The Knicks’ first-round playoff ouster in five games to the Hawks after a superb 41-31 regular season has raised more offseason questions than anticipated. After getting routed in the final three...
The Knicks’ first-round playoff ouster in five games to the Hawks after a superb 41-31 regular season has raised more offseason questions than anticipated.
After getting routed in the final three contests, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau wants to put off analyzing matters.
“I told them — we need to get away,’’ Thibodeau said. “It’s a long year. They put a lot into it. We’ll take two, three weeks get away to decompress, reenergize and then we’ll start talking about the plans for the summer and what we have to do next.’’
Here are five issues as the Knicks wield $60 million in cap space for Aug. 1’s free agency:
How do the Knicks find a starting point guard?
It’s a perennial issue — never more pressing now that the club feels there are three building blocks in place with Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and a healthy Mitchell Robinson. They have signed Argentinian Luca Vildoza for next season, but he’s 25 and may need a year of NBA seasoning. The home runs are if Chris Paul really does decline his player option with the Suns as reported or hoping superstar Damian Lillard requests a trade from Portland; the Knicks have one of his mentors, Johnnie Bryant, on their staff.
There were rumblings Lillard was disillusioned with the Blazers not moving closer to title contention. Lillard just won Thursday’s Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award for on- and off-court leadership — a young Chris Paul type. The Knicks have cap space and a trove of first-round picks to peddle — two in this draft — to work out a deal.
Lonzo Ball is a restricted free agent and there’s mutual interest. He’s improved his 3-point shooting and defense and fits the bill of pass-first point guard.
Unrestricted free-agent veterans Kyle Lowry, Dennis Schroder and Mike Conley are intriguing candidates, as is Charlotte’s Devonte Graham and the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie.
Figure Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina are history. Rookie Immanuel Quickley is not a starting point guard. Another playmaker to keep in mind is the Knicks killer TJ McConnell of the Pacers. He could serve as a backup if they can’t re-sign Derrick Rose, who has proven to be at his best in a reserve role. Knicks president Leon Rose is a fan of McConnell’s.
Will free agents (i.e. Kawhi Leonard) now regard the Knicks as a prime destination?
If the Clippers fade in the first round, it may give Leonard, the top free agent on the market, pause. Though his uncle/manager lives in New Jersey and is business friends with former Knicks president Steve Mills, Leonard didn’t much consider them in 2019. Rose and William Wesley were hired to be free-agent recruiters.
Now that Thibodeau changed the culture, Leonard — a defensive-minded guy — might look at the Knicks as the perfect fit.
The Knicks still don’t have an elite small forward and Randle needs another star after Barrett’s playoff disappointment. Spurs shooting guard DeMarr DeRozan is only 31 and the Knicks need scoring and playoff experience. Free-agent shooting guard Norman Powell is a two-way player whom Thibodeau likes a lot.
How to solve the center issue?
The Knicks sorely missed Robinson’s shot-blocking, rebounding and alley-oop/put-back dunks. Nerlens Noel was a shot-blocking warrior in the regular season but got exposed in the playoffs. He doesn’t score enough garbage buckets and gets pushed around when facing a big body like Clint Capela. If the Knicks can sign Robinson to an extension, they’ll be set with Taj Gibson and Norvell Pelle as backups, making Noel expendable. Robinson’s durability is a question, but the upside is sky-high.
Should the Knicks lock up Julius Randle?
The fear is Atlanta wrote the blueprint on limiting Randle. But if the Knicks put more pieces around Randle and get him a playmaker, he again will be hard to stop. Randle was spectacular in the regular season but ran out of gas in the playoffs after leading the league in minutes. He played 76 of 77 games. The Knicks can only extend Randle for less than a max contract — four years, $104 million And despite Randle’s disappointing playoffs, they are planning to try to lock up their lefty freight train.
How should they strategize the draft?
The Knicks are excused from the lottery dais for a change, but that doesn’t mean they can’t move up into lottery position on draft night in late July. They have two first-round picks (19 and 21) and two second-rounders (32, 58). Chief strategist Brock Aller will look to deal picks and money to move into the lottery, according to sources. Thibodeau doesn’t want too many more prospects on his roster. Also, the Knicks are one of the few teams who will have some cap space on draft night to make a trade smoother.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman