Knicks' Blueprint for 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2022

Knicks' Blueprint for 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

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    The New York Knicks need to lock in their expectations for the 2021-22 NBA season over the next few weeks.

    Once the Knicks know what they hope to make of this campaign, then they can be certain of how to approach the Feb. 10 trade deadline.

    Do they see enough from this roster to justify sacrificing assets in hopes of making a second-half push? Or do they keep their trade chips under lock and key, let this group play it out and then reassess over the summer?

    Since New York gained such positive momentum from last season's playoff trip, it seems likely the front office will search for upgrades and try to make something happen. Assuming that's the mindset, this should be the Knicks' three-step plan for success.

1. Push for a Point Guard

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    The Knicks haven't needed a floor general, it just feels that way because the position has been underwhelming for so long.

    Kemba Walker hasn't been who the front office thought he'd be. Derrick Rose is an old 33 with a detailed injury history. Immanuel Quickley is more of a scorer than a table-setter. Miles McBride should eventually give the 'Bockers good minutes, but they may come few and far between for the time being.

    New York can set its sights as high as it wants here. A dream deal for Damian Lillard is...well, probably nothing more than a dream, but a quick phone call never hurt anyone. An all-out push for De'Aaron Fox could be the blockbuster that transforms this team into something greater than a play-in participant. Jalen Brunson, whom the Knicks reportedly "want...bad," per Marc Berman of the New York Post, might offer a lower cost alternative.

    The Knicks have options. They should explore every one to finally beef up this pivotal position.

2. Prioritize Shot-Creation

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    Last season, the Knicks learned the hard way that they needed more offense around Julius Randle. That was the genesis of the offseason connections with Walker and Evan Fournier.

    Well, the newcomers have fallen short of expectations, and Randle has regressed from his All-Star breakout. This supposedly improved offense has fallen back a spot in the efficiency ranks (from 22nd to 23rd) while producing nearly two fewer points per 100 possessions (110.2 to 108.6).

    Whether the Knicks upgrade at point guard or not, they need to open more avenues to offense. Swinging big on a go-to scorer could change this club and skyrocket its trajectory.

    It's possible (maybe probable) the market won't offer up that type of talent, but if a focal point becomes available, New York must be ready to act—even if that would come at the expense of Randle or RJ Barrett.

3. Have an Escape Plan If Selling Proves the Superior Option

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    The Knicks are a game below .500 and seeded 11th in the Eastern Conference. They can't (or at least shouldn't) rule out the possibility of selling, even if it's only of the selective variety.

    Remember, selling doesn't have to mean starting over, a process that could deflate a fan base that was finally invigorated by last season's unexpected success. New York could have players it doesn't plan on carrying forward and put them up for grabs to collect some roster-building assets.

    Mitchell Robinson's deal expires after this season. Walker's is done after the next. There are club options on the third season of Alec Burks' contract and the fourth of Fournier's pact. Other than Robinson, those players are established veterans who won't get any better and could start fighting their decline sooner than later (if that process hasn't started already).

    If the Knicks are winning and a substantial upgrade is on the table, they can afford to think short-term. But if it's clear this campaign will never be up to expectations, then New York should be prepared to pull the plug and start planning for tomorrow.