Knicks' Complete 2022 Offseason Blueprint

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 26, 2022

Knicks' Complete 2022 Offseason Blueprint

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Last summer, the New York Knicks front office was tasked with building upon the momentum from their return to the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2013.

    This summer is different.

    Rather than hoping to keep the good times rolling, the 'Bockers brass will attempt to reignite the flames after a dreary 37-45 effort. The Knicks don't have a ton of decisions to make in free agency—outside of one monstrous one in the middle—but they should be eyeing a potential upgrade at a hyper-critical position and have an ear open to the trade market in search for value and role clarity for their up-and-comers.

    It could be a busy offseason in the Big Apple, in other words, so let's spotlight three of the top items on the to-do list.

Fill the Void at Point Guard

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    As the wait gets longer and longer, it feels increasingly less hyperbolic to say the Knicks have needed an upgrade at point guard forever. If an over-the-hill-but-still-competent Jason Kidd doesn't qualify as a needle-mover, you might have to go with Mark Jackson as New York's last good option at the position.

    The wait can't go on any longer. The Knicks have a slew of big-picture questions to answer over the following year, and those would be infinitely easier to gauge after seeing how this roster functions with a full-fledged floor general running the show.

    So, how can they get one to Gotham? Great question, and one that's unfortunately tricky to answer. The clearest path to an upgrade would be adding Jalen Brunson in free agency (by way of a sign-and-trade), but his playoff performance has upped what was already going to be a costly contract. Plus, the Dallas Mavericks reportedly "have no intention" of facilitating a sign-and-trade, per ESPN's Tim MacMahon, so a pursuit of Brunson lies somewhere between complicated and impossible.

    As for other options, the Knicks could look lower on the free-agent ladder for someone like Tyus Jones, try trading for someone like Indiana Pacers point man Malcolm Brogdon or hope the draft board breaks right and sends Purdue's Jaden Ivey to the Empire State. It's hard to say which path the Knicks should take, other than saying they need to travel down one of these roads.

Re-Sign Mitchell Robinson

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    After previously flashing his potential, Mitchell Robinson took his biggest step toward putting it all together this season.

    It just so happened to occur during a contract year, so perhaps that's worth a mention. Or it was simply convenient timing. Either way, the bouncy big man is due for a raise, and as long as the numbers don't get out of control, the Knicks should continue signing Robinson's checks.

    He just turned 24 years old, so odds are he hasn't played his best basketball yet, which is important, since he has shown elite ability at the defensive end. More development is needed—again, he's 24 years old, so, duh!—but you can see the distinct outline of a premier defensive presence who also adds value as an offensive rebounder and above-the-rim finisher.

    There isn't a ton of cap space available around the Association, so the odds of a bidding war for Robinson entering overdrive seem slim. It can still happen, of course, but as long as his next salary is reasonable (say, a hair below $15 million per season), New York should keep him around and see how high his ceiling can reach.

Position the Young Players for Success

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    The Knicks have a growing collection of young talent. That is, objectively speaking, a good thing.

    Subjectively, though, it could behoove the 'Bockers to give their young players not named RJ Barrett a clearer path to major minutes.

    Immanuel Quickley gets squeezed for floor time in a crowded guard group. Obi Toppin has trouble finding minutes behind 2020-21 All-Star Julius Randle. Jericho Sims sits no better than third on the center depth chart when Robinson and Nerlens Noel are healthy. Quentin Grimes, Cam Reddish and Miles McBride all had moments, but they collectively logged just fewer than 1,400 minutes.

    Is coach Tom Thibodeau's lack of trust in young players to blame? Possibly, but he also has a deep nucleus of veterans to pull from, like Randle, Noel, Alec Burks, Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose. Kemba Walker remains on the roster, too, for whatever that's worth.

    There is talent in that veteran core, but not an abundance of it, especially if Randle never recaptures his All-Star form. The Knicks shouldn't just give these players away (although almost any reasonable Walker trade is probably worth doing). But if they can extract value on the trade market for them while also opening up more developmental minutes for their youth, that's a win-win scenario that could provide major dividends down the line.