This is being written on the eve of the New York Knicks winning back-to-back West Coast road games and as much as I want to believe that they’ll win out the rest of the games on the schedule and make it into the playoffs, I’m probably better off tempering my expectations.
While the future of previous New York teams looked a lot bleaker than the current one, the front office has a lot of heavy lifting to do this offseason.
I figured that since there isn’t a ton of current events worth discussing, we may as well take a quick look into the not-too-distant future of the Knicks’ organization and start to figure out where they’re heading and how they get themselves back into a position where making the playoffs doesn’t feel like a dream.
Where do the 2021-22 New York Knicks go from here?
Daily Knicks has a ton of incredibly sharp and capable minds across the board so I figured I could poke and prod at a few to see what the roadmap for success could look like in the coming six months or so.
There are 16 opponents left to play this season and barely any ‘gimme’ games from here on out. However, there are things that the team can do from here until the end of the regular season that can help set up the entire organization for immediate success next year.
I believe that the front office needs to take these final few games as a sample size for how they approach every facet of the offseason. Free agency and the draft are right around the corner and it looks like New York will have a top 10 pick but barely any cap flexibility so it’ll be interesting to see how the front office tackles those issues.
Let’s take a deep dive into the bright minds of the Daily Knicks squad to see how each of them would approach the time between now and the start of next season.
1. What changes, if any would you like to see made between now and the end of the season?
Mark Wessol – The obvious answer here is to play the young guys and while I agree with that 1000%, I’ll go into a bit of detail. Tom Thibodeau needs to switch up the rotations/lineups. The Knicks “prospects” are struggling to find impactful minutes on a consistent basis this year and it has done nothing but hinder the direction of this team. Whether guys like Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Cam Reddish, and Quentin Grimes are part of the Knicks’ future or trade chips down the line… they. need. to. PLAY. If they are trade bait, their value is at rock bottom and if they are part of the future plans it’s unfair for them to be assessed right now. We’ve seen Thibodeau’s stubbornness, but if he can do one thing to help the team, it’s to mix some of these younger guys into the lineups.
Max LoSardo – Keep running the offense through RJ. Obviously, we’d all like to see more Cam, Deuce, and company, but getting more reps for RJ as the primary scorer and ball-handler in the offense should be the top priority. I’d love to see him get back to making his free throws at a 75% clip like last year, but that may be a project for the offseason. The more RJ the better and he’s been the silver lining of this lost year.
Geoff Campbell – More Cam Reddish. His development has to be a priority given what we gave up to get him and what his potential ceiling is as a player.
John Azzato – There are plenty of important changes that the Knicks could make to help turn their season around. However, two stand out to me. Cam Reddish needs more playing time and Alec Burks needs to be moved out of the starting point guard position. Cam Reddish was a serious role player for an Atlanta Hawks team that ended our season last year. Personally, I think he could be a star and Thibs needs to give him the chance to prove it. With Burks, it would be beneficial to have Quickley starting over him, as Alec Burks is not a long-term piece for the Knicks and Quickley is one of their possible young centerpieces.
Brad Dressler – Really, it’s just about getting the right guys more playing time and as of right now, the right guys are also ‘the kids’. Immanuel Quickley has maintained the same role in the offense for a season and a half now and I would like to see him utilized even more than he has been. Once Quentin Grimes comes back from his injury, if he does at all, I’d like to see him getting more minutes with the starters because in a perfect world, I’d like to see him as the starting shooting guard next season in place of Evan Fournier. Lastly, RJ Barrett needs to continue to be the engine of the offense because it’s looked so much better ever since he stole the role as soon as 2022 started.
2. With what should be an early first and second round pick this year, how should the Knicks approach the 2022 draft?
Mark Wessol – Part of my answer here will go into the next question. But if the Knicks are able to get some lock in the lottery and get a nice pick, the obvious answer would be Jaden Ivey. His athletic game looks like it will translate nicely to the next level and he could possibly fill that cursed point guard position for New York. Another name I have been paying close attention to is TyTy Washington (Kentucky ties) who loves to play fast and could potentially unlock some of Obi Toppin’s rim running game. In my personal opinion, this upcoming NBA Draft is not the deepest and certainly not franchise-altering. The last thing the Knicks should be doing is reaching for a player who they think MIGHT help just to have him sit on the bench and/or ball out in Westchester. If a trade is out there where we need to package one of these picks, I wouldn’t be upset.
Max LoSardo – It’s easy to say that they should draft a point guard, but unfortunately the Knicks are still at a point where they should draft the best player available. Look at what the Cavs did a few years ago; Darius Garland didn’t fill any real obvious need on the roster but has turned into an All-Star caliber point guard, Collin Sexton be damned. Whoever it may be, just keep drafting talent.
Geoff Campbell – There’s going to be talent that can help the team, regardless of where the pick is in the lottery. If they stay closer to the 10th pick, I would like them to look at guys like Keegan Murray, Dyson Daniels, MarJon Beauchamp, or Ochai Agbaji. What I would really like for them to do is trade up and grab a top five pick but I don’t think that’s likely to happen.
John Azzato – I think that there are two ways the Knicks can approach the draft this year, especially with early picks. The first thing on the agenda is getting a point guard, which the Knicks haven’t had for quite some time. However, the draft class this year seems a little thin at the position, despite Jaden Ivey being an ideal option as an athletic combo guard. That brings us to option two. They could trade the pick and some other assets for a disgruntled star such as Donovan Mitchell. The Knicks could be smart and savvy with their remaining offseason moves to compile a squad that will compete.
Brad Dressler – As it stands, there doesn’t seem to be any superstars on the move but a lot can change between now and the offseason. For example, if the Jazz have yet another early exit from the playoffs, Donovan Mitchell may force his way out of town and you best believe the Knicks will be in on him. My concern is that they’d have to part ways with RJ Barrett in that case and I’m not sure I’m emotionally prepared to move on from him just yet. If it meant trading Julius Randle on the other hand…
This year’s draft isn’t nearly as loaded with talent as 2021 was but there are still some special players at the top of the mountain. If no major trades are made, the Knicks can only go in one of two directions – point guard or center. Granted, I haven’t done my deep dive into this year’s prospect pool but I’m not as enamored by the big men in this class as I am by the backcourt players. A pipe dream would be the Knicks to find a way to get Jaden Ivey but I’d also be okay with Johnny Davis or TyTy Washington. For now, I’m leaning more toward Washington as he’s more of a true point guard.
3. How should the Knicks approach the trade market and free agency?
Mark Wessol – This question has given me a hard time. Everyone sees the rumors about Donovan Mitchell and Zion Williamson wanting bigger markets (AKA New York). If the rumors are true, when would they actually be moved? If it’s this summer then my answer is to go after one of them. In my eyes, every player and every pick is on the table besides RJ Barrett. Getting Zion to reunite with Barrett and Reddish would certainly be a cool story but if they could land Spida, it’d be a dream to have him next to Barrett. If they aren’t available, which is the more realistic situation, my stance will be minor signings/trades. Keeping flexibility with tradable contracts/players and being ready to strike for a superstar.
Max LoSardo – I don’t think it’s time for a complete teardown but more so clearing up the self-induced logjam of C+/ B- level players. Kemba is already gone. I’m an Alec Burks apologist but being that he’s an expiring contract and will be 31 next season, moving him and giving his minutes to the 23-year-old Reddish seems like an obvious move. Fournier’s been more or less what they signed up for, but I’d be thrilled if they could swap his salary out for a point guard like Jalen Brunson or Malcolm Brogdon (or Dame? nevermind). I lean towards resigning Mitch if the price is right. If he decides to walk, they’d need to pick up another center and hopefully, one who could space the floor. Sims is ready to be a backup, but he’d get torched as a starter. Last but not least, extend RJ. In short, the Knicks have their work cut out for them over the summer.
Geoff Campbell – The Knicks need to decide whether they are rebuilding and trying to develop a homegrown star or big-game hunting for an established star. Only then can they really formulate a plan to improve the team.
John Azzato – I think the Knicks should be VERY active in the trade market. New York used to be a premier destination but that just isn’t the case anymore. How can we change that? Trade for a star, pair him with RJ Barrett and get the right role players and veterans to surround them. Winning will make the Knicks an attractive destination again and because we’ve struck out on free agents in recent years, it’s time to look to the trade market.
Brad Dressler – Right now, the Knicks are very limited in the moves that they can make in free agency as they completely capped themselves out last summer. Kemba Walker will be $9 million off the cap if they can find a trade partner that would be willing to absorb his contract and send back draft compensation…so here’s hoping. The players I would assume are being shopped the hardest would be Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, and Obi Toppin. All three of their values are in the dumps as it stands so it’ll be an uphill battle to trade them.
Unless the Knicks can find a trade partner willing to take multiple contracts off their hands in exchange for a max contract, the front office should do everything they can in an attempt to clear up the roster. Addition by subtraction. Get rid of some of the older guys and let the young guns play.
4. Lastly, what should their focus and/or identity be going into the 2022-23 season now that they’ve made all of these moves?
Mark Wessol – Mitchell Robinson. We’ve seen reports about the Knicks and Robinson discussing an extension and we’ve also seen reports saying they’re not close. Well Leon Rose and company, you are running out of time. Before you know it Robinson could be hitting free agency and, boom, the Knicks have another headache to deal with in finding a starting center. If it were up to me I would give the man his money, no second-guessing. The young rim-protecting big man has had some issues with staying on the court so there is that to monitor. However, the way I look at it is that Mitchell Robinson isn’t “a mouth you have to feed.” The offense will never run through him in the sense that he needs the ball in the post. He simply sets screens and runs downhill to the rim. Not to mention he’s only been on the Knicks so I think that it’s important to have guys who get “raised” in the organization for cultural purposes.
Max LoSardo – Simple; make the playoffs. It’s not glamorous to be in between championship contention and full-on tanking, but that’s where the Knicks are now and will be for the next couple of years at least. Playing competitive basketball is invaluable for the development of everyone under 25 on the roster and fortifies New York as a destination for the next available superstar. Success now will breed success in the future. There is no easy answer. But that’s nothing that Knicks fans aren’t used to.
Geoff Campbell – I think Thibs will be back. If that’s the case, the FO needs to have a real conversation with him about this season and its results. If the Berman reports are true, Thibs needs to make more use of his coaching staff and be more open to different lineups, and that includes staggering minutes so that the 2021-22 season doesn’t repeat itself.
John Azzato – I think the identity Thibs was able to instill in the team last year was perfect. We were gritty, defensive-minded, and you could see the defensive effort from everyone on the floor. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s clear that Randle hasn’t shown the same effort on defense this year and at times the whole team looks disinterested in playing tough defense. With the young talent on this roster, a few moves could be all it takes to get the Knicks back in competition. However, it’ll be key to maintain that gritty identity going forward and I still think that Thibs is the guy to make sure it happens.
Brad Dressler – Thibs and the front office need to work hand in hand. I know Thibs isn’t the perfect coach but the front office didn’t get him the guys he wanted last offseason. For a team whose identity was on the defensive side of the ball, you can’t upgrade by giving Thibs two guys who play matador defense like Fournier and Walker.
On the other side of the spectrum, Thibs also has to learn how to play nice with some of the decisions that the front office does make. Leaving Cam Reddish out to dry after trading a first-rounder for him is just outright dumb. He needs to get him and more of the younger guys involved on a consistent basis.
What I’m trying to say is that they need to work together better. Thibs is as stubborn as they come and this may very well be his last chance at coaching in the NBA. He needs to open up a bit more and also take what the rest of his staff has to say into consideration. Some of these guys can be head coaches one day (Kenny Payne and Johnny Bryant for example) and they have useful input Thibs could utilize. He’s just so set in his ways like a typical old man (lol).
Trade off Nerlens and Burks for whatever you can get. Let Sims start the season as the backup center and make sure you find a way to get Cam Reddish and/or Quentin Grimes consistent minutes. Also, find Thibs a PG that can play above-average defense. If the team is stuck with Julius Randle and Evan Fournier, they may as well have three players on the court who can actually play defense alongside them.