This was hilarious even in the moment. Now, after a disappointing 37-45 season that saw the New York Knicks finish 11th in the Eastern Conference, it’s turned into a timeless piece of unintentional comedy genius (NSFW, by the way):
Despite falling well short of expectations, the Knicks still sit in a relatively positive position heading into this post season with a generally young roster, most of their players on tradable (or, at worst, affordable contracts) and a a strong selection of picks in the next few drafts.
Knicks chief decision maker Leon Rose has constantly stressed a rather un-Knicksian patience when talking about rebuilding this roster. But this is the New York Knicks. You just know, in your heart of hearts, that they’re going to trade it all for a 28 year old All Star with wonky knees.
Let’s take a look at what lies ahead for the Knickerbockers.
Despite their regression this season there is actually quite a bit to like on the Knicks roster.
Between Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel and the promising Jericho Sims, the team are set at centre for the long term, even taking Robinson’s free agency into account. They also have coach Tom Thibodeau favourite Taj Gibson (aged 74) to call on from time to time.
There is talent at the wing with former collegiate teammates RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish (if Thibs ever decides to play him). Aged just 21 and 22 respectively, these two highly touted talents could grow to lead the next great Knicks team. They’re backed up a pair of intriguing youngsters in Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley. Quickley in particular has shown some very exciting flashes as a back court scorer in the Tyrese Maxey mold.
The Knicks point guard rotation was somewhat less than stellar in 2022. The Kemba Walker acquisition, whilst economical relative to reputation, was a failure. Despite the occasional flourish, Walker struggled mightily. The 31 year old former All Star twice lost his place, not just in the starting lineup, but in the rotation altogether.
They pivoted to playing Alec Burks as a makeshift point guard as well as feeding more minutes to the 33 year old Derrick Rose, who predictably broke down, the Knicks losing him for the season just prior to Christmas. The upside is that rookie Miles McBride was able to play a larger role than anticipated, as well as forcing Quickly to handle the ball more often. Those developmental opportunities could prove telling.
The elephant in the room is one Julius Deion Randle. The 27 year old backed up his benchmark 2021 season – Most Improved Player, All Star and All NBA – with a thoroughly underwhelming 2022. Randle’s statistical output fell across the board. Most concerning, especially for a player that was long thought of as an inefficient chucker, was the drop in his shooting percentages. Randle’s shooting splits dropped alarmingly from 46/41/81 to 41/31/76. Those percentages perhaps manifested themselves most in late game situations, where Randle was generally the go-to guy. There is a pretty clear reason the Knicks went from a top ten clutch team in the 2021 season down to 25th this time around.
Including his player option, Randle is signed to a $96 million deal through the 2026 season.
In case the above section didn’t make it clear, the Knicks have a glaring need at point guard. Walker is likely to be bought out and even if he is on the roster come opening night, he’ll surely find himself tethered (Perhaps literally. Never underestimate Thibs) to the bench. Derrick Rose’s late career resurrection has been delightful but he’ll be 34 years old when the next season begins and is an injury waiting to happen. Yes, the Knicks are preaching patience but if they want to return to the playoffs next season, they’ll need some production at lead guard.
The other conundrum with this roster is what they will choose to do at the big man spots.
Whilst the Knicks would ideally keep Robinson around, there is a chance that he could receive an offer that is too much for the Knicks to stomach. With Noel on roster for at least one more season and Sims showing something in his late season minutes, there is cover on the roster. Noel, however, played only 25 games this season and has topped 70 appearances just twice in his nine year pro career. Robinson isn’t exactly a beacon of reliability, but the two of them generally cover for each other. With just Noel as a genuine starting centre any injury thrusts Sims into a role he’s not yet ready to hold.
The Randle conundrum is a real tease. He’s clearly good, though not nearly as good as his 2021 season indicated. There is every chance that he could slot in as a good 2nd option on a contender, though his defensive limitations will become more prevalent as the Knicks improve. If the Knicks are looking to trade out any major piece it’s likely that Randle will be the person moved on.
The Cap Sheet
New York currently sit around $5 million below the salary cap and a comfortable $30 million below the luxury tax line. That doesn’t include what will be a significant raise for Mitchell, who earned just $1.8 million this past season. If re-signed – the Knicks hold his Bird rights – they’ll surely move above the cap line. Expect him to sign a contract in the $13-$15 million range.
Across the board, the Knicks hold contracts that are very, very movable. Randle is perhaps overpaid at $23 million but it’s certainly not a Russell Westbrook/John Wall level albatross. Evan Fournier – like Walker another less than encouraging signing from the Celtics – is also overpaid at $18 million. Again, though, that’s very movable. Rose and Barrett won’t be moved. From there New York have a series of deals – both rookie scale and veteran – that fall between $1.5 million and $10 million next season. A bonus is that many of those deals have team options, making them valuable both to the Knicks cap flexibility and to any possible trade partner.
Whilst the Knicks are playing the long game, they are very much in a position to launch themselves into any conversation involving a disgruntled star.
The Knicks own all of their own first round picks into the future. This season, their pick is slated to come in at #11 pending the lottery drawing.
Given the talent – albeit unproven – that lies over most of this roster contrasted with their glaring need at point guard, the Knicks will likely look to fill that position on draft night. The issue for them is that this part of the draft is likely to be overstocked with wings and power forwards; only the areas where the Knicks best players play.
That said, there is one lead guard expected to be available in that stretch of the draft in Kentucky product TyTy Washington. He could be tailor made for the Knicks.
Importantly for a Thibodeau coached team, Washington takes pride in his defense. He works hard and shows outstanding instincts. He projects as a plus defender at the pro level. Offensively his versatility should mix well with the existing Knicks. He’s a fine lead guard whose speed and tricky handle allows him to blow by defenders in, funnily enough, a very Kemba-esque manner. He’s also just as capable of playing away from the ball. He’s a canny cutter with a solid jump shot. That should allow him to dovetail with Randle and Barrett, letting them run the offense from time to time.