As fun as last year’s New York Knicks season was, this season has been equal parts disappointing.
Following Wednesday’s loss to the Miami Heat, the Knicks have now dropped five of their last six to move to a lowly 23-26. The offense has been anemic during this recent stretch, scoring 96 or fewer points in four of the five losses. And with a brutal five-game road trip starting up in a matter of days, the 11-seed Knicks can possibly fall even further out of playoff contention.
The NBA trade deadline is a chance for every team to make a major move, New York included. And based on some of the latest reports, significant changes could be underway in the Big Apple.
The New York Knicks have had a difficult season
Fresh off of a 41-31 campaign and a rare postseason berth, it was hard to be pessimistic about the 2021-22 Knicks. They managed to start the new season with five wins in six games, looking every bit the team many thought they could be.
The joy wouldn’t last long, unfortunately. Since its 5-1 start, New York is a woeful 18-25.
Offense has eluded New York for much of the season. Entering Friday’s matchup against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, the Knicks ranks 23rd in offensive rating. They have become a 3-point-dependent team, sitting dead last in 2-pointers made and third-to-last in 2-point percentage. Their defense has also fallen short of matching last year’s elite unit, ranking 12th in defensive rating.
Tom Thibodeau’s starting lineup has been routinely outplayed by the bench (and their opponents). Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, Mitchell Robinson, and Kemba Walker are the five most-consistent starters Thibs has deployed. Yet all of them have an average plus-minus of -1.4 or worse, with Kemba registering a team-worst -5.9.
Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, and Alec Burks could be on their way out
New York was aggressive in improving its roster after its first playoff appearance in eight years. Last offseason, president Leon Rose and general manager Scott Perry did the following over the course of a single week in August:
- Signed Kemba Walker to a two-year deal for just under $18 million
- Re-signed Alec Burks for three years and $30 million
- Re-signed Derrick Rose to a three-year, $43.5 million contract
- Signed Evan Fournier to a four-year contract worth $73 million
So far, the early returns on New York’s investments have been less than stellar. Walker spent a good chunk of the season as a healthy scratch and is averaging just 13.0 points, the lowest since his rookie season. Fournier is only scoring 13.4 points on a career-worst 41.6% from the field. Burks is also shooting a career-low 37.7%, bouncing in and out of the lineup, while Rose has been out since injuring his ankle on Dec. 16.
All of New York’s big free-agent signings have flopped thus far. And now, the Knicks are trying to move on from their mistakes as fast as possible, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
“In conversations this week with teams, the Knicks have expressed a willingness to trade some of their veteran players,” Windhorst said on Thursday’s edition of NBA Today. “That includes Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Alec Burks, guys like this.”
Walker, Fournier, and Burks are making around $35 million this season combined and $146.5 million over the duration of their multi-year contracts. Not only would the Knicks want to move on for financial reasons, but they could simply be running out of room on the roster.
“They traded for Cam Reddish two weeks ago and he is not getting minutes in the rotation from Tom Thibodeau. And Derrick Rose is expected to come back from injury very soon here,” Windhorst added. “It’s just too crowded, and they’re not playing well with what they have. So they’re willing to change that mix, and they’ve related that.”
Julius Randle might not be safe either
It’s entirely possible the Knicks will achieve addition by subtraction by trading Walker, Fournier, or Burks. But another name to watch would truly bring jaws to the floor.
In a report from Ian Begley of SNY, teams are under the impression that Randle is available “for the right return.” The All-Star forward inked a four-year, $117 million extension last summer that will begin next season.
Randle has failed to follow up on last year’s breakout campaign. The 27-year-old is averaging 18.7 points on 41.2% shooting, his lowest marks since his early days with the Los Angeles Lakers. In addition, the 6-foot-8 forward has gotten into it with fans, most famously displaying a “thumbs down” sign at the crowd after receiving prior criticism for poor play.
Obviously, moving Randle would be the beginning of an all-out rebuild. Though that seems doubtful, given New York’s recent acquisition of Reddish. Still, the fact teams feel like New York would move its star is a sign the Knicks want change.
For now, however, the underwhelming guard trio of Walker, Fournier, and Burks should start preparing for the worst.