year, $50 million deal. This is a solid free-agency pickup from the Knicks to further add depth to their backcourt.

I can envisage DiVincenzo coming off the bench along with Immanuel Quickley to add a further spark. DiVincenzo’s particular strength is his defense. His ability to guard multiple positions fits a Tom Thibodeau team to a tee. Plus, his relentless defensive motor should boost their defense alongside the equally relentless Josh Hart.

DiVincenzo wasn’t just signed for his defense. He’s a solid shooter, a 3-and-D guy, as he shot a stellar 39.7 percent from three-point range for the Golden State Warriors last year. He also has a title under his belt, being a solid rotation player in the Bucks Championship team in 2021. Bringing a winning mentality to the Knicks.

This is a good bit of business for New York, snagging their number one free agent target. They were able to add the cap flexibility to make the deal by opting out of the last year of Derrick Rose‘s contract. There appears to be little downside here for the Knicks in terms of talent and fit.

The only question is whether they remain light on size at the guard and wing spots.

Obi Toppin Traded to the Pacers

This trade was not a surprise, especially after Toppin blew up on his coach during the playoff Semi-final defeat to Miami. Yet, the return of two future 2nd Round picks is still disappointing business for the Knicks.

It was apparent he had no future under Thibodeau last season- especially with starting power forward Julius Randle having multiple All-NBA seasons.

Toppin wasn’t really fit for Thibodeau’s half-court offense (a system hardly famed for its creativity and flexibility). He didn’t have the size and footwork to be a threat down low in the paint, and he was a streaky three-point shooter. Furthermore, he wasn’t a good defender. He didn’t protect the rim and struggled to snag rebounds.

Thus, his role was limited to standing in the corner, hoping for a few three-point attempts, 15 minutes per night. The thing is, the Knicks knew all of this for a few seasons now, so it didn’t make much sense to wait until now to move him. This is a top-ten draft pick, and bizarrely, the Knicks barely used him or developed him.

Whilst he was not a scheme fit in the half court, he was electric in the fast break. He particularly excelled with a pick-and-roll point guard to allow his extraordinary athleticism above the rim to do damage. Working well with Derrick Rose and electrifying the Garden crowd with monstrous dunks. In the few times Toppin started, he performed well, averaging around 20 points per game. Indiana should be a good fit for Toppin to carve out a career before his second contract is due.

It’s best for both parties that this trade happened, but it’s more of an indictment on the Knicks handling of him that the return was so poor.

Josh Hart Opts Into His Final Year

This is great for the Knicks. It was almost certain Hart would opt out and force the Knicks to extend him. Instead, by having him opt-in to his $12.9 million option, the Knicks have themselves cap flexibility and a bargain for a very good player.

Josh Hart was wonderful business by Leon Rose and the front office at last season’s deadline. He’s a tenacious defender with a motor so relentless he would often turn deficits around by himself. His offensive efficiencies were terrific. Yes, it took a hit against Miami in the playoffs. But Spoelstra out-schemed the Knicks that series, so it’s hard to overly criticize one individual. A good job by the front office to convince him to opt in.

Possible Knicks Trades

Flush with 10 first-round picks in the next seven years, the Knicks are waiting in the weeds for a bigger trade. Who are the candidates? James Harden is available – but the Knicks are smartly not getting involved. As great as he still is, he’s a ball-dominant point guard at this stage in his career. They already have that in the younger (and arguably better now) Jalen Brunson.

Damian Lillard is finally done with the perennial underachievers in Portland. However, Lillard has his sights firmly set on Miami. New York inarguably has far more to offer than the Heat can in a trade, but again the Knicks have their star point guard in Jalen Brunson. The fit might not be there to partner them with each other despite Dame being one of the best-scoring guards of all time.

Zach LaVine is available via trade from Chicago. This seems a far more natural fit, as he’s worked with Thibodeau before. He has the athleticism and ability to play the two or the three. He’s still an electric scorer all over the court. However, the main problem is the fact that reportedly LaVine’s agent doesn’t want to do business with the Knicks due to their CAA ties. This potentially takes the Knicks off the board.

Furthermore, it is still believed the price remains extremely high for the former All-Star. I’d still keep an eye out as the price may drop. The Knicks could do with a better three-point shooter on the wing than Barrett to partner Brunson. A player like LaVine, who averages an efficient 25 points per game, would be an upgrade. It appears the Knicks are off the table as of now, though.

It’s worth keeping an eye out on the 76ers. With Harden soon to be out of the picture, the window is closing to put a team around MVP Joel Embiid. It may get to a point in the next 12 months that Embiid asks out, and in that scenario, the Knicks should do whatever it takes to bring him to the Big Apple.

Most Likely Trade

OG Anunoby of the Raptors appears to make far too much sense for the Knicks to pass up. He’s an excellent defender and solid three-point shooter, averaging 17 points per game last year. He’d immediately provide a huge upgrade for the Knicks at small forward and address their glaring need for size and shooting on the wing. He’d be a seamless fit, as he does not need to ball to be effective. This is useful due to the fact Brunson, Randle, and RJ are ball-dominant players. He also made the All-Defensive second team last season.

Toronto is notoriously hard to negotiate with, though. Musai Ujiri is a fearsome prospect on the other end of the phone, as he’s rightfully regarded as one of the best Executives in the game. Nevertheless, the Raptors are surely heading toward a rebuild after losing Fred VanFleet to Houston, making OG the likely next player available. Also, reading the tea leaves – OG’s move to CAA (Leon Rose’s former agency) likely further incentivizes the Knicks.

Don’t Count Out These Players

Paul George: Reportedly, the Knicks and the Clippers already had pre-draft discussions around a George trade. Thus far, reportedly, the Knicks are unwilling to include RJ Barrett in discussions for the 33-year-old star. Preferring to include Quentin Grimes. Trade talks dissipated due to the high asking price, but the Knicks may revisit it next week at the start of the league season, where they can offer more picks to satisfy any deal. George’s defense and superstar scoring ability would be a natural fit for the Knicks despite his age and injury history. I wouldn’t overpay for those same reasons, though.

Karl-Anthony Towns: The multiple All-star center for the Timberwolves is someone to watch. Making no secret of his desire to be in New York, the huge Yankee fan has been to multiple games at the Stadium already. A career 23-point, 11-rebound star, he’d upgrade the frontcourt. He’s a solid stretch big, which would benefit the Knicks spacing issues last season.

However, I do not see a fit besides Julius Randle. They are essentially the same player – similar defensively and primarily elite paint scorers. It would need to be a one or the other scenario, not both. Thus, do the Knicks move Randle in the deal to bring in Towns? It’s possible. Although, despite Randle’s pronounced playoff struggles and lightning-rod status in New York, he’s still coming off an All-Star and All-NBA season. He out-performed Towns this season across the board.

Would it be similar to robbing Peter to pay Paul? They’d likely still need to keep Mitch Robinson’s rim protection if a deal was to happen. This feels like a sideways move designed for a fresh start for both players more than an absolute necessity. Thibodeau also remains a staunch supporter of Julius. He’s also one of the most durable players in the league.

Another Move Is Essential

It’s still a long summer ahead, and plenty of time for the Knicks to make another move. It’s essential, in my opinion, if they wish to cement their status as one of the best teams in the East for next season. In analyzing the Knicks offseason so far, their front office is notoriously tight-lipped, so it’s hard to be certain what their next move will be. It was odd that they took no part in the draft, for instance. Yet, they did well fighting off the competition to land solid role player DiVincenzo. Yet this move still feels more complimentary than a headline. So I fully expect a Paul George or, more likely, an OG Anunoby deal to materialize. Watch this space.


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