When the Knicks hired Leon Rose to be their President, followed by the hiring of Tom Thibodeau at Head Coach, New York had selected the two brains behind their future blueprint. Rose and Thibodeau have been handed a ball of clay with total freedom to mold it however they please. The Knicks have young talent, cap space, draft picks, and very few long-term commitments. It is entirely up to their braintrust to turn this blank canvas into a contender. Once Rose and Thibodeau finish up hiring the rest of their staff, they will need to completely analyze what the Knicks have and what they need. Finding the right pieces at the right costs to fill their voids will be the life or death of the new regime. Here I take a look at what decisions Rose and company need to make and what value each player on their current roster brings. After, I presume and question what the Knicks will do next to initiate their roster-turnover and make progress in building a roster poised for longterm success under Thibodeau.
Analyzing The Current Roster (21-45 Record)
PG- Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., Jared Harper
SG- Wayne Ellington, R.J. Barrett, Damyean Dotson, Theo Pinson
SF- Maurice Harkless, Kevin Knox II, Reggie Bullock, Ignas Brazdeikis
PF- Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Kenny Wooten
C- Taj Gibson, Mitchell Robinson
Elfrid Payton (1 year- $8M, $1M Guaranteed)
ELFRID PAYTON— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) March 5, 2020
20 PTS (8-13 FG)
9 AST (1 TO)
1 crossover on Conley
Payton is averaging 12.4 PTS, 9.3 AST, 5.4 REB, 2 STL over his last 10 GMSpic.twitter.com/6bk7DuGf6M
Elfrid Payton came into an already tricky point guard situation with the expectations of being the starter. The most steady and reliable Knicks’ Point Guard displayed his knack for filling the stat sheet (6 double-doubles & 1 triple-double), earning himself the starting job. Woeful shooting has plagued Payton’s potential to be next year’s starter. He shot a slash of 43.9%/20.3%/57% from the field/three/foul line. Shooting below 30% from three and 70% from the line tends to be a death sentence for point guards in the NBA.
However, Payton remained the best option for the Knicks to run the offense last season due to his abilities to create open looks, get to the rim, and generate turnovers defensively. He averaged 10 points, 7.2 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Payton displayed his ownership of the “clutch gene,” raising his three point and free throw percentages to 36.8% and 69.6% in the 4th Quarter. New York will be seeking any route to grow their promising, young, star in R.J. Barrett. When playing alongside Barrett, Payton and their centerpiece totaled a NET Rating of -4.7; the 2nd best NET Rating of any 2 Man Lineup involving Barrett (Barrett paired with Wayne Ellington +2.8 was the best). The backcourt duo also averaged an impressive field goal percentage of 47.7%, a three point percentage of 34.6%, and an assist to turnover ration of 1.63 when sharing the floor together. The question still remains, is Elfrid Payton the best option to play alongside Barrett in the future to help him reach his full potential?
Payton was the most reliable and consistent starter for the Knicks last season, while averaging 27.7 minutes per game, yet many still believe it is unlikely that he will be the starter next year. Although Payton and Barrett seemed to flourish together, his ceiling remains to be underwhelming for a Knicks team looking to blossom in 2020-21. If Payton makes progress shooting the ball and the Knicks don’t add a big name point guard to the roster in the offseason, don’t count out Payton to win the job to start next season. Starter or not, I’d expect the Knicks to bring Payton back next year unless they need the cap space to make a big splash in Free Agency.
Frank Ntilikina (1 year- $6.1M + QO- $8.3M in 2021-22)
Frank Ntilikina was a switching machine on defense vs the Mavs and it was fun to watch— JB (@JeffreyBellone) November 9, 2019
Frank Ntilikina is a winning basketball player and could be the biggest benefactor to the Knicks recent hiring of Tom Thibodeau. He is undoubtedly New York’s best defender and has steadily improved every season. Ntilikina has shown he can guard all five positions, lockdown some of the best scorers in the league, and play with high IQ on defense. The make or break part of Ntilikina’s game is his offense. He hasn’t been a successful shooter or floor general to this point in his career, making it very difficult to play him big minutes or in crunch time. Ntilikina only shot 39.3% from the floor and 32.1% from three, while shooting a tremendous 86.4% from the charity stripe this season (all career highs). Despite his precarious shooting, he has shown an ability to knockdown various types of shots… such as step-backs, catch and shoots, off the dribble, left and right handed runners, coming around screens, and from the post.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Ntilikina has struggled with consistently knocking down his shot attempts, shooting below the league average in the majority of the field goal zones. During Thibodeau’s recent interview, he talked about wanting to bring more corner threes into the Knicks offensive game-plan to create better spacing. Ntilikina has thrived from the left corner and could be the beneficiary of more looks in the corners next season.
There’s no secret that Thibodeau is a defensive minded coach that demands effort and intelligence on both sides of the ball. Ntilikina could be the next player to blossom under his coaching such as the likes of D.J. Augustin or Jeff Teague (here’s the link to a great piece by Jonathan Macri regarding players who flourished under Thibs that could sign with the Knicks this offseason).
Ntilikina’s versatility should earn him plenty of playing time under Thibodeau, but at which position? Ntilikina has been most successful as a Point Guard in his early NBA career, but has displayed the ability to play at the 2,3, or even 4. Ntilikina is only 6-4, but his 7-1 wingspan and uncanny defensive ability allow for him to cover just about anyone in the league. Ntilikina could be moved to a position off-ball or as a point-forward to the likes of a Draymond Green or Pascal Siakam. If he is used just as a Three and D guy, Ntilikina could be utilized similarly to how Luol Deng was when he was with the Bulls under Thibodeau’s tutelage. Ntilikina appears to have his greatest ceiling while playing Point Guard, due to his ability to switch off onto bigger players, disgruntle opposing ball handlers, and have a major size advantage most of the time. His offensive game could be reminiscent of a Jrue Holiday (three level scorer that also goes into the post as a guard) in the future, excluding his significantly worse shooting. However, if Ntilikina can continue to up his shooting percentages, utilize his size, get to the charity stripe, and continue to be a lockdown defender; the Knicks may have something special in their French Prince.
Dennis Smith Jr. (1 year- $5.6M + QO- $7.7M in 2021-22)
DENNIS SMITH JRpic.twitter.com/t30YzIToOd— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) February 23, 2019
Dennis Smith Jr. is an enigma that perfectly emulates the New York Knicks. Once upon a time, Smith Jr. was the centerpiece of a return involved in the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster trade. It seemed certain that his dramatic, acrobatic, highlights would flood the bright lights of the Mecca and take the league by storm. However, Smith Jr. was decimated by a back injury, oblique injury, the passing of his stepmother, and battling the yips this season. A season that appeared to be primed by success, ended with Smith Jr. having the worst year of his career. He averaged 5.5 points, 2.9 assists, and 1.7 turnovers per game while shooting a slash of 34.1%/29.6%/50.9% (FG%/3P%/FT%).https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Rumblings throughout the year that Smith Jr. wanted out of New York and that the Knicks were looking to move him never came to fruition. Now the Knicks and Smith Jr. find themselves in quite a predicament. Smith Jr.’s value is at an all-time low, making it very difficult for the Knicks to move him for little value after trading so much to acquire him (plus other assets). The Knicks have a hard time finding playing time for Smith Jr., due to his poor play, the emergence of Elfrid Payton, and the necessity of playing Ntilikina for defense. Thus making it both difficult to boost Smith Jr.’s value and for him to get into a groove. Now, New York is likely going to add another point guard to the mix this offseason whether it be a free agent such as Fred VanVleet or D.J. Augustin, or through the draft with LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, Cole Anthony, Killian Hayes, etc.. As for now it appears the Knicks will be keeping Payton and Ntilikina while adding another point guard to push for the starting job. Smith Jr. may be the odd man out, due to a crowded backcourt and inconsistent play.
Leon Rose touts Dennis Smith Jr. as having “special talent.” Says RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson are two proven bedrock pieces. Says he still thinks Kevin Knox is “scratching the surface.”— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) June 24, 2020
Leon Rose recently referred to Smith Jr. as a “special talent”. Just as I believed the news on Thibodeau’s contract price/length being too high/long was just a business play to try a bring his price down… I could see this being a way for Rose to try and raise Smith Jr.’s value as much as he can with the intention of shopping him this offseason (perhaps during the draft). Trading Smith Jr. isn’t the smartest play on paper, but it appears to be inevitable. The addition of Jared Harper may not seem like a big transaction, but he may be the new quick-paced, scoring guard, the Knicks have selected to take Smith Jr.’s place at a fraction of the cost. The only way I see Smith Jr. staying on this roster is if the Knicks elect to move Payton or Ntilikina instead.
Knicks fans chanting “WE WANT FRANK!” as Dennis Smith Jr continues to struggle in limited minutes.— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) October 27, 2019
11 MINS: 0 PTS (0-3 FG)
5 MINS: 1 PT (0-4 FG)
10 MINS: 2 PTS (1-4 FG)
(Via @cjzero) pic.twitter.com/rtwmcL9Iy9
Jared Harper (QO- $1.5M)
JARED. HARPER.🍷— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) June 26, 2020
2019-20 G-League Season: 20.8 PPG & 5.7 APG pic.twitter.com/xxSLZ7xvjc
The Dennis Smith Jr. and Lamar Peters’ fan clubs certainly didn’t like this addition. However, adding talent is never a bad thing; especially for the struggling Knicks. Harper has only played in 3 NBA games with the Phoenix Suns after going undrafted last year. Harper had a fantastic season in the G-League though, racking up assists and scoring in bunches.
Knicks will be among teams at NBA Draft Pro Day on Friday in Miami featuring the following players: Daniel Gafford, Jeff Thomas, Namon Wright, Ty Cockfield, Aric Holman, Jared Harper, Isaiah Reese, D’Marcus Simmonds, Kevaughn Allen, Dylan Osetkowski, Nick Perkins, Tremont Waters— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) June 6, 2019
Harper is undersized, standing at 5-10. Scouted back in 2019 by the Knicks when entering the draft, Harper’s strong play in the G-League was enough to earn him a contract with the Knicks. He will be in a battle with many options at point guard next year, possibly relegating him to Westchester. The release of Allonzo Trier leaves Harper as easily the strongest shooter of the current competition. Will his dynamic scoring and speed earn him a role off the bench next season? Time will tell.
Wayne Ellington (1 year- $8M, $1M Guaranteed)https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
The savvy sniper was a solid role player for the Knicks in 2019-20, but never turned into the weapon they had hoped for. Ellington brought solid defense and at times nailed multiple jumpers to ignite the Knicks offense. Ellington averaged just 5.1 points per game, but did shoot at a 35% clip from three (significantly better than most of the Knicks). Despite his lack of contributions on the court, Ellington proved his value as a leader and teammate off the court. Marc Berman wrote an article about Ellington a few months ago headlining his professionalism and ability to help the young guys grow. Berman also notes how Ellington likely will not be brought back next season unless he is released and then resigned to a more team-friendly contract.
As I noted earlier, Thibodeau wants to utilize the corner-three more often. Ellington is one of the best three-ballers from those zones in the league. Couple that with his gritty defense and impressive leadership, Ellington would be a nice piece for the Knicks to bring back in 2020-21. Ellington’s contract at $8M is not justifiable considering the little time he played on the court this season. However, don’t be surprised if the Knicks eat the $1M guaranteed, release him, and look to sign him to a cheaper deal. At the age of 32, Ellington still possesses value in areas the Knicks desperately need. Then again, every team in the NBA could benefit from a pure shooter with strong defensive and leadership skills. A contending team would likely be willing to outbid the Knicks and secure Ellington to a more critical role.
RJ Barrett (3 years- $8.2M Escalating with 2021-22 & 2022-23 being Club Options + QO- $14.3M in 2023-24)
No way there were 10 rookies better than RJ Barrett pic.twitter.com/XNbEDXho8s— Alex B. (@KnicksCentral) July 29, 2020
Rowan Barrett Jr. is the core and key to the New York Knicks. Barrett showed exactly why he was the 3rd overall pick last year, averaging 14.3 points, 5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1 steal a night while playing multiple positions. His ability to weave through defenses and finish at the rim through traffic with surgical precision was tremendously impressive. With that being said, the left-handed neophyte still has ample room to grow.
Barrett struggled mightily with the midrange jumper, shooting off the dribble, and from the foul line. Off the dribble, Barrett shot 27.7% from inside the arc and 25% from three, while also shooting 61.4% from the line. Some may look at these numbers as a major concern, but they really are a beacon of hope. Barrett was the Knicks 3rd leading scorer and rarely took bad shots. Another offseason of working on his limitations could lead to a significant jump in his shooting percentages. Adding a floater to his finishing package, could significantly improve Barrett’s percentages from 5ft or so too. The sky is the limit for Barrett offensively. On the other side of the ball, Barrett isn’t stellar, but he has improved a lot. Barrett made big strides throughout the season and displayed active hands on defense, effectively generating turnovers.
RJ Barrett scored 23 PTS (7-10 FG) in the Knicks win!— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 13, 2020
His 9th 20-PT game, which is 3rd among rookies
Ja Morant: 16
Kendrick Nunn: 10
Tyler Herro: 7pic.twitter.com/QLYGGzTC4T
RJ Barrett is a crucial building block for this Knicks team and will be at the forefront of their future plans with Thibodeau and the rest of the roster.
Damyean Dotson (RFA, QO- $2M)https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Damyean Dotson, AKA the player who deserves more playing time, has proved to be a valuable piece for the Knicks. After Morris Sr. was dealt to LA, Dotson led the Knicks in 3P% at 36.2%. Dotson did only average 6.7 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 17.4 minutes a night last season. As unimpressive as those numbers are, Dotson still deserves a promotion. The shooting guard is one of the Knicks best defenders, most consistent shooters, and was 2nd on the team only committing 0.4 turnovers per game (Brazdeikis was first at 0.2 in 9 games played).
The Knicks were 27th in 3P%, 24th in FG%, and 30th in TS% in 2019-20. Damyean Dotson adds plenty of shooting and floor spacing when he’s on the court, which could’ve helped the Knicks significantly on offense had he played more minutes. New York would be wrong to cut ties with Dotson and not resign him as long as his price is reasonable.
Theo Pinson (Club Option- $1.7M + QO- $2.1M in 2021-22)https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Theo Pinson with the game-winning 3 to send the Long Island Nets to the G-League Championship pic.twitter.com/Ujy0606Jmv— Taylor Vippolis (@tvippolis) April 3, 2019
Theo Pinson is a strong defender that brings high energy to makeup for his minimal NBA experience. Although Pinson is solid on defense, his offensive game is likely not good enough to earn himself many minutes. His talent isn’t the only thing that draws interest from NBA teams. Pinson is recognized as one of the best teammates/hype men in the NBA and is constantly shown on social media for his bench celebrations and positive personality.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Every player on an NBA roster can’t play significant minutes. It is important to have role players on the end of your bench that bring something to the table on the court, while also being great teammates and not complaining or causing issues when sidelined. If Pinson can prove to be a weapon defensively and knockdown the occasional shot as a team favorite, he will earn a role with the Knicks and help build their new culture.
Maurice Harkless (UFA)https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Harkless was acquired primarily as a salary filler in the Morris Sr. trade, but added additional value through stingy defense and quality leadership during his short stint with the Knicks. The unrestricted free agent is notorious for being one of the top defenders in the league, while being passive yet reliable on offense. Harkless is a nice piece to have for contending teams, but his value tends to be diminished when playing alongside lesser talent and poor defending. He is a winning player, but the Knicks weren’t a winning team in 2019-20. The New York native could be worth bringing back next season as a stretch four to sure up the Knicks defense in the 2nd unit.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Although Harkless has said to be interested in rejoining the Knicks next season, it remains unlikely the Knicks sign him to a deal. Harkless would be better off signing with a contender and the Knicks need to spend their money this offseason on more critical pieces to their longterm success. Similar to Ellington, if he comes at a bargain, Harkless would be worth bringing back.
Kevin Knox II (2 years- $4.5M Escalating with 2021-22 being a Club Option + QO- $7.9M in 2022-23)
Kevin Knox: 25 PTS & 15 REB!— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) December 10, 2018
– First Knicks rookie with 25 & 15 since Patrick Ewing (1986).
– First player 19 or under with 25 & 15 since LeBron James (2003)
Kevin Knox II is arguably the biggest question mark Leon Rose, Scott Perry, Tom Thibodeau, and the Knicks have to answer. After an encouraging rookie campaign, Knox II saw his points, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes plummet along with his shooting percentages. The soon to be 21 year old forward looks lost sometimes and an offensive juggernaut at others. Most youngsters struggle with consistency, but Knox II’s struggles have been more than that. He has completely been either uninvolved or just unsuccessful for multiple games in a row. Even with such struggles, Knox II has improved his defense and finishing at the rim recently. His marginal improvements seem to be just enough to justify his value as a future starter and core member of this Knicks roster.
From earlier: Kentucky’s John Calipari on Kevin Knox: “It’s going to take time. What you don’t want to do — and teams have done this in that league — they give up on a young, young player too soon.” Calipari’s detailed thoughts on Knox here: https://t.co/qV07aCerlX— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) March 25, 2020
When the Knicks selected the forward out of Kentucky a couple years ago, his former head coach John Calipari was adamant that Knox II should not be evaluated until the conclusion of his 3rd season in the NBA. After Knox II’s sophomore campaign, there are more questions surrounding him than when he was drafted. Many people who’ve been around Knox II rave about his work ethic and support from his inner circle. One thing I’ve found to almost always be the case in sports is that the work shows. Undeniably, Knox II has the talent to be successful in the NBA, making his recent troubles inexplicable.. Still, talent + hard work = success in my book. He’s still extremely young, played for multiple coaches, and hasn’t had a consistent role or position. Consistency and maturity could be the final piece to unlocking Knox II’s untapped potential. Three point shooting comes at a premium in the NBA, especially for a player standing at 6-7. It is also worth noting RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson (the core pieces of the Knicks) are tremendous interior scorers and will benefit exponentially by being surrounded by quality shooters (which the Knicks clearly lack). Knox II can be a big help to Barrett and Robinson’s future success just as much as they may pull defenses and lead to open jumpers and a successful career for Knox II. It is clear as day that now is not the time to throw in the towel with Kevin Knox II.
KEVIN KNOX 🔨 ON SIMMONS pic.twitter.com/HfGTHhcdqF— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) February 14, 2019
Reggie Bullock (1 year- $4.2M, $1M Guaranteed)
Reggie Bullock for 3 and the Knicks are within 3! pic.twitter.com/YHRodNaY5w— Posting and Toasting (@ptknicksblog) January 5, 2020
Reggie Bullock owns the most über team friendly contract on the Knicks (excluding rookie deals). Bullock is a great teammate, sharp veteran, top-tier shooter, and an excellent defender. His value is much more than the just over $4M per year he’s making. Bullock is an absolute bargain for a Knicks team who tends to pay the premium.
Just by looking at his shot chart, it’s easy to see Bullock’s worth. The Knicks can lock Bullock in as a sharpshooting 3 & D man in the starting lineup, main contributor off the bench, or potentially trade his extremely valuable abilities and contract for more assets this upcoming season. If I were Leon Rose, I’d keep Bullock around at least until the trade deadline and make this roster as good as possible. The more talented this roster can become, the easier it will be for the young core to grow and play important minutes in close/big games.
Ignas Brazdeikis (2 years- $1.5M Escalating with 2021-22 being a Club Option + QO- $2.2M in 2022-23)
Ignas Brazdeikis went off in the NBA Summer League for the Knicks:— Michigan in the NBA (@NBAMichigan) July 8, 2019
3-5 3PT FG
2 assists pic.twitter.com/lxn8ZGwqTy
Ignas Brazdeikis was incredibly successful in the G-League, but clearly overmatched while playing the few minutes he did with the Knicks. Brazdeikis is crafty and clever with a knack for scoring. He can shoot it, put the ball on the deck, and finish with both hands. Brazdeikis’ clearest issue is his defense, often finding himself in poor positions and not being athletic enough to makeup for his mistakes. His lack of control on offense at times can lead to poor shot selection and turnovers as well (2.5 turnovers per game in the G-League). It remains to be seen if Brazdeikis will be able to be an efficient scorer at the NBA level, but for the time being he’s certainly worth a roster spot.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Julius Randle (2 years- $18.9M Escalating, $4M Guaranteed in 2021-22)
Julius Randle with a season-high 30 PTS (12-17 FG, 3-5 3PT) in the Knicks win! pic.twitter.com/hfRLlMpvzV— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 19, 2019
Julius Randle was brought in to be the leader of the Knicks and catapult them back to the playoffs. He certainly was valuable, but didn’t live up to the expectations he arrived with. Now the Knicks are in a tricky position with Randle. He’s currently their top gun and still pretty young at the age of 25 (closing in on 26). He was the Knicks leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. All seems well on the surface, but he has his flaws. Randle averaged 3 turnovers per game and only averaged 0.3 blocks per game while playing the Power Forward position. Randle’s defense was very lackluster at times as well. Equally worrying is that of the 16 different 2-Man lineups RJ Barrett was in, the 14th best +- lineup was with Randle (-3.7). Randle and Barrett also combined for a worrisome -7.3 NET Rating while sharing the floor. When Barrett and Randle shared the court the ebb and flow of the offense seamlessly disappeared and there was a lot of over-dribbling, a congested paint, and poor three point shooting. Not to mention both aren’t the strongest defenders on the other end. With Barrett being a foundational piece for the New York Knicks, Rose and Perry will look to place players alongside him who elevate his game. Randle appears to clash with Barrett on the court making him more useful off the bench and away from Barrett or used as trade value to add someone else who will fulfill Barrett’s potential.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Randle will always be able to get his which is a necessity to have on every NBA roster. Night in and night out, NBA teams need to have guys they can count on to score the rock. At roughly $19M you could even argue Randle is slightly underpaid for his production. Although Randle’s play has been very strong, keeping him on the roster appears to be too costly due to the hinderance he may place on RJ Barrett’s future success. Randle’s gameplay likely will never link well with Barrett’s and his penchant for turnovers are debilitating for a Knicks team that lacks the ability to shoot themselves out of trouble. Julius Randle is just slightly below All-Star caliber and could be a tremendous piece for certain teams/rosters; that team just isn’t the New York Knicks. If the Knicks look to make any big splashes via trade in the next year, Randle will likely be one of the assets sent away.
Bobby Portis (Club Option- $15.7M)
BOBBY PORTIS REVENGE GAME ACTIVATEpic.twitter.com/jMnPBkTG6H— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) October 29, 2019
Bobby Portis is a certified bucket off the bench and has the ability to take over a game with his scoring prowess. However, his defense and ill-advised shot selection can make a team reluctant to pay him big money. Portis is set to earn $15M if the Knicks pickup his option which is just too much money for a backup stretch 4/5. There’s zero chance the Knicks resign him at that salary, despite him averaging over 10 points and 5 rebounds per game in just 21.1 minutes per contest.
On the other hand, Portis would be an ideal candidate to play backup Power Forward/Center next season. Frank Ntilikina and Portis formed a formidable duo off the bench this year, being the Knicks 6th best 2-Man lineup to average at least 10 minutes per game (+0.7).
😭😭😭😂😂😂 https://t.co/5mPCsDJlNk— Bobby BP Portis (@BPortistime) July 30, 2020
I wouldn’t expect Portis to be back in Orange and Blue next season, but if the Knicks miss out on some of their top choices to shoot the three ball at a high percentage (such as Davis Bertans), it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sign back on a 1 year prove it deal.
Kenny Wooten (1 year- $- + QO- $1.6M in 2021-22)https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Kenny Wooten will be an NBA player next season for the New York Knicks and I’m buying all of his stock. The Knicks were 18th in the NBA, averaging 4.7 blocks per game (Mitchell Robinson averaged 2). No wonder the Knicks defense struggled mightily. New York couldn’t protect the paint or guard the perimeter. Like Robinson, Wooten can erase defensive mistakes with his absurd athleticism and emphatic blocks. Wooten also draws ample attention on offense due to opponents needing to respect lobs into him. Regardless of how you slice it, Wooten is the real deal and will be a human highlight real once he is unleashed by the Knicks.
Taj Gibson (1 year- $9.4M, $1M Guaranteed)https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
If one of the expiring vets of Ellington, Harkless, Portis, and Gibson is likely to be back, Gibson is certainly the frontrunner. Gibson and Thibodeau had a great connection in Chicago with the Bulls for years and almost appear to be a lock to be reunited next season. With that being said, the Knicks would be generous to retain Gibson at $9.4M. Perhaps they will stretch his contract out or sign Gibson to an entirely new deal. Gibson’s defense, grit, leadership, and connection to Thibodeau make him a perfect option off the bench and to build the culture for the 2020-21 Knicks.
Taj Gibson tried to end Ben Simmons pic.twitter.com/LVxJEhcrFs— DailySportsDosage (@SportsDsd) November 30, 2019
Mitchell Robinson (2 years- $1.6M Escalating with 2021-22 being a Club Option)https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Scott Perry hit a colossal home run by selecting Mitchell Robinson in the 2nd round back in 2018. Robinson has built himself into one of the most explosive bigs in the NBA. Forceful shot blocking, dazzling dunks, and uncanny athleticism built around his freakishly long arms and height, make Robinson an anomaly. The 7 footer averaged 9.7 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game this season while shooting 74.2% from the field- shattering the previous record for a single-season field goal percentage of 72.7% held by Wilt Chamberlain.
Alley-oop ➡️ Block Zion ➡️ Fast break dunk— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 6, 2019
Mitchell Robinson takes no plays off pic.twitter.com/NOI3p9unl2
Robinson can turn a game upside down due to his ability to play volleyball on defense and tomahawk slams at a very efficient rate on offense. He is also extremely mobile for a big man making him unguardable in transition and a sneaky-good defender when switched onto guards. Robinson has had his struggles with foul trouble, averaging over 3 fouls per game in both his Rookie and Sophomore campaigns. Foul trouble has relegated Robinson to the bench in previous seasons, but if he can stay disciplined, he will be primed for stardom.
Second-round steal Mitchell Robinson with a dunk on one end and the block on the other.— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) October 12, 2018
We’ll see this type of sequence plenty times at MSG this season pic.twitter.com/dScwRojNB7
Mitchell Robinson is the Knicks most prolific player and has continuously improved throughout the early stages of his career. He has been working on his offensive repertoire this offseason, looking to improve his ball handling and outside shooting. If Robinson can take 1-2 hard dribbles from the top of the key or when rolling on a Pick & Roll and knockdown the occasional jumper… he will become one of the most dominant Centers in the NBA. Mitchell Robinson appears to be poised for yet another breakout season and soon will become a serious All-Star candidate.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
After analyzing what the Knicks currently have, it’s clear their core of RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson need to be built around. To do so, the Knicks need to decide who their longterm answer at Point Guard will be. It appears the only option on the current roster who could possibly be their answer is Frank Ntilikina. The Knicks will likely look elsewhere to add competition or fill this need via the draft, free agency, or a trade. Regardless of how the Knicks do it, having a solidified general at Point Guard is often critical to NBA teams’ success. The recent NBA Champion starting Point Guards have been Kyle Lowry, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Tony Parker.
The Knicks will also look to improve their dreadful shooting this offseason. Barrett, Bullock, Knox and Dotson seem to be likely candidates to stay. The shooters brought in will probably be bigger forwards or a Point Guard. While looking to add shooting from the wing, the Knicks need to keep in mind their plans with Kevin Knox II. Do they want him to grow into the starting Power Forward alongside Mitchell Robinson or will he be a Shooting Guard/Small Forward? If the Knicks want to play him more at the 4 and alongside Robinson, the Knicks will need a Small Forward with size and defensive capabilities to play next to him (leading candidate would be Reggie Bullock). New York would also need to either trade Julius Randle or move him to the bench to fully integrate this longterm play.
Excluding finding their answer at Point Guard and adding shooting, the Knicks lack interior defense and leadership. New York will likely promote Kenny Wooten as a full-time NBA player, but if not they will need to add another shot blocker to play when Robinson isn’t on the floor (perhaps Christian Wood, Serge Ibaka, or Willie Cauley-Stein). As for leadership, Taj Gibson, Carmelo Anthony, and D.J. Augustin are all possible candidates. Carmelo Anthony’s pedigree for both shooting and leadership coupled with his deep roots to the Knicks; make another return home to New York a plausible storybook ending to Anthony’s Hall of Fame career.
Leon Rose, Scott Perry, and Tom Thibodeau certainly have their work cut out for them to end the underperforming Knicks 7-year playoff drought and bring a winning team back to Madison Square Garden. After rapping up their Coaching Staff and Front Office, the Knicks are fully armed with assets and options to retool this roster. Will the Knicks finally build the roster from the ground up with longterm fixes, or will they add another set of bandaids for quick fixes and unlikely success? New York’s future entirely depends on this offseason and their ability to find longterm answers.