Knicks' 2022 Free-Agent Big Board, Top Players to Target

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 26, 2022

Knicks' 2022 Free-Agent Big Board, Top Players to Target

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    Despite dropping from fourth to 11th in the Eastern Conference standings over a single season, the New York Knicks don't necessarily need a face-lift over the 2022 NBA offseason.

    Their formula could obviously use some tweaking, though.

    The Knicks have multiple avenues to explore for upgrades, starting with the No. 11 overall pick. They have an interesting collection of trade chips, too, including future firsts and sizable money-matching salaries.

    As far as free agency goes, New York could create some cap room by shedding some salaries and will have access to both the full midlevel and biannual exceptions. Not to mention, those trade chips could be used to help grease the gears for a sign-and-trade. If the Knicks want to be active in free agency, the following three players should expect early phone calls.

3. Tyus Jones

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    The Knicks might aim higher at the point guard spot (like the player atop this big board, for instance), but you can argue the pursuit of a low-maintenance player like Tyus Jones could be the more cost-effective play.

    The 26-year-old isn't a star and won't evolve into one moving forward. That's fine. He's a full-fledged floor general, and given how long New York has needed that archetype, his arrival could be adjacent to a star signing.

    He protects the ball like a newborn. For his career, he has tallied 1,691 assists against only 326 turnovers. For the non-math majors in the audience, that's nearly 5.2 dimes for every giveaway. For reference, basketball's resident point god, Chris Paul, is just under 4.0 assists per turnover for his career.

    Jones' ball-movement alone could function as connective tissue for this roster, and his pesky perimeter defense could endear him to head coach Tom Thibodeau, who coached Jones for three seasons when both were with the Minnesota Timberwolves. If Jones' perimeter improvement sustains (career-high 39 percent), he could be just what this club needs at the lead guard spot.

2. Mitchell Robinson

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    To be clear, Mitchell Robinson isn't a player the Knicks should pay any price to keep. Having said that, the likelihood of him finding an offer that is past New York's walkaway price point seems minimal.

    Some modern teams just won't pay big for a center. Those that will should place a higher priority on Deandre Ayton than Robinson. Others will seek more perimeter skills from that position than Robinson can offer. Those willing to pay a premium for a non-shooting center would be better off chasing a Rudy Gobert deal.

    Assuming all of this keeps Robinson's contract in the reasonable range, the Knicks should be all over a reunion.

    They've seen the impact he can make as a shot-blocker and close-range finisher. At worst, he's a productive rim-runner for the next half-decade-plus. At best, he's a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate who keeps the poster-printing industry alive.

1. Jalen Brunson

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    Just so we aren't overinflating anyone's hopes here, it might take a miracle to get Jalen Brunson to Gotham.

    Th Knicks almost certainly need a sign-and-trade deal to land him. The Dallas Mavericks reportedly "have no intention of cooperating in potential sign-and-trade scenarios," per ESPN's Tim MacMahon.

    So, why put Brunson in the No. 1 spot? Two reasons.

    First, he's a rising star at a position of perennial need. He has shown true needle-moving flashes, and if he turns those into another sizable leap, he could be New York's best point guard in decades.

    Second, Dallas' resistance to a sign-and-swap could go out the window if Brunson makes it perfectly clear he is leaving and wants a relocation to the Empire State. The Mavs would be better off bringing some assets back instead of letting him walk for nothing, so that may not be more than some early posturing.

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