If the Knicks offseason moves so far demonstrate one thing, it’s that the team is heading in the right direction under the new leadership of Leon Rose and World Wide Wes. They have made some very smart moves that both improve the team in the short term without sacrificing the future. They have been selective about which players they want to keep around but weren’t too attached to the entire roster either, letting some players walk away while adding new talent and filling needs.
Ultimately, it has been refreshing to see so much hope around the New York Knicks with a sense that they are finally heading in the right direction. Here is a recap of the Knicks offseason moves so far.
Extensions and Departures
The Knicks had many decisions to make this offseason. In total, seven players were facing free agency. They kept four of them (Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel, Taj Gibson, Alec Burks) while letting the other three walk (Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina, Reggie Bullock). Payton and Ntilikina were relatively easy decisions based on the current roster construction but Bullock was the most difficult departure. He was a solid contributor for the Knicks all year in 2020.
Rose and Burks were both very crucial pieces for the Knicks to retain. They bring solid production off the bench with Rose initiating the offense and Burks being the best pure shooter from last season. Similar to last year, along with Immanuel Quickley, they will provide depth and scoring for the second unit. Noel is an excellent rim protector and the perfect backup center for Mitchell Robinson. All three of their bigs, including Gibson too, are ideal fits for the Thibodeau system of defensive basketball.
Most importantly of all the Knicks offseason moves was locking up Julius Randle on a four-year extension. He emerged into a superstar last season and is now the heart and soul of the team. Though he did struggle in his first postseason appearance, Randle showed the ability to carry the offense during the regular season. His overall improvement as a player, paired with his commitment to winning, was the main reason why the Knicks far exceeded expectations last year. Deservedly, he was rewarded greatly for his efforts.
In the NBA Draft, the Knicks utilized a strategy of selecting players that fit the Thibodeau system. Defense is the most important aspect of his scheme, so the Knicks drafted accordingly. Both Quentin Grimes and Myles McBride are excellent defenders, especially on the ball. Additionally, they both contribute in areas of need as well. McBride adds depth to the point guard position while Grimes gives them an extra shot creator and rim attacker, Overall, it was a successful draft for the Knicks.
The free-agent market is where the Knicks offseason moves equate to the biggest improvements to the roster. They added two major upgrades in Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier. Fournier was a Knicks offseason target that they successfully landed while Walker is a native New Yorker, like Randle, who is excited for the opportunity to play at home.
All of the weaknesses of the Knicks last season were on the offensive side. Some of the main things they were missing were three-point shooting, ball handling, and shot creation. All three of these negatives will be improved by the addition of Walker and Fournier.
The Knicks ranked a disappointing 26th last season in scoring at just 107 points per game. Interestingly, they actually had the third-best three-point percentage at 39.2 but the issue was in volume. They ranked just 21st in three-pointers made at 11.8 per game. It was not the offense but their top-ranked defense in the NBA that carried them to a fourth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
They can really improve this year overall by adding scoring without sacrificing defense. The additions of Walker and Fournier do exactly that. The New York Knicks are trending up for the first time in a long time.