Knicks' Biggest Needs at 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2022

Knicks' Biggest Needs at 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    The New York Knicks could use a lot this trade season.

    A time machine back to the last campaign might be a nice start.

    It's not like they're dramatically worse this time around, it's just that their identity was clearer last term. They had an elite defense, an NBA All-Star in Julius Randle and a roster that played in the image of their head coach, Tom Thibodeau. This team has none of those things.

    An identity change might be too big to broker midseason, but the Knicks could help themselves by adding one (or more) of the following three things ahead of the trade deadline.


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    If a team thinks it has enough three-point shooting, it probably isn't basketball-ing right.

    The Knicks are in relatively good shape on the shooting front, but they should still get greedy. A floor-spacing center could do wonders for this offense, but they could bulk up in the backcourt, too, especially if they sense Thibodeau has less than total trust in offseason additions Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker.

    In a perfect world, New York would help itself by getting some positive regression from two primary options. Last season, Randle bagged 41.1 percent of his triples. Now, his splash rate is down to 31.2. RJ Barrett hasn't backtracked quite as much, but there's still a big difference between shooting 40.1 percent (as he did last season) and 34.8 (his current connection rate).

    Having said that, Randle's perked-up 2020-21 shooting seemed like an obvious outlier for the career 33.6 percent shooter, and there are many questions remaining about Barrett as a shooter (stemmed, in part, from his career 68.5 free-throw percentage). If the Knicks think internal improvement will be enough, they're fooling themselves.

Point-of-Attack Defense

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    New York probably saw some defensive regression coming this season. The Knicks paid Fournier and Walker for buckets, hoping they'd easily get enough to make up for the ones they gave up the other way.

    Still, there's no way the 'Bockers brass was braced for this. In a single season, New York has spiraled from fourth to 18th in defensive efficiency, per

    The Knicks shouldn't be this generous. They have ample paint protection from Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson, plus adequate-or-better wing defense from Barrett and rookie Quentin Grimes.

    But they're more vulnerable at the point of attack, and that's where everything triggers for the opposing offense. When the guards don't hold their own outside, then the defense is left scrambling, which too often has resulted in late (or missed) rotations and open shots for spot-up shooters. Grab the right perimeter stopper, and that one move alone might help the Knicks climb back toward the top 10.


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    A lack of ball movement doesn't always torpedo a defense, but it takes elite one-on-one players to overcome that.

    The Knicks don't have those. They're only in the 56th percentile of isolation finishing and have the 11th-lowest effective field-goal percentage on those plays.

    The Knicks need a natural ball-mover, as they don't have one on the roster. All of their highest-usage players—Randle, Walker, Barrett, Fournier and Derrick Rose—are programmed to score first. Again, that could function fine with the right personnel, but it doesn't work when four of the five (everyone but Rose) are shooting worse than 42 percent from the field.

    New York needs a table-setter to make this offense's whole greater than the sum of its parts. A megadeal for a Damian Lillard or a De'Aaron Fox type would be a dream, but any pass-first player could perk things up.