New York Knicks: 3 Offseason needs exposed by the Hawks series

NY Knicks, 2021 NBA Draft (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NY Knicks, 2021 NBA Draft (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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New York Knicks
Chris Paul, New York Knicks. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks desperately need more playmaking

Look around the 2021 NBA playoffs, and you will find that the remaining teams all have a star point guard or playmaker leading the way. The Brooklyn Nets have James Harden and Kyrie Irving. The 76ers have Ben Simmons; The Bucks have Jrue Holiday; The Mavs have Luka Doncic; The Nuggets have Nikola Jokic and Facundo Campazzo; The Suns have Chris Paul; The Jazz have three in Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, and Joe Ingles; And the Hawks, of course, curse him, have Trae Young.

When you look at the league this way, it’s actually kind of amazing that the Knicks had as much success as they did this season. The modern NBA is a permitter-based league dominated by talented and creative playmakers — The Knicks won 41 regular-season games without one.

Julius Randle was the Knicks’ leading assister at 6.0 a game, a trend we all celebrated during the regular season but cannot continue going forward. We saw the limits of centering an offense around Randle’s passing against the Hawks — he was indecisive and turnover prone. He can be a very solid secondary playmaker but he does not have the physical fluidity of a smaller, more athletic player to initiate and create for others consistently in the playoffs.

Randle took on the point-forward role this season out of necessity as much as anything else. The team lacks a traditional point guard. RJ, Rose, and IQ are at best secondary playmakers. Elfrid Payton, who started most games at point, is not enough of a shooting nor scoring threat for defenses to take seriously. Frank Ntilikina has never grown into a functional offensive player. Alec Burks and Reggie Bullock are shooting guards.

The Knicks front office appears well aware of the teams’ lack of playmaking. Time will tell if the early May signing of Argentinian point guard Luca Vildoza will pay off, but there is some reason to be hopeful. Vildoza, who has played for Spain’s Baskonia since 2017, is highly regarded in NBA circles and was touted by Woj as “one of the premier playmakers in Europe”.

There will be further options to explore in free agency and the draft. Veteran floor generals Kyle Lowry, Dennis Schroder, Mike Conley will be unrestricted free agents and Chris Paul and Lonzo Ball could also theoretically be available. The draft is loaded with point guard talent and might be the most realistic option — even later in the first round — to build upon the Vildoza signing.