Knicks' Complete 2021 NBA Offseason Guide
The New York Knicks took a different entry point into the NBA offseason.
For the first time since 2013, New York's summer break was preceded not by a losing season but a playoff trip. Sure, the postseason didn't go as planned, as the fourth-seeded Knicks were ousted by the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks in five games, but the campaign still goes down as an overwhelming success.
Julius Randle booked an All-Star spot and took home the Most Improved Player award. Tom Thibodeau bested a deep field of candidates to claim Coach of the Year. RJ Barrett improved across the board. Derrick Rose proved he can still be a difference-maker for a playoff participant.
It was a really good year in New York, but to keep the good times rolling, the Knicks need to have a great summer.
Here's everything you need to know about what awaits this organization over the offseason.
Roster Situation and Assets
The Knicks could have $70 million in cap space this summer.
Right away, that means two things. One, the team has the financial flexibility to be one of the biggest spenders in free agency if it chooses that route. Two, there isn't much actually on the books for next season so far.
Only four Knicks have fully guaranteed contracts for next season. Barrett, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley have three of them, and each looks like he could be a long-term member of this core. The other is held by Kevin Knox II, who's been a major disappointment since arriving as the ninth overall pick in 2018.
Randle has only a partial guarantee on his $19.8 million salary. The Knicks have a $1.8 million team option on Mitchell Robinson. Late-season signings Luca Vildoza and Norvel Pelle have non-guaranteed salaries. If Frank Ntilikina gets a qualifying offer, he'll enter restricted free agency.
Otherwise, the rest of this roster is headed to unrestricted free agency. That includes Rose, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton, who started 63 times in the regular season and was pulled from the playoff rotation by Game 3.
Let's start with Randle, as most of New York's offensive possessions did.
The Knicks can offer him a four-year, $106 million extension this summer which would add onto the $19.8 million salary he'd get next season. On the surface, that seems like a reasonable (if not inexpensive) rate for a 26-year-old All-Star.
But his first career playoff run was so frigid that it might give New York pause about handing him the bag. He never shot 40 percent in any of the five games, finishing the series at 29.8 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from distance. If the Knicks had concerns about the sustainability of Randle's shooting (41.1 percent from three this season, 27.7 last year), those weren't quieted during his first postseason test.
Similarly, Robinson's team option is more perplexing than you think. If the Knicks pick it up, he'll hit unrestricted free agency next summer. If they decline it, he'll be a restricted free agent this offseason, giving them more control of the situation but probably a much higher salary, too. New York could also look to extend him if it sees him as a long-term keeper or try to trade him if it doesn't.
Areas of Need and Potential Targets
Not to spin a broken record here, but the Knicks need a point guard. How's that for rinse-and-repeat analysis?
New York has had issues at the lead guard spot for years, and a solid half-season in the Big Apple from 32-year-old Derrick Rose doesn't change that. The former MVP could perhaps adjust some of the plans, though, as his presence allows for the possibility to not spend so big at this spot and instead target a second-tier, less ball-dominant option like Devonte' Graham, Goran Dragic or Kendrick Nunn.
But given their cap situation, and the Knicks being...well, the Knicks, they could easily take aim at the top floor generals on the market. That includes Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball (restricted) and even Chris Paul, a former client of player-agent-turned-Knicks-president Leon Rose. Mike Conley, Dennis Schroder and Spencer Dinwiddie could get phone calls too.
New York needs an offensive upgrade. All of the top point producers on the market are possible targets. If Kawhi Leonard surprisingly wants a new home, the Knicks should offer the moon, stars and whatever else in the galaxy he wants. If not, they could give chase to DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell or Kelly Oubre Jr.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.