Knicks Lead

Knicks May Look to Reset Once Again This Offseason

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The 2019-2020 season has been an utter disappointment for the New York Knicks. On March 11th, the NBA announced it would be suspending its season indefinitely. With basketball on hold for the time being, how does the Knicks’ season conclude?

The New York Knicks are making a strong case as the most dysfunctional team in the league. From the front office down to the players, all parties involved have found multiple ways to embarrass the organization. According to Forbes, the team is currently valued at $4.6 billion– the highest among NBA franchises. On the other hand, their winning percentage is the lowest over the last two decades (.414).

Being in a major market like New York City, the fans grow restless and demand a better product. More importantly, the league benefits when the three major market teams (Knicks, Bulls and Lakers) are winning.

 

The offseason that wasn’t

The summer of 2019 was supposed to be the turning point for the franchise. With cap space for two max players and a high pick in the upcoming draft, the sky was the limit. The fan base was optimistic that the organization was finally going to be relevant with stars and young talent on the roster. Instead, the fantasy became a cruel reality. The Brooklyn Nets signed both coveted free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The front office won’t admit it, but their original plan failed. For example, the urgency to report the signing of Julius Randle to a three-year, $63 million deal was not necessary; especially when your crosstown rivals shocked the NBA community by signing both players that were on your wish list.

Meanwhile, the team decided to sign veteran free agents to short, team-friendly contracts. Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock, Bobby Portis and Marcus Morris were the highlights. Zion wasn’t coming to New York either, as the Knicks landed just the 3rd overall pick instead (RJ Barrett).

Season Recap

Entering the season, expectations were to compete for a playoff spot. Having missed the playoffs for the last six seasons, the Knicks were in pursuit to end the drought. Prior to the start of the season, NBA experts considered the Eastern Conference as being “top heavy”, leaving the final few spots up for grabs.

After a horrific 4-18 start to the season, the team dismissed head coach David Fizdale and lead assistant coach Keith Smart of their duties. The team continued their dysfunctional ways by sending out a press release rather than holding a traditional press conference.

It was announced that assistant coach Mike Miller would take over as the interim coach for the remainder of the season. Two months later, the team continued their shake-up to the front office with the firing of long-time front office executive Steve Mills. The decision to fire Mills was long overdue, but the timing was odd. Firing a team president two days before the trade deadline is the true definition of dysfunction.

The team has played 66 games this season, tallying 21 wins and 45 losses. Currently holding the 12th spot in the East, the chances of making the playoffs are slim to none. The standings as currently constituted have them nine and a half games back of the Orlando Magic for the final playoff spot. With the organization expecting to miss the postseason for the seventh straight season, changes are once again needed this offseason.

Offseason Checklist

1. Hire a new coach

New team president Leon Rose will have his hands full in his first offseason with the team. One of the first things on the agenda will be to find the next head coach to lead the franchise to its third NBA championship. When a coaching vacancy opens, the first question that comes to mind is “who are the potential candidates for the job?” The Knicks’ coaching position can be described as a revolving door that is seeking stability. Names that could provide that much-needed stability include Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, and Tom Thibodeau.

2. Draft/Sign a starting-caliber point guard

The Knicks entered the 2019-2020 season with multiple point guards on the roster. One of them was bound to be the point guard of the future right? Nope, the point guard play was so poor that rookie RJ Barrett has been forced to play minutes at the one. Therefore, this summer the team needs to use their anticipated high draft selection on a point guard or look into free agency.

When it comes to the free agent route, the Knicks need to strongly consider signing Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet. He will be an unrestricted free agent and his improved play over the last two seasons has him due for a much-deserved payday. In 48 games played this season, VanVleet is averaging career-highs in points (17.6), assists (6.6), and minutes played (35.8). The Raptors would love to re-sign the four-year pro, but there will be serious competition for his services and that should include the Knicks.

Free agency is not always the answer nor should it be. With the franchise in the midst of a rebuild, the team can easily select their franchise point guard in the upcoming draft. In the latest 2020 NBA mock draft by Gary Parrish of CBS, the Knicks are projected to have the sixth overall pick. Parrish has the Knicks selecting North Carolina freshman point guard Cole Anthony. A knee injury limited the guard to 22 games played, but he still averaged 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per contest.

3. Attempt to offload Julius Randle

Going to keep this simple; the team needs to move on from Julius Randle. Nothing personal against Randle but his game is not a fit for the franchise moving forward. With the likelihood of a young roster next season, the team will look to run at a quicker pace, encourage ball movement, seek perimeter shooting, and prioritize defense. Randle does not meet any of that criteria. Yes, he will get his points and rebounds, but that’s about it. He prefers a half-court game and lives in the post. Playing high-quality defense is not on the top of his list. An iso-driven player is not the recipe to team success, especially if the team is young.

Trading Randle this summer should be a priority for the organization. With the money players are making, his contract should not be considered unmovable. Teams with more experience on their respected roster or in need of a low-post presence should assess trading for the forward. The 2020 offseason needs to be a step in the right direction for the franchise.

With Bobby Portis ($15.7M), Taj Gibson ($10.2M) and Wayne Ellington ($8.2M) all on team options for next season, the Knicks can free up to slightly north of $34 million in cap space by declining these options.

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About Rob Siwiec

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