This season is clearly a wash for the New York Knicks. The team is headed to the lottery after making the playoffs last season and it might be for the better. The Knicks might be able to add elite-level talent through the draft. But what about the rest of the roster? Antonio Losada and Lee Escobedo discuss what could be done this summer. Here is part one of our two-part talk.
What a mess, huh primo? Who would have thought this team would have collapsed in such a Knicks fashion? At times this season, it felt like we were back in the David Fizdale/Derek Fisher days of ineptitude. When I think about how to move forward, my primary concern is the upcoming draft. Leon Rose and Scott Perry have swung and missed in their attempts to solidify the point guard through free agency. The Knicks should do whatever it takes to move up—whether that is losing games or trading for a higher pick come draft day—in order to select Jaden Ivey out of Purdue. At 6’4 he is big and athletic enough to draw fouls and cut into the teeth of the defense, Our young core is in desperate need of a facilitator. The draft shouldn’t be the only way New York improves, especially at the point, but it should be the primary way.
First of all, I’m glad you started this conversation mentioning Knicks sins from the past by name-dropping the FO. Quite refreshing. The thing is, there are so many fronts opened right now that I wouldn’t even have known what to address first. So drafting a point guard is it, then? Definitely, a sound move if it comes to happen given the team woes at the position — cough Wing Alec Burks at the point cough — but are we sure the Knicks will get a legit top-tier pick? I love masochism, so that’s why I have opened Tankathon only to sim the lottery and see the Knicks drop one position to the ninth-overall pick... with Portland jumping to the no. 1 slot! Between the false hopes and ultimate disappointments that past free agency periods brought, banking on the draft makes sense as the better option. And this youngin Ivey surely is making the rounds these days; can’t argue against that and the talent he’s shown at the collegiate level judging by the little things he’s already doing.
There is a very Knicks scenario in play here, though. What if New York jumps to the top-3, or falls outside the top-8? In the former case, it might make sense to go after one of the consensus top-3 players from this class, right? Let me check for a second... You telling me all of them are forwards, Lee?! Jesus Christ. And if New York falls outside of the first half of the lottery? Welp, bye-bye Jaden. I’m afraid. How should the Knicks deal with this worst-case scenario? Do you go best-player-available or would you look into trading back, picking whatever New York can find down the board, and bank on free agency and trades to land that much-needed PG?
As I said, if the Knicks fall outside of the top three or four and risk missing on Ivey, they need to attach the Dallas pick, or even one of their own, and move up, similar to how Dallas did with Atlanta to select Luka Doncic in 2018. Ivey is the type of player worth risking a lot for. He can shoot, defend, and lead a team. No matter where New York falls in the draft order, they must build a package to move up and select Ivey. But it shouldn't stop there. I think Rose needs to try to sign Jalen Brunson for a backup-or-pinch-starter role if he can get him for under $18 million per. Anything over that price tag and you have a massive overpay on your hands. Is it worth it? Maybe. But Brunson should not be viewed as the Knicks' savior at point guard. He can be an excellent insurance policy for Ivey’s rookie season. Or a stop-gap until next year’s draft (LOL).
The second thing the Knicks need to do is dump the vets. I’m speaking specifically about Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks and Kemba Walker. All three have to go. They don’t even have to sign any big names or contracts to take their place. Just give more minutes to Cam Reddish, Quentin Grimes, and Miles McBride. This runs counter to what Thibodeau would want, and how he has coached in terms of rotations. But fuck it. It’s time to invest in our young core and not waste meaningless minutes on vets who are not part of any long-term plan. In order for this to happen, the front office and Thibodeau must get on the same page. Otherwise, next season will look a lot like this one.
I don’t fully agree with selling the house for either Ivey or/and Brunson being the best way forward for the Knicks. We’re on the same page when it comes to the idea of Brunson potentially turning into a sunk cost more than anything because 1) New York doesn’t have cap space and would need to build an S&T offer to land Brunson from Dallas, and 2) I have always thought of JB as more of a super-sub than a bona fide star. If Ivey falls into our lap, cool; if he does not, I wouldn’t force it; rather go with the best player available. Let’s be honest, this team isn’t just one piece removed from contention, so it might not be optimal to crazily chase the addition of a single, not-generational rookie.
I doubt Thibs will still be manning the sidelines next year if the season ends as horribly as it looks now, so betting on youngsters shouldn’t come with massive doubts and conflicting HC/FO mindsets whoever is the new man in charge. If Thibodeau is given another chance, then I’m 100% positive bringing Ivey+Brunson would be a mess in terms of playing time and opportunity knowing Thibs’ ways of coaching (would he give Ivey the starting nod even if he gets to the team as a top-5 draftee? I’m honestly not sure that’d happen... and Derrick Rose will still be around, keep that in mind too.) Moving onto other issues, do you have anything to share about what to do with Mitchell Robinson’s expiring deal before I unveil my offseason plan for domination?
Leon Rose has made moves outside of Thibodeau’s requests, which is a good thing! He knows the time is now to figure out our point guard problem and Ivey already looks like the second coming of Ja Morant. I also agree New York shouldn't sell the farm to move up for Ivey, but attaching a future first, or a young player like IQ is fair to acquire the franchise point guard the Knicks have been missing for 15 years.
I’m apathetic about Mitch. He’s not the type of modern, spacing big you see on contending teams elsewhere. Also, the center position is the least important position on the floor nowadays. The Bucks won a title with an aging Brook Lopez. The Raptors won with an aging Marc Gasol. Those two guys had high IQ and could shoot threes. Those are two qualities Mitch lacks. If Leon can re-sign him for $12 million per, then go ahead. Anything over that and you have a Clint Capela situation on your hands. New York shouldn’t be tied to a player with a low ceiling and zero offensive game. Especially when he has to initiate his own offense and play alongside Alec Burks at point guard. That does him no favors. I am totally fine with trading him for assets.
Well, here’s the thing. The draft is coming before free agency, and look how that worked out last year with the addition of Obi Toppin (8th-overall pick) just in case Randle bolted, only for JR to extend his tenure with a monster deal after playing his best basketball ever. I hope the FO is competent enough to have a clear idea of Mitch’s intentions by the time the draft arrives, and if he’s truly determined to leave they plan ahead and construct some sort of potential S&T move. I wouldn’t be very comfortable giving Robinson more than $50M over four years and I think the FO is leaning that way too. That means the Knicks must address both the PG and C position. Robinson would fetch assets getting traded away, and I wouldn’t be mad at those being another big man or a potential good-enough point guard. Whatever the case, New York can fix one of the two positions there, and the other one in the draft (be it with Ivey or any of the top-tier F/C). When it comes to centers, the FA market is pretty thin with Mo Bamba/Kevon Looney the most affordable options. Not a landscape to like a lot.