After an impressive 2022-23 campaign that saw them finish as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and advance to the second round of the playoffs, the New York Knicks head into an offseason with many questions, particularly when it comes to the concept of continuing to build around their current core foundation.
Thanks to the savvy signing of Jalen Brunson last summer, the organization finally seems to have its long-awaited answer to its point guard woes.
However, outside of him, the two other members of New York’s top trio in Julius Randle and RJ Barrett have drawn serious concerns regarding their fit on the team, with one Eastern Conference executive telling Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney that the organization simply can’t seem to find a way to best utilize him.
“He did not seem to know how to handle playing with Jalen Brunson, and that is a concern. He has had trouble adjusting to his role at every turn and the Knicks don’t always seem to know what to do with him. They’ve tried him at the 2, they’ve tried him at the 3, they had him trying to run point for a bit a while back, and he just has not found a good fit. He’s the No. 3 option on that team now and that has been a tough adjustment. You’d like to see him excel in his role but that has not been the case for him at all,” the exec told Deveney.
Finishing off his fourth season in the association, RJ Barrett’s on-paper production proved to be rather solid, as he boasted averages of 19.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists through 73 games played.
However, his efficiency throughout the season was wildly inconsistent, as he converted on just 43.4% shooting from the field and a career-worst 31.0% shooting from deep despite ranking third and fifth, respectively in attempts and, of those who logged over 500 minutes on the year, finished with the team’s worst box plus-minus rating at -3.1
Seeing this lowly productivity after the Knicks opted to extend him to a lucrative new contract rather than trading him for perennial All-Star Donovan Mitchell last offseason is certainly not what the organization had in mind heading into 2022-23.
Knicks Could Trade Mitchell Robinson in ‘Bigger Package’
Another player that seemingly caught the attention of fans and media pundits alike for the wrong reasons during this past season was fifth-year big man Mitchell Robinson, who was seen on numerous occasions publicly voicing his displeasure regarding his specific role within head coach Tom Thibodeau’s scheme.
While his off-court antics may not necessarily entice the Knicks to embark on a full-out mission to ship the 25-year-old outbound, one Eastern Conference general manager told Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney that the front office could be open to including the center as an asset in a ‘bigger’ offseason trade package this summer.
“They have felt out the market on him because he is an old-school kind of center—good rim protector and rebounder, but he does not want to shoot past three or four feet and he’s not much of a passer. The Bulls had some interest but it’s doubtful that would come back up. Dallas, too, but again, there just are no pieces that match up. There is not much of a trade market out there for him, so he is their guy. They could move him along if it is part of a bigger package, though,” the executive told Sean Deveney.
Despite his scoring limitations, Mitchell Robinson has proven himself to be one of the best rim protectors and offensive rebounders in the game today. Through 58 games played this year, the big man posted solid averages of 7.4 points, 9.4 rebounds (4.5 on the offensive glass), and 1.8 blocks while shooting a highly efficient 67.1% from the field.
While the executive made it a point to note that Robinson is viewed by the Knicks as “their guy,” should another team covet him enough, it is believed that Leon Rose and company may not need all that much convincing to include him in some sort of offseason transaction.
Jalen Brunson ‘Excited’ For Future With Knicks
In just his first season with the organization, Jalen Brunson has managed to establish himself as the unquestioned top option on this Knicks team moving forward. With him in tow, New York made their return to the postseason and clinched their first playoff series win since 2013.
Now, as he prepares for his second season in the Big Apple, Brunson has expressed his excitement for what the future may have in store.
“New York has been amazing and the fans have been amazing. It’s been a really great experience for myself and my family. I’m already excited about next year. It’s going to be fun. We have a lot to prove to each other as teammates,” Jalen Brunson said during his Game 6 post-game media session. “This was a great year for us… Obviously, we didn’t end the season the way we wanted to but [we have to] keep working on our game, keep gaining confidence, as [players] and as teammates and as we move forward we just gotta keep sticking together like we did this year.”
Agreeing to a four-year, $104 million deal during last year’s free agency Jalen Brunson went on to have a career year with the Knicks, posting impressive averages of 24.0 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 49.1% from the field and 41.5% from deep.