The New York Knicks went from being a budding contender in the Eastern Conference to the most disappointing team in the conference. The Knicks followed up being the fourth seed in the East by missing the NBA Playoffs altogether this season.
Julius Randle failed to build on his All-Star campaign of last season; the Kemba Walker experiment backfired, and Derrick Rose missed the last four months of the season. New York also made a midseason trade for Cam Reddish, which was low-lighted by a lack of playing time and a season-ending shoulder injury.
All that said, there’s reason to believe the Knicks can right the ship. They have a handful of compelling players on rookie deals, a healthy amount of draft capital, and roster flexibility. Here are three moves the Knicks can make to get back on track this NBA offseason.
The New York Knicks should sign Collin Sexton to run the point
The Knicks aren’t going anywhere until they get a legitimate, long-term point guard. Collin Sexton is a savvy option for New York.
Yes, there are a couple of glaring negatives attached to Sexton. For starters, he’s recovering from a torn meniscus. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers had a breakout season and are competing in the playoffs without him. On the other hand, the positives outweigh the negatives for the Knicks.
An efficient perimeter shooter, Sexton has raw speed and a keen ability to get inside off the dribble. He’s just one season removed from averaging 24.3 points per game and has shown an ability to lead the scoring charge. Sexton’s scoring tendencies would be a welcome addition to head coach Tom Thibodeau’s offense.
RJ Barrett had a plausible season with tangible growth, specifically becoming more of a reliable scorer. But the Knicks still need an elite forward or an impactful, young point guard to be a player in the East; they don’t collectively pose a threat on the offensive end.
The Knicks have nothing to lose by signing Sexton, and he will play with a chip on his shoulder. They can afford to sign Sexton to a hefty, prove-it deal by trading/declining team options next season on two to three of Walker, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, and Taj Gibson. If need be, they could execute a sign-and-trade centered around Reddish, which would balance out the Knicks’ rotation and give the Cavs a talented perimeter player.
The Knicks should replace Mitchell Robinson with Mo Bamba
It seems Robinson’s days with the Knicks are numbered. They re-signed Noel to a contract with a roughly $10 million average annual salary; gave rookie big man Jericho Sims considerable playing time down the stretch and are reportedly “not close” with Robinson on an extension, according to SNY. With that in mind, Mo Bamba would be an impactful pickup for the Knicks.
Bamba, the No. 6 selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, came into his own last season with the Orlando Magic. Starting in 69 of the 71 games he appeared in, the former Texas Longhorn made a difference on both ends of the floor. He stretched the floor with his shot-making ability, shot a career-best 38.1% from behind the arc, and finished in the paint while serving as a defensive pillar.
Regardless of the Knicks’ starting power forward next season (Randle or Obi Toppin), Bamba would add a new dimension to their offense. Three of the Knicks’ four big men/centers overwhelmingly get their points in the paint and don’t pose a mid-range shooting threat (Robinson, Noel, and Sims).
Bamba would stretch the floor for Sexton (if he’s presumably brought aboard), Barrett, and Randle to operate in isolation. Sure, Bamba has an injury history, but so does Robinson, meaning the injury concerns are a wash.
New York should be able to attain Bamba for a salary in the ballpark of $8-$10 million per season, especially with Orlando likely moving forward with Wendell Carter Jr. and Franz Wagner in their frontcourt.
The New York Knicks should extend RJ Barrett
Barrett is the best thing the Knicks have going for themselves, and they should move into the future with him. In other words, the Knicks should extend Barrett this offseason.
The former Duke Blue Devil had a raw rookie season but flashed an ability to get inside off the dribble. In the ensuing season, he became more assertive. This season, Barrett arguably became the Knicks’ best player. He got up shots with ease, was assertive with the ball in his hands, defended well, and continued to pose a respectable perimeter threat. Barrett finished the season averaging 20.0 points per game.
Is Barrett’s game perfect? Of course not. He’s still inefficient and his mid-range game needs improving. At the same time, the one constant throughout Barrett’s NBA career: He improves. The 21-year-old has taken his game to the next level on a yearly basis, and the next jump is one to stardom.
Barrett isn’t a max-level player, rather the level right beneath it. A four-year, $112 million extension ($28 million average annual salary) is fair for both sides. From the Knicks’ perspective, they’re investing a little less than a max deal in a player who’s very good but not elite. If Barrett takes off in the coming years, it’s a bargain for the Knicks.
From Barrett’s perspective, a $28 million average annual salary is a little above his current worth, and it’s not a given that he becomes a star. If Barrett becomes a perennial All-Star, though, he hits the open market in his prime. The contract will also look better for the Knicks if they trade Randle, who begins a four-year, $117 million extension next season, at some point over the next 18 months.