What Did The Knicks Do? Grading & Reviewing The Knicks Offseason

image via the New York Knicks

The Prequal

Heading into the shortened 2020 offseason, Leon Rose and company had a bevy of decisions to make in hopes of turning around the Knicks’ downward spiraling roster. First and foremost, Rose had to decide which players on expiring deals were worth keeping. New York declined the options on Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, and Elfrid Payton. They also elected to not resign Damyean Dotson or Kenny Wooten Jr., while waiving Allonzo Trier awhile back. Rose did resign Payton to a team-friendlier deal at $4.76M for 1 year (waiving him from his previous contract cost the Knicks $1M too, yet the total still amassed to less than the $8M he would’ve been owed). Reggie Bullock was also retained as a valuable 3 & D player on a tremendously cheap contract considering his talents ($4.2M). With oodles of cap space and a decimated roster, the Knicks were positioned to be one of the biggest players in the free agent and trade markets. For the first time in forever, New York elected to utilize discipline and restraint in their efforts to rebuild the Knicks the “right way”. A subpar free agent class meshed with a murky trade market led to the Knicks valuing flexibility and assets over short-term upgrades. Rose elected to make minute moves in free agency while drafting a sure fire hit at pick #8. Here I take a look at the additions, subtractions, build of the current roster, and what’s next.

Additions (2019-20 Stats)

Alec Burks (SG/SF)

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  • 26.6 minutes, 15 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 turnovers, & 0.9 steals per game
  • 41.8%/38.5%/88.7% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 44.1% of shot attempts were pull-ups (22.6% from 2, 21.5% from 3)
  • FG% of 43.4% on pull-ups from 2, 39.4% on pull-ups from 3
  • 11.6 FGA per game (4.6 3PA per game)
  • 23% USG%
  • Played 28.9% of his minutes at Forward

Austin Rivers (SG/PG)

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  • 23.4 minutes, 8.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, & 0.7 steals per game
  • 42.1%/35.6%/70.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 32.3% of shot attempts are catch & shoot 3s (shooting 36.4% on them)
  • 54.2% TS%
  • 15.3% USG%
  • In 4 starts last year he shot 21.2% from 3 and averaged 2.8 turnovers per game (In 64 appearances off the bench he shot 36.7% from 3 and averaged 0.6 turnovers per game)

Immanuel Quickley (SG/PG) *Kentucky

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  • 33 minutes, 16.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals, & 1.6 turnovers per game
  • 41.7%/42.8%/92.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 59.5% TS%

Theo Pinson (SG/SF)

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  • 11.1 minutes, 3.6 points, 1.7 assists, 1.6 rebounds, & 0.5 steals per game
  • 99.7 DEFRTG
  • 28.3% %STL

Myles Powell (SG) *Seton Hall

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  • 31.5 minutes, 21 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, & 1.2 steals per game
  • 39.8%/30.6%/79.5% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 9.2 3PA per game
  • 35.6% USG%

Jacob Evans (SG/SF)

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  • 14.4 minutes, 4.4 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.4 steals, & 0.4 blocks per game
  • 33.6%/33.3%/86.2% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (SF/PF)

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  • 11.2 minutes, 2.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.6 turnovers, & 0.1 steals per game
  • 33.3%/25%/78.6% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 99.3 DEFRTG
  • 23.5 %REB

Obi Toppin (PF) *Dayton

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  • 31.6 minutes, 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 1 steal, & 1.2 blocks per game
  • 63.3%/39%/70.2% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 28.1 USG%
  • 68.4 TS%
  • 14.5 TRB%

Omari Spellman (PF/C)

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  • 18.1 minutes, 7.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.1 turnovers, 0.7 steals, & 0.5 blocks per game
  • 43.1%/39.1%/79.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 2.2 3PA per game
  • 1.3 PF per game
  • -8.5 NETRTG
  • 55.1 TS%

Nerlens Noel (C)

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  • 18.5 minutes, 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 turnovers, 1 steal, & 1.5 blocks per game
  • 68.4%/33.3%/75.5% (FG%/3P%/FT%)
  • 3 3PA all season
  • 71.1 TS%
  • 63.6 %BLK
  • 29.6 %STL
  • 31.5 %REB

Subtractions

Wayne Ellington (SG)

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  • 15.5 minutes, 5.1 points, & 0.4 steals per game
  • 35.1%/35%/84.6% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Damyean Dotson (SG)

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  • 17.4 minutes, 6.7 points, & 0.5 steals per game
  • 41.4%/36.2%/66.7% (FG&/3P%/FT%)

Allonzo Trier (SG)

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  • 12.1 minutes, 6.5 points, 1.2 rebounds, & 1.2 assists per game
  • 48.1%/35.8%/79.1% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Maurice Harkless (SF/PF)

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  • 23 minutes, 5.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, & 0.9 steals per game
  • 50.2%/34.7%/59.1% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Bobby Portis (PF/C)

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  • 21.1 minutes, 10.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, & 0.5 steals per game
  • 45%/35.8%/76.3% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Taj Gibson (PF/C)

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  • 16.5 minutes, 6.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, & 0.5 blocks per game
  • 58.4%/28.6%/73.2% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Kenny Wooten Jr. (PF/C) *Westchester Knicks

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  • 24.9 minutes, 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, & 3.6 blocks per game
  • 65.1%/0%/57.8% (FG%/3P%/FT%)

Depth Chart (2019-20 vs. 2020-21)

Position2019-20 Knicks2020-21 Knicks
PGElfrid Payton
Frank Ntilikina
Dennis Smith Jr.
Elfrid Payton
Frank Ntilikina
Dennis Smith Jr.
SGR.J. Barrett
Wayne Ellington
Damyean Dotson
R.J. Barrett
Alec Burks
Austin Rivers
SFReggie Bullock
Maurice Harkless
Kevin Knox II
Reggie Bullock
Kevin Knox II
PFJulius Randle
Bobby Portis
Julius Randle
Obi Toppin
Omari Spellman
CMitchell Robinson
Taj Gibson
Mitchell Robinson
Nerlens Noel
Note- PG Jared Harper, SG Immanuel Quickley, SG Theo Pinson, SG Myles Powell, SG Jacob Evans, SF Ignas Brazdeikis, & SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are all currently under contract.

Grades

FA Signings

Alec Burks (1 Year, $6M) B+

Alec Burks will likely slide in as the 6th Man and primary scorer off the bench for the Knicks. He is a versatile SG/SF who can facilitate for others while being a tremendous three point shooter. Burks’ contract can be a valuable asset for a contending team at the trade deadline via trade and has no longterm effects on the Knicks cap space. He was a very solid signing that may be flipped at the deadline for more assets, while filling a major need (shooting) for the Knicks while he’s on the roster.

Nerlens Noel (1 Year, $5M) B+

Similar to Burks, Noel fills a major void for the Knicks and does so without sacrificing much flexibility or cap space. Noel excels as an anchor and shot blocker on defense, while utilizing his size and length on offense around the rim. His rim protection will be vital, whether he’s paired alongside Randle, Toppin, or Knox at Power Forward. Noel is a safe bet, great fit, and has the Kenny Payne, Kentucky, connection. Signing him was a no brainer and I wouldn’t count out the Knicks signing him back in 2021-22.

Elfrid Payton (1 Year, $4.76M) C

The signing of Elfrid Payton independently could be considered a very savvy move. However, when considering the situation and structure of the Knicks backcourt, it is impossible to overlook the consequences of this signing. Payton has triple-double upside and on several nights last year, he was arguably the Knicks best player. His value to the Knicks is limited though. New York is in dire need of finding their Point Guard of the future. Payton obviously isn’t it. Ntilikina has some hope, although the optics of him becoming a longterm starter aren’t promising. Smith Jr. is an enigma, but it appears he’s a shell of his former self and won’t ever be the starter many projected him to be at the beginning of his career. Bringing back Payton not only limits the playing time and upside of these two Knicks, but he also doesn’t provide the teaching and leadership they could both use from a more experienced and higher touted Point Guard. Payton is also a very weak three point shooter which makes him a terrible fit alongside the Knicks’ most prized possession, R.J. Barrett. New York would’ve been better off signing a player to the likes of D.J. Augustin, Jeff Teague, or Rajon Rondo as a teacher and 1 year stopgap. If Payton shoots the three ball at a higher clip this season, this signing may pay off in the end. Either way, bringing Payton back feels like the Knicks waiving the white flag as they’re pushing off their pursuit for a longterm answer at Point Guard further into the future.

Austin Rivers (3 Years, $3.17M) B

The Knicks needed shooting and shooting the Knicks have received in Rivers. He isn’t the most polished facilitator or defender, but his ability to knockdown catch and shoot threes will significantly help the Knicks space the floor offensively. Rivers will be a nice piece off the bench when the Knicks are without a knack for scoring and need a punch from deep. He should fit quite easily with everyone on the roster due to his ability to score without dribbling the air out of the basketball too. The best part of the Rivers addition other than the added shooting (the Knicks really needed shooting), is the longterm flexibility, low salary, and unguaranteed money involved in the deal. Rivers was a quality pickup, but it will be interesting to see who he plays alongside with and how many minutes he gets per game. I vision Rivers joining Burks/Bullock off the bench with a Point Guard and two big men.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Exhibit 10) N/A

The one time 2nd overall pick has never found a way to impact the game offensively in the NBA. Kidd-Gilchrist is a very solid defender and rebounder, but his lack of a jump-shot make it very hard for coaches to put him on the floor. I’d be surprised if he makes the Knicks roster post training camp.

Theo Pinson (Two-Way) N/A

One of the top celebrators and bench fanatics of the league, Pinson is an energizer and defender. Like Kidd-Gilchrist, his offensive game just isn’t at a high enough caliber for him to play consistently in the NBA. Pinson will likely find himself spending the majority of the year in Westchester.

Players Acquired via Trade

Jacob Evans (2 Years, $2.01M) N/A

The trend of the Knicks last few roster spots are that they all defend well. Evans is a quality defender and he owns a decent jumper. Even though Thibodeau loves his defense, Evans might not be talented enough to make the team due to the Knicks crowded Guard/Wing situation.

Omari Spellman (2 Years, $1.98M) C+

Spellman was worth a flyer for the Knicks who lack shooting and depth in the front court. Kenny Payne, the big man guru, has his work cut out for him, but Spellman has the tools to become a solid bench piece if he can get in better shape and hone his skills.

Draft Picks/Undrafted Signings

Obi Toppin (4 Years, $4.86M) A

I had Obi Toppin as the 6th best player in the 2020 draft. The Brooklyn native and the New York Knicks are a match made in heaven on paper. He wants to live/play in New York, give back to the community, and turn the Knicks into a winner. What more could you want? Dunks? Well he’s also the best dunker coming out of this draft and will surely have plenty of highlights in MSG. Toppin’s offensive game has tons of upside and will be successful on day one in the NBA. Defensively, he needs to get a lot better, but he’s recognized that. He’s accepted the challenge and looks forward to improving through the coaching of Tom Thibodeau and the rest of the Knicks staff. Toppin has a real chance to win Rookie Of The Year and become a fan favorite. It’s worth noting though, actions speak louder than words. Toppin hasn’t done anything yet and Knicks fans know their’s no such thing as a sure bet. Still, Knicks fans should be excited to have this promising phenom on their squad.

Immanuel Quickley (4 Years, $2.1M) B

Shooters come at a premium in the NBA and Quickley can shoot it. He’s a quality defender and can play on or off the ball offensively. Quickley needs to become a better facilitator and work on his handle, but his shooting and defense will likely earn him a roster spot this year. In a few years, Quickley may be a very serviceable role player.

Myles Powell (Exhibit 10) N/A

The Seton Hall standout was a nice pickup for the Knicks. Powell is a prolific scorer and has infinite range. He’s not the greatest defender or facilitator, but getting him in camp and seeing what he has was a smart move by the Knicks. I don’t think he will make the NBA roster, but I could see him playing in Westchester and possibly joining the Knicks later in the year or the following season.

Current Roster B-

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A pretty weak defensive roster, Thibodeau will rely heavily on Robinson and Noel to protect the paint. Ntilikina and Bullock appear to be destined for tons of run as well because of the roster’s construction. Their front court is balanced and talented, although it does lack some depth. New York’s issues arise in the backcourt. All of their guards tend to struggle at making the rest of their team better. Ntilikina is the best passer, but struggles at getting to the rim and breaking down defenses. Payton gets into the paint, but turns the ball over and can’t space the floor by knocking down threes. Smith Jr. struggles with turnovers, shooting, and defense as well. Rivers is a pure shooter, but not much of a facilitator. Barrett has shown the ability to play PG, but it’s clearly not his best position nor where his greatest potential lies. The Knicks desperately need one of these guards to step-up and make their teammates better. Knox’s shooting could prove to be a valuable asset and earn him much more playing time this season after the Knicks didn’t bring back Wayne Ellington, Damyean Dotson, Maurice Harkless, and Bobby Portis. Barrett, Burks, and Bullock will all likely spend time playing Small Forward, despite them all primarily being Shooting Guards. The biggest holes left on the Knicks roster are perimeter defense and facilitating. It will be very interesting to see how the minutes at Point Guard are distributed and how much Thibodeau will play defense over offense. The Knicks are currently looking like a 20-30 win team in the 2020-21, 72 game, season.

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Moving forward the Knicks find themselves with minimal longterm contracts, tons of draft picks in the near future, and a solid core comprised of R.J. Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Obi Toppin. They also have several role players who could blossom into nice pieces such as Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, and Dennis Smith Jr.. Burks, Bullock, Rivers, and Noel are good role players as well. Julius Randle is a quality player, but doesn’t fit with the Knicks longterm after the Toppin selection. Despite the Knicks solid base, the NBA is a league run by stars. For the Knicks to truly turn around their franchise, they likely will need to acquire a star. R.J. Barrett has a chance to be a perennial All-Star, but he will probably become a really good #2 option on a winning team. The Knicks have the cap flexibility and assets to acquire a superstar via trade or in the 2021 offseason. A year of losing could lead to another high draft pick and give them a swing at the highly touted 2021 draft class as well. Regardless of how the Knicks look to acquire a star caliber player, they need to add an All-Star caliber player in the next year or two if they want to make the jump from acquiring assets to winning games.

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