What’s next for the Knicks?

After an unexpectedly strong season for the Knicks, the team’s offseason preparations will determine whether they can improve on the past year’s success.

The+Knicks+proved+their+doubters+wrong+in+the+2020-21+season%2C+finishing+41-31+and+making+the+playoffs.+This+offseason+is+key+to+continuing+their+success.+%28Staff+Illustration+by+Manasa+Gudavalli%29

Manasa Gudavalli

The Knicks proved their doubters wrong in the 2020-21 season, finishing 41-31 and making the playoffs. This offseason is key to continuing their success. (Staff Illustration by Manasa Gudavalli)

By Ethan Hourizadeh, Staff Writer

This past season for the New York Knicks was full of surprises. Many sports media outlets predicted that the Knicks season would be another disappointing one, as the team had not made the playoffs in the past seven seasons. Vegas bettors predicted the Knicks to win only around 23 games in the 72-game season. The Knicks proved the doubters wrong, though, by winning 41 games and making the NBA playoffs as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Unable to slow down Trae Young, the Knicks fell to the Atlanta Hawks in their first-round matchup. Knicks star Julius Randle, who won the Most Improved Player award for his performance during the season, underperformed in the playoff series, shooting just 29.8% from the field. The Knicks’ young core showed flashes of greatness, but their inexperience clearly showed — the pressure seemed at times too great for them to handle. Nevertheless, the Knicks undoubtedly exceeded expectations this past season.

With NYU students returning to in-person activities in New York City next semester, the Knicks’ performance has affected us all. The team’s success has had an impact on the morale of New Yorkers as a whole, not just their fans.The atmosphere at Madison Square Garden, especially during the playoffs, is one of the best in the NBA. The fan energy made Game 2 against the Hawks an unforgettable experience. When Reggie Bullock hit a 3-pointer to put the Knicks up by five with three minutes remaining, the entire crowd at the Garden got out of their seats and roared. Knicks rookie Obi Toppin said that the players “felt the floor shaking.”

The Knicks have a lot of key decisions to make regarding their roster for next season. The team must first decide which of their players with expiring contracts to re-sign, focusing on Derrick Rose, Reggie Bullock, Alec Burks, Taj Gibson, Nerlens Noel and Frank Ntilikina. Rose is essential to the team for his ability in tough situations to not only score but also enable his teammates. He is the one player that needs to be brought back regardless of who else the Knicks bring in. The Knicks should also re-sign one of their two main 3-point shooters, Bullock and Burks, and either Gibson or Noel should also be brought back to maintain the Knicks’ elite defense. Many fans hope to see fan-favorite Ntilikina return on a team-friendly deal, but it’s not clear if the new team management sees enough value in his defense to use a roster spot on him. The team may prioritize saving money to re-sign Randle next offseason and make a big move in free agency.

This offseason, the NBA has a few star free agents that the Knicks will be looking at. However, with the chances of landing a star like Kawhi Leonard being so low, the Knicks should look to sign rotation pieces to address their subpar 3-point shooting and lack of a true point guard outside of Rose. Duncan Robinson, Lonzo Ball and Chris Paul are the players the Knicks should focus on, assuming they can not acquire Leonard. Lastly, in this upcoming NBA Draft, the Knicks should use their mid-first round draft capital to trade for a star or an earlier draft pick.

One star Knicks fans have dreamed of acquiring is Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. Lillard’s ability to shoot from anywhere in front of the half-court line directly meets the Knicks’ needs of floor spacing and 3-point shooting. However, the Knicks might have to give up a lot to get Lillard — it may take three to four first-rounders as well as RJ Barrett or Immanuel Quickley. After a season that showed lots of hope for the Knicks, it is essential that they continue to make changes for a chance at a deeper playoff run in the near future.

Contact Ethan Hourizadeh at [email protected]