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The Knicks are prepared for a playoff push despite lack of trade deadline moves

The franchise is in a good place right now.

New York Knicks v San Antonio Spurs
This team.
Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

Leon Rose chose not to disrupt team chemistry at the trade deadline, although New York’s roster isn’t necessarily set in stone since they are expected to be players in the buyout market. But two things are for certain: there’s unity between the head coach and front office, and these Knicks are prepared to make a playoff push.

The only move the Knicks made on the day of the deadline was trading Austin Rivers and Ignas Brazdeikis for what amounted to a second round draft pick from Philadelphia. Rivers had been out of the rotation ever since the Knicks traded for Derrick Rose, so shedding him was helpful for all parties. Notably, the Knicks didn’t trade for Lonzo Ball or Victor Oladipo, even though it’s entirely possible they could have put together an enticing enough package.

The trade deadline provided us with insight as to the working relationship between Tom Thibodeau and Leon Rose. In short: promisingly, it looks like it might be similar to the relationship between Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford. Those two have been mainstays for the Spurs since the 1990s. Slightly longer: Rose wasn’t going to go and make a major move without Thibs signing off, and Thibs appears to have been allowed to be as involved as he wanted when it came to discussing potential trades.

The team responded to the lack of deadline movement with perhaps the best win of the season thus far, coming back from a significant deficit to beat the Washington Wizards last week despite overall off nights from both Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. Heading into Monday night’s matchup against the Miami Heat, the Knicks are currently 24-22, good for fourth in the Eastern Conference. (half a game ahead of both Charlotte and Atlanta).

They are ready to make a playoff push, and the current cohesion between Thibs and the front office is encouraging. Let’s break down where the Knicks are at, and what seems likely to happen, both this season and in the near term future.

They Are Prudent Players In The Buyout Market

Usually, it’s the Knicks buying out players in order to allow them to sign with a contender. Enes Kanter and Amar’e Stoudemire are relatively recent examples. This year, the Knicks successfully traded Rivers instead of buying him out and losing him for nothing, and now they have apparently set their sights on the buyout market as an avenue to potentially improve the roster.

Andre Drummond was the biggest name expected to hit the buyout market, and the Knicks were rumored to have interest, although the front office was reportedly divided on whether or not he’d be a smart addition. In the end, it was all moot, since Drummond is signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now that Mitchell Robinson has fractured his foot, the Knicks could definitely use another big man capable of playing some minutes at the five. Gorgui Dieng felt like a name to watch, as he previously played for Thibs in Minnesota, but the 6’11” big man is apparently signing in San Antonio.

It now sounds like the Knicks might pick up Norvel Pelle, a 28-year-old, 6’10” center who is known for defense and would be far less likely to disrupt team chemistry than other potential options like Hassan Whiteside or Demarcus Cousins.

The Front Office Is Still Stargazing, But For The Future

The Knicks had every opportunity to try and snatch an Oladipo or Ball at the deadline, but instead chose to stick to their guns and not overpay. Now, the team could free up as much as $60 million in salary cap space this offseason, according to Ian Begley of SNY.

The front office might seem like they simply stood pat at the deadline, but all reports indicate Rose and his front office cohorts were taking and making calls right up until the clock ticked past the deadline. Expect the Knicks to be aggressive this offseason in trying to add another major piece, be it Lonzo or someone else.

Perhaps this offseason is when the Knicks choose to try and make some kind of godfather offer for a Bradley Beal or a Karl-Anthony Towns. We don’t know, but for months now the reports have stated quite plainly that the ultimate goal is to wrangle a star.

For years, nay, decades, we’ve been begging the Knicks to pursue a plan with patience, yet the idea that New York fans wouldn’t wait around for a rebuild persisted. That attitude resulted in two decades of questionable moves, from Keith Van Horn to Andrea Bargnani. Finally, the front office seems to understand that, while it’s important to remain aggressive in trying to upgrade the roster, it’s equally necessary to not make moves just to make moves.

Now let’s go make the playoffs so that New York is an even more attractive destination once free agency hits.