The New York Knicks were a fun bunch during the 2020-21 NBA season. Even though they struck out right in the very first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the facts that they played beyond the regular season for the first time in nearly 10 years and finished above .500 are more than enough for Knicks fans to start fantasizing again about a bright future without being called delusional.
Having brought back some glitz to the franchise, the focus now for Knicks General Manager Scott Perry and President Leon Rose is on shoring up the roster to ensure that the success the team just had won’t be ephemeral. Finding a point guard is high on the offseason priority list of New York, which depended mostly on the brittle knees of Derrick Rose, the ever unreliable Frank Ntilikina, and the shaky jumper of Elfrid Payton this season. Immanuel Quickley flashed brilliance from time to time, but he’s far from becoming a guaranteed producer for the Knicks’ backcourt.
A big market team should act like one. For the Knicks, that could mean using their capital in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft as trade bait for someone like Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard. That sounds like a grand plan, but head coach Tom Thibodeau appears to be flirting with the idea of letting go of a majority of their four 2021 picks for a splashy acquisition, per Marc Berman of The New York Post:
“The Knicks also desperately need a starting point guard, and that’s going to happen in free agency — with close to $60 million in cap space — or in a blockbuster trade. In fact, that deal could take place on draft night July 29, with the Knicks giving up three of their four draft picks (19, 21, 32, 58). Thibodeau not only talked about “trading up’’ but “trading out’’ of the draft.”
Rose, Ntilikina, Payton, and Alec Burks — all four were on the Knicks’ point guard depth chart in the 2020-21 season — have expiring contracts. All told, the Knicks would only have roughly $55 million in the books on the first day of free agency, leaving them with spacious financial legroom. (Adrian Wojnarowksi of ESPN reporting that the projected salary cap and tax in 2021-22 are at $112 million and $136.6 million.) Getting Lillard or even Ben Simmons via trade would not require the Knicks to do some extreme cap gymnastics.
Giving up a package centered around their 2021 draft picks plus maybe Kevin Knox’s contract that’s about to expire at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season could look very enticing for the Blazers or the Philadelphia 76ers. The time couldn’t be any more perfect, as Lillard is rumored to be starting to feel unhappy with his situation, while Simmons had just tanked his value with a messy performance in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
Derrick Rose provided the Knicks with a nostalgia act, which was nice, but it’s time for New York to hit a home run in the offseason.