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2024 NBA Off-Season Preview: What’s Next For The Knicks?

The Knicks are approaching a pivotal off-season.

The New York Knicks have had a season to remember. For the first time since the 2012-13 campaign, they reached the coveted milestone of 50 wins, reigniting hope and excitement in Madison Square Garden. This remarkable achievement wasn’t just about the numbers on the scoreboard; it was a testament to the grit and resilience that defined their journey.

2024 NBA Off-Season Preview: What’s Next For The Knicks?

Knicks Season Recap 

The 2023-24 season started as one of the most hopeful seasons in recent memory. Building on the back of Jalen Brunson’s unexpected rise to becoming a top-20 player in the NBA, Knicks fans finally had a reason to believe the franchise was heading in the right direction. After losing a close series to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in 2022-23, there was belief among fans that the Knicks could make the Conference Finals for the first time since the Ewing era in Madison Square Garden.

Injuries

Unfortunately for the Knicks, the season never fully came together. Injuries at crucial junctures plagued the Knicks, and it never seemed like the team was ever fully healthy. The healthiest stretch of the season for the Knicks was the month of January. In the 14 games that the trio of Brunson, Julius Randle, and OG Anunoby played, the Knicks went 12-2. During this 14-game stretch, they beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, and the Miami Heat.

Despite all the injuries the Knicks suffered, they ended up being the two-seed in the East. Brunson had a superhuman run from February 1st on and was among the league leaders in points per game, shots per game, usage rate, and time of possession. His one-man offense propelled us to a 50-win season. Based on his performances, Brunson was fifth in MVP voting and made the All-NBA second team.

The Knicks lost in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals to the Indiana Pacers in a hard-fought series. One could argue they ran out of healthy bodies.  Mitchell Robinson, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Randle had been ruled out for the season earlier at various points. Anunoby missed time in the Pacers series with a Hamstring injury before attempting to come back for Game 7 and Josh Hart had picked up an abdominal injury in the 2nd quarter of Game 6. Mid-way through Game 7, Jalen Brunson would fracture his left hand, ultimately getting ruled out of the game, an almost fitting way to end the season.

Projected Cap Space and Draft Picks

Cap Space

The Knicks are in a cap deficit of $68 million entering this offseason. However, this accounts for the fact that the Knicks will pay each of their free agents, and they will make the same amount that they made this year. As currently constructed, New York is set to be $27 million below the luxury tax threshold and well below the second apron. This gives them the leeway to go out and sign a cheap free agent who could provide them with what they want.

Draft Picks

  • R1 Pick 24
  • R1 Pick 25
  • R2 Pick 8 (38th Overall)

Primary Draft Targets

The Knicks need a big man who can shoot the three and create his shot. The NBA is shifting towards a five-out offense, and the depleted Knicks were unable to capitalize on the Pacers’ defense because they lacked creators. Donte DiVincenzo is a catch-and-shoot demon, but there were moments when he could not create his shot. Hart, Anunoby, and Isaiah Hartenstein fall under a similar bucket. Having a big man who can space the floor will allow the Knicks to play with some of the bigger teams in the NBA, as they could both play bigs on the floor. All of their draft targets shot well from three this season and played a major role on their respective teams. Filipowski or Ware would make their center rotation fool-proof, and they would not have to rely on Mitchell Robinson to play clutch minutes. While Da Silva or Scheierman would give the Knicks some much-needed wing shooting.

Knicks Pending Free Agents and Possible Departures

Free Agents 

The Knicks must be strategic in who they want to bring back. They have Robinson locked up for the next couple of years, and both of their backup centers are free agents. They could choose to bring back both, but Hartenstein is expected to command a hefty sum on the market. That presents the Knicks with an issue. They could trade away Robinson for quality role players and then re-sign both I-Hart and Achiuwa. The other key decision is Alec Burks. There is clear reason to believe that Burks’s market value will not be as high as before. He will turn 33 soon and is a streaky shooter. But, he was a valuable asset on the bench for the Knicks and can create his shot consistently. He had some great games against Indiana. The Knicks should re-sign Burks if they can get him on a cheaper deal (~$5-7 million).

Trade pieces 

  • 11 1st-round picks (2024-2030)
  • 7 2nd-round picks (2024-2030)
  • Bojan Bogdanovic
  • Julius Randle
  • Mitchell Robinson

Should the Knicks consider trading Randle? No. Are they? Yes. Rumors and reports are popping up every day about potential candidates for the Knicks to bring in. Randle is a below-average 3-point shooter, and sub-par defensively. The Knicks could look to upgrade that position if need be. Bogdanovic’s expiring contract is a valuable asset and a salary filler in many scenarios. Despite his old age, he can knock down 3’s and provide offense off the bench. Robinson is a trade candidate solely based on what happens in free agency. If the Knicks bring back Hartenstein, they have the luxury of trading Robinson away.

Realistic Off-Season Targets

Trade

Getting Markkanen to the Knicks should not be difficult. The Knicks have four first-round picks in the 2025 draft, along with two first-rounders in this one. For the rebuilding Jazz, the best path to contention is accumulating picks, and the Knicks have the luxury of giving up multiple first-round picks that they acquired from other teams. Bridges and the Nets are in a similar situation. The Nets do not have a single pick in this year’s draft and have just one first-round pick between 2024-26. The Knicks could trade for Bridges without forgoing much of their depth, and he has more years left on his deal than Markkanen.

I don’t like the Knicks trade for Mitchell or Booker, partly because they will have to give up so much depth and picks to acquire them. Any trade involving them will see the Knicks give up Randle, a mix of Robinson/Hart/DiVincenzo/Bogdanovic, and multiple picks. This destroys the much-vaunted depth of the Knicks and also brings in a superstar who is not good on the defensive end of the floor. Furthermore, the Knicks will lose key players who could hide deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball.

Free agents 

Bringing back Hartenstein should be a priority. His defense and impact as a starter were extremely valuable to the Knicks, and he has shown that he can perform when the lights are bright. Furthermore, the other thing I think the Knicks need is a shooting big. None of their current centers or Randle is an above-average shooter from three. Bringing in outside shooting benefits the Knicks in the long run, and it will give the Knicks depth in clutch minutes if Hartenstein signs with another team in free agency.

The Knicks could also begin playing small ball with Randle of the five. They could sign Derrick Jones Jr. and have him roaming the perimeter. Doing this will add another layer to the Knicks offense that was already potent without Randle playing. The Knicks will be able to space the floor and go five out while retaining their defensive identity.

This is one of the most exciting offseasons this new generation of Knicks fans has seen. Most were too young to remember the Carmelo Anthony days in the Garden. After adding Jalen Brunson in the summer of 2022, the Knicks’ relevancy and attractiveness as a free-agent destination has shot through the roof.

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