After a promising first two games at Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks were eliminated from the 2021 NBA Playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks in five contests. On paper, this was thought to be an even matchup, however, Trae Young’s presence made a difference and created separation for the Hawks. On the Knicks’ end, Julius Randle struggled to find his rhythm and saw double teams left and right. From a bigger picture perspective, the Knicks have nothing to be ashamed of but if they want to make it back to the playoffs, they’ll have to fix some holes in their roster.
The Knicks have 10 players who will become free agents this offseason. Those players consist of:
- Derrick Rose- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Alec Burks- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Nerlens Noel- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Elfrid Payton- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Frank Ntilikina- Restricted Free Agent
- Reggie Bullock- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Taj Gibson- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Mitchell Robinson- Team Option
- Theo Pinson- Restricted Free Agent
- Jared Harper- Restricted Free Agent
Ideally, the Knicks should prioritize keeping Derrick Rose and Nerlens Noel on short term deals while signing Mitchell Robinson to a long-term deal but not necessarily to a max contract. Everyone else on the list above is replaceable. The main focus for the Knicks this offseason should be to acquire three point shooters whether through free agency or through the 2021 NBA Draft which seems to have a loaded draft class. These shooters listed below should help to improve their floor spacing which was something that was exposed in the playoffs. Some players that the Knicks should target consist of:
- Patrick “Patty” Mills- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Tim Hardaway Jr. – Unrestricted Free Agent
- Danny Green- Unrestricted Free Agent
- J.J. Redick- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Norman Powell- Player Option
- Josh Richardson- Player Option
- Paul Millsap- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Bobby Portis- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Nicolas Batum- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Serge Ibaka- Player Option
As of right now, the Knicks only have their younger players under contract which means they can be aggressive with their pursuit of top tier free agents. However, they don’t necessarily need to go that route. It may be more beneficial if the New York Knicks went after free agents that are complementary of their younger players as listed above.
As far as the NBA Draft is concerned, the Knicks hold the 19th and 21st picks in this year’s draft. A couple of ideal prospects that the Knicks should target consist of Jared Butler from Baylor and Johnny Juzang from UCLA both of whom are capable of knocking down three point shots which is something the Knicks need more of this offseason. Butler is a two-way combo guard who is capable of not only shooting from outside the perimeter but scoring at all three levels as well. As for Juzang, his style of play compares favorably to that of Cameron Johnson’s. They’re more than just three point shooters, they can score from all three levels and are more athletic than given credit for but struggle defensively.
Overall, this past season was a success for the New York Knicks given that they overachieved. Many expected the Knicks to be a lottery team and they looked to be 2 to 3 years away from making it back to the playoffs. That being said, Tom Thibodeau’s coaching ability made a difference especially on the defensive end as they were ranked as a top defense in the NBA. Overall, the Knicks were a pleasant surprise, not only for New Yorkers but for the NBA in general. The Knicks have to be careful, however. There’s no way they’ll be sneaking up on anyone next season.
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