The Knicks took a patient approach to the 2020 offseason, opting not to pursue impact players like Russell Westbrook via trade or Fred VanVleet via free agency, per Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, and that approach has paid off so far this season. Many of the lower-cost veterans New York did add, including Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel, have played key roles on a team that is currently 34-27, fourth in the East.
Given this year’s success, there will be a “cohort” of New York’s front office eager to push to add more impactful talent during the 2021 offseason, Fischer writes.
“Now the goal posts have been moved,” a person with knowledge of the situation told Bleacher Report. “Thibs (head coach Tom Thibodeau) isn’t going to want to rebuild. He has a lot of power, and there’s some momentum.”
While Thibodeau and other Knicks decision-makers may want to be aggressive in free agency, the club could again opt to take more of a middle ground, according to Fischer. One potential route would be re-signing Burks and Noel to one-year contracts and attempting to add an impact outside free agent, such as Kyle Lowry, on a short-term deal. Fischer hears that Lowry is expected to seek a multiyear commitment, but perhaps a lucrative one-year offer from the Knicks could entice him.
Fischer’s deep dive into the Knicks’ present and future includes many more interesting tidbits. Here are some highlights:
- There’s some skepticism around the NBA that Julius Randle‘s increased three-point efficiency is sustainable (he’s making 41.6% this season after entering the season as a 29.5% three-point shooter). And Fischer says the Knicks did, at least briefly, consider the possibility of trading Randle earlier this season when his value was on the rise. However, he hasn’t tailed off at all after his hot start. “Everyone knew Randle was a good player, but nobody thought he could be the best player on a playoff team,” one assistant GM told Fischer. “Now I’d vote for him second-team All-NBA, and there’s no question he should be Most Improved.”
- Given Randle’s success this season, that assistant GM who spoke to Fischer wondered how much the Knicks’ enthusiasm for Obi Toppin – who plays the same position as Randle – might have waned in recent months. “You can’t really play him and Randle together,” the assistant GM said, speculating that the rookie could become a trade candidate. “There’s no runway for him to be successful there.”
- The Knicks’ play this season has increased the appeal of the organization as a free agent destination in the eyes of agents, Fischer writes. “If you wanted to be part of a good organization and win, you couldn’t possibly send anyone there (before this year). And that’s changed with Thibs and (assistant coach) Kenny (Payne),” one agent said to Bleacher Report. “Even in the draft, if we had someone who wanted to go there and was maybe an immature kid and needed good people around them to grow them as a pro, you couldn’t send him there.”
- Fischer reiterates that Lonzo Ball, a restricted free agent this summer, has some big fans within the Knicks’ front office, and reports that Norman Powell is another free-agent-to-be who may draw interest from the club. Thibodeau is known to like Powell, sources tell Fischer.