- Yoni Hourizadeh
The Knicks’ Key to Contention
The early success of the Knicks last season came as a surprise. Led by breakout star Julius Randle, a rejuvenated Derrick Rose and one of the deepest benches in the league, the Knicks were able to secure the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed, though they eventually lost in the first round of the playoffs to Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.
1. Start with Kemba, finish with Rose
Signing Kemba Walker was a surprise last-minute move in free agency from the Knicks, but it was necessary; Walker will be a significant upgrade from the recently departed Elfrid Payton. Walker’s ability to shoot from deep as well as playmake will add a dimension to the offense that the Knicks did not have with Payton on the floor. However, one player the Knicks should repeat from last year is point guard Derrick Rose, who can come off the bench to close out close games. Rose seems to have built strong chemistry with both Randle and the Knicks’ young core, and I believe having him in to close out games will help the team as a whole.
2. Trade for assets at the deadline and give those minutes to younger players
As I mentioned earlier, the Knicks re-signed both Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel in the offseason. While I wouldn’t trade these integral players for just anything, it would be wise for the Knicks to entertain offers from championship contenders that need Burks’ additional bench scoring or Noel’s interior defense. If the Knicks are able to secure valuable draft picks for these players, they could potentially throw these draft picks into a trade for a disgruntled star next offseason. Additionally, freeing up Burks’ minutes will give more playing time to Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes, both of whom have a lot to contribute to this team.
3. Let Julius Randle cook!
Julius Randle won over New York City last year. Yes, his playoff performance was extremely disappointing, but I can’t really get mad at him — it was his first time seeing those double-teams, and not many players besides Derrick Rose were able to relieve the burden of the scoring load. Having proficient 3-point marksmen like Fournier and Barrett on the wings and shooters like Walker and Quickley who can score from the logo will add spacing for Randle. If opponents throw double-teams at him this year, I believe Randle will show his ability to kick it out to the open man, discouraging teams from leaving Knicks shooters open. Once that happens, Randle could elevate his game to the superstar level.