A comprehensive breakdown of how the New York Knicks should approach the offseason
Over time, RJ Barrett has become much more selective in choosing when to go to the hole and when to pull up for his shot. As expected, his shooting touch continues to improve. His turnovers are also down and he has become a true offensive threat this season. Although he’s improved greatly on offense, Barrett still lacks the lateral quickness and mindset to be a solid defender but makes up for it with his scoring and rebounding at the small forward position.
Julius Randle has put up all-star numbers and has become a double-double machine. Julius’ greatest improvement is that he is now playing within the team’s concept of offense and flourishing. Being a superior athlete, very quick and strong, Randle could have a much greater impact on the defensive end if he would just commit to giving the effort on that side of the ball. With superior power forwards like Sabonis and Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference, Julius Randle should see these match-ups as his biggest challenges to being named an all-star this year.
As for the methods and goals of Tom Thibodeau, his intensity might be both his greatest strength and weakness. It’s a strength in that he approaches each game as if it’s the last game of the year. This ‘win at all cost’ mentality drives the players to maximum intensity, however, this strategy ignores two important considerations — the inevitability of injury and lack of player development. When Thibs looks down his bench he sees guys like Kevin Knox, Ignas Brazdeikis, and more recently Obi Toppin, so he opts to ride RJ Barrett and Julius Randle into the ground instead of allowing the young guns to get minutes. Coaching to win every battle with a young roster might result in another losing year.
There have been all sorts of trade rumors regarding the Knicks this season. Most have probably been floated out by bloggers aiming for click bait articles. Firstly, the Knicks already have depth in their backcourt so someone like Derrick Rose would not help to improve the Knicks’ record. The guard position simply doesn’t need an aging upgrade. Where the Knicks have a lack of talent is in their frontcourt rotation. There are two directions this Knicks roster can go to upgrade the frontcourt and that would be acquiring a veteran like Justin Holiday who is a strong two-way player. The second would be using their draft picks and acquiring some promising young players.
The reality is that 2021 is not the year of the Knicks. To obtain a quality thirty-something-year-old guards or forwards would cost more than what has been offered in the mock trades online. Fact is, they would probably have to include draft picks in any realistic trade scenario. There are two very distinct reasons why the Knicks should keep both first and second-round picks — Mitchell Robinson and Immanuel Quickley. Imagine a world where the Knicks were to trade away one of these young studs for an aging, soon to be has-been…..I’d rather not. I personally do not want the Knicks to make the playoffs because I have full confidence in the Rose Team, especially Walt Perrin, in finding more cornerstone players in the next couple of drafts.
Now, that doesn’t mean the Knicks should not be active in looking for trading partners. There were young frontcourt players in the last draft who were viewed as having a low floor but a high ceiling like Tyler Bey with Dallas and Mamadi Diakite with the Bucks as examples. Having watched them play this year, I’d rather one of them over someone like Kevin Knox personally as both are defensive-minded players who would fit Coach Thibs’ schemes better. Walt Perrin must have a list of such players who could strengthen the sorry lack of front-court talent on the current Knicks roster. These two players are on win-now teams and probably could be had as throw-ins in a trade that brings NY draft pick(s) for a veteran guard like Austin Rivers or Alec Burks.
There is finally a management team in place made up of sound basketball minds who seem to be free of the meddlesome James Dolan. No one is right 100% of the time, but Knicks fans should feel a renewed optimism that the Knicks are finally building for perennial success, not headlines.