NBA Insider Says Knicks “Stuck in the Middle’

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks,

Getty RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson and Quentin Grimes of the New York Knicks.

The New York Knicks are two games under .500 after losing a close game to the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 27.

Now 20 games into the season, the team has won nine games and lost two games in a row at home, with both losses going down to the wire. They will now go on the road and face the Detroit Pistons before heading back home to face the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks.

As constructed, the roster has a good amount of young players that have shown potential to be at least rotational players in the league. That group consists of Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Cam Reddish, Quentin Grimes, Jericho Sims, and Miles McBride.

On top of those players, the organization has invested much of its money in Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle, the three highest-paid players on the team for the next four years.

The team features veteran players such as Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose, who both haven’t received heavy minutes this season, as Fournier is out of the rotation, and it’s very likely the front office moves him. Add that with the longest-tenured Knicks player Mitchell Robinson and backup center Isaiah Hartenstein.

Brunson has been playing at an All-Star level as the lead guard for the franchise, with averages of 21.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.1 steals while shooting 48 percent from the field and close to 90 percent from the free throw line. While Brunson’s performance has exceeded expectations, the team isn’t expected to be a threat.

Ian Begley of SNY believes that the ceiling of the current Knicks roster isn’t high and believes the team is ‘stuck in the middle.’

Begley’s Viewpoint About the Team

When discussing the team through its first 20 games, Begley put into perspective what kind of team the Knicks be this season and the projected ceiling of the team.

“There’s no reason to doubt Brunson. But there’s also a hard truth about this Knicks team after 20 games,” Begley said when discussing the team. “Even in the best-case scenario, they’re stuck in a place no NBA team wants to be: the middle of the pack.”

The Knicks are sitting at 11th in the Eastern Conference standings, which is one spot below the play-in tournament seedings. The Knicks will look to be in the mix to get a spot in the play-in tournament. But as Begley mentioned, the play-in tournament is likely the most competitive the Knicks will be this season.

The Knicks are in a tough spot, as they aren’t a team that’s near contention in the postseason, but also aren’t bad enough to get a high draft pick, especially in a draft class that’s loaded with star-studded prospects such as Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson, who both will headline the NBA draft in 2023.

“They don’t have the cap space to improve the roster in free agency. They probably won’t lose enough to end up with a top pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.”

How Can the Team Improve?

When it comes to how the franchise can change its trajectory and go from being stuck in NBA purgatory to being a contender, Begley points out that the best way for the franchise to get out of being stuck in the middle is by trading for a star player.

The Knicks had an opportunity to get Donovan Mitchell in the 2022 offseason but didn’t want to give up a surplus of draft capital and young players, which ultimately led to the Cleveland Cavaliers trading for Mitchell.

“The most realistic path to improvement is still via trade. Leon Rose’s Knicks have – and will continue to – hunt out opportunities to trade for top-end talent,” Begley said. “They have a surplus of draft picks and some young players to offer teams. The Knicks have has also taken calls from teams about trades involving Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose, evidence that they’re open to more incremental deals.”

Top players don’t request trades every week. The Knicks will have to be patient and wait for when a star wants out. But this time, the organization will have to take action to get out of being stuck in the middle.

“Will they make a move prior to the February trade deadline, or will they hold off until the 2023 offseason? No matter how they approach it, the Knicks probably know that they can’t stand pat. The roster, as currently constituted, leaves them in the worst possible piece of NBA real estate.”



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