Plenty of times on the podcast we’ve discussed how New York Knicks president Leon Rose should approach the upcoming offseason in terms of acquiring new talent via the draft, the free-agent pool, and even the trade market. But there are still decisions to make this summer in terms of retaining or letting go certain individuals on the current roster. Let’s take a look.
RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson
It’s straight forward and simple. The Knicks should continue to construct their roster around their two building blocks. RJ Barrett & Mitchell Robinson are in no way established stars yet, but they’ve flashed plenty of potential so far in the NBA. So barring any drastic (or rather unrealistic) trade offer where a superstar is on the table, it’s obvious these two should stick around. Even then, if the offer does come up, it’s probably not the smartest idea, at least currently. Trading both for a bonafide star would leave the Knicks with little to no supporting cast, bringing us back to the old disgruntled star situation. Been there, done that.
Barrett’s rookie season was an inconsistent but promising one. The 19-year old went on to average a bit under 15 points per game, along with five rebounds and almost three assists as well. His ability to get to the rim is already very impressive, but Barrett has also shown the capabilities to some day be an above average defensive player. It’ll be shooting he needs to work on most, but that’s also attributed to getting better playmakers around him. All in all, the 6’6″ swingman is off to a nice start.
As for Robinson, so far through two seasons for the Knicks, he obviously has the foul issues to work on, but when out on the court he’s still their most productive & efficient player. Through only 22 minutes per night across his NBA career, the big man is averaging nine points on 72% shooting, with also seven rebounds and two blocks. With a good combination of length, athleticism, and work ethic, Robinson’s an outstanding rim protector and an elite offensive rebounder. Eventually he’ll have to develop a game outside of the restricted area, but it’s been a solid two-year start for Mitch as well.
The next step will be getting these two kids a better supporting cast to become winners someday soon. Rose has a difficult task ahead of himself if he wants to accomplish success, but the goal itself should be clear. The Knicks lack the characteristics that a modern NBA team must possess. They need shooting and they need playmaking. Does that guy (or guys) come through the draft, free-agency, or from another team? Who knows. But it does need to happen one way or another.
Kevin Knox, Damyean Dotson, Frank Ntilikina, Allonzo Trier, Dennis Smith Jr.
This right here is one of more pressing matters the Knicks need to address this offseason. Getting Barrett & Robinson a better supporting cast is something that demands immediate attention. Again, the need here is shooting, playmaking, and even defense to be honest. But whether it’s due to a lack of talent, lack of playing time, lack of fit, or anything, the Knicks have to figure out a way to become more competitive as a unit.
Kevin Knox is somebody I was much higher on in his rookie season than most were. But then his sophomore season came and he struggled mightily. The issue here wasn’t that he struggled though. It was simply the Knicks not doing anything to help him improve. Knox was given sporadic playing time this season, often sitting so players like Bobby Portis could get action. You can’t get into a rhythm by playing for a few minutes here and there and taking a couple shots a night at times. Knox is better off developing in the G-League where he’ll play everyday until he proves he is NBA ready.
Damyean Dotson & Allonzo Trier, for whatever reason, were suddenly excluded from the Knick rotation after promising seasons in 2018-19. Much like you’ll find with other Knick youngsters, the two guards were riding the pine so veterans/short-termers like Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock, Elfrid Payton, etc. could get their burn instead.
The Knicks’ reasoning for sitting them as often as they did was both hypocritical & senseless. As a team who lacked shooting and even just scoring in general, the Knicks could’ve used these two, as they both averaged double-figure points per 36 minutes and shot over league-average from three. But now? Now they are both free-agents (restricted) with a chance to play for a contender. The Knicks should at the very least try to retain one of them.
As for the two young point guards, Frank Ntilikina & Dennis Smith Jr. are likely headed in two completely different directions in terms of their future destination. Smith Jr. obviously wants out. This was reported a few weeks prior to the trade deadline but I think the Knicks are waiting for the right time. It makes sense. He’s shown that he has talent.
Smith is super athletic and averaged 15 points and five assists in his rookie season. He also averaged double-figure points in the next two seasons as well. So at this point it’s probably best to try and get him back on top of his game both physically & mentally, and then sell high at the deadline in 2020-21.
It was actually just reported today that Ntilikina could be staying put under Rose. In the past under Steve Mills, Ntilikina’s name was thrown around often in trade rumors but the Knicks never went through with anything. As of right now though, Ntilikina is in their future plans.
This is a kid who, at least in my respective opinion, will never pan out to be lottery worthy, nor become a star, and he’s probably not even going to be the Knicks’ guy at starting point guard either. Also, not getting Donovan Mitchell in that draft will forever haunt my soul. However, I still believe that Frank could one day become more than just a one-dimensional defensive option. I understand the scoring numbers are egregious right now, but I did see marginal improvement in his game this past season. Even if you disagree, there’s just no benefit right now in selling low on Frank. You may as well see what you have by keeping him (and fucking playing him, please). My hope is that one day we can get a respectable player who regularly gives you something along the lines of 10 points, five assists, as well as that sterling defense every night.
Veterans, Stopgaps, and Recent Acquisitions
Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock, Maurice Harkless, Julius Randle
With all of these players on cheap, team-friendly, waivable deals, Rose needs to utilize that ability and clear up cap room & roster space for the future. All players but Portis are guaranteed just $1 million next season, but the 25-year old is expected to opt out anyway, leaving the Knicks in a gainful situation financially.
Portis provided the Knicks with scoring pop off the bench but hogged a lot of possessions and played little to no defense. He’s young, yes, but he is what he is at this point in his career and is better off on a team that isn’t trying to develop younger players.
Bullock & Ellington were brought here to provide shooting but were rather inconsistent in that area, and with Moe Harkless & Taj Gibson, despite making a decent impression, they should also be waived for the benefit of the team’s future.
Elfrid Payton doesn’t make sense here. The Knicks are in need of a future staple at point guard with shooting & playmaking abilities. Payton cannot score enough let alone shoot, and while his assist numbers look flashy, they mostly come late in a blowout or from one or two players throughout a game. He doesn’t legitimately help the Knicks in any aspect as a starter, but would be a decent catalyst off the bench on another team.
Julius Randle may not technically be a “veteran” nor a “stopgap” player either, but the Knicks signed him last summer to a hefty $63 million three-year deal that didn’t get off to a great start in 2020, and probably won’t pan out either.
Sure, Randle is talented and he puts up numbers, but what he gave the Knicks was more empty production than indispensable production when it came down to it. His poor defense neutralized almost everything he did offensively, but even then his efficiency numbers were not great on the offensive end either. He just didn’t fit the system the Knicks were running. As opposed to being more of a third option screener who plays downhill and uses his size, Randle played as the Knicks’ No. 1, often their “point forward.” He isn’t worth the contract, and with the odds not great that the Knicks find both their future point guard & coach in one offseason to enhance Randle’s efficiency, it’s best that Rose tries to trade the forward while he can.
Prospects & G-Leaguers
Ignas Brazdeikis, Kenny Wooten, Lamar Peters, Kadeem Allen
Having won 21 games and it not being a surprise, there was no reason for the Knicks to ignore their G-League prospects this past year as much as they did. Especially forwards Ignas Brazdeikis & Kenny Wooten.
Brazdeikis & Wooten spent their season in Westchester, with Iggy getting very minimal time in New York and Wooten never debuting despite the two-way contract later in the year. But they certainly had no reason to not be given an audition at the very least. With Knox’s regression partially attributed to a lack of consistent playing time he should have been sent to Westchester to grow, while Iggy, who played exceptionally down there, probably should’ve gotten some meaningful playing time with the Knicks. The same goes for Wooten too. Hopefully next season we see these two on the floor at Madison Square Garden.
You can also make the argument that Lamar Peters should have been promoted as well. The Knicks lacked aggressiveness from the point guard position all season, and Peters certainly could’ve brought that with him. He can shoot, play-make, and play credible defense; again, three things the Knicks lack tremendously.
As for Kadeem Allen, he may not hold the ceiling that the above three do, but whenever he does play he seems to make a positive impact. He’s a solid player to have come off the bench and provide intangibles. Allen is making the league minimum so it’d be okay to either welcome him back or let him go. It’s really no big deal.
All I’ve got for this one, folks. See you next time. Ciao.
(Photo: NBA Media Ventures)