Following their unfortunate defeat in Game 6 against the Miami Heat, the New York Knicks are setting their sights on the off-season. The goal is to strengthen the team and increase their chances of making a more competitive run for the championship in 2024.
The Knicks currently have a superstar in Jalen Brunson around whom they can build. However, their primary focus is on nurturing their young talent. Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett, and Obi Toppin are all promising players, expected to have a significant impact on the team’s future unless President Leon Rose decides to trade some of them in the upcoming off-season.
There’s a distinct need for a top-tier shooting guard to alleviate some of the pressure from Brunson. Regrettably, power forward Julius Randle didn’t perform as expected during the postseason, enabling opposing teams to double-team Brunson and force him to relinquish the ball. Miami Heat’s successful defense against the Knicks’ star point guard highlighted the necessity for a skilled shooter who can draw substantial attention and create more space on the court.
Clearing salary space is essential for the Knicks:
Part of the Knicks’ off-season strategy involves offloading the remaining year on Evan Fournier’s contract. By trading him, the team could save $19 million, a significant portion of salary space that could be redirected towards acquiring a bonafide star.
Fournier recently reflected on his tenure in New York, revealing that he felt his season had ended long before, despite some faint hopes of contributing during the postseason.
“My season has been over for a very long time, actually,” Fournier said about his playing time, according to the New York Post. “This officially is the end, but my season was over a long time ago.”
Fournier, the French guard, is aware that he’s likely to be traded. At 30 years old, he only played in 27 games this past season, averaging 6.1 points, with shooting averages of .337 from the field and .307 from beyond the arc. His performance significantly declined compared to the 80 games he played during the 2021-22 season, primarily due to reduced playing time.
Fournier also mentioned that “obviously, there are going to be changes,” and added, “I’m going to get traded.”
The challenge for the Knicks is to convince a potential trade partner that Fournier still has value. Given that he averaged only 17 minutes per game, another team’s general manager would need to understand that he’s essentially a year removed from being a regular starter. The most plausible scenario is the Knicks absorbing some of his salary for him to play elsewhere unless they’re willing to offer another asset along with Fournier to sweeten the deal.
“There’s no way they’re going to keep me. I would be very surprised if they did,” Fournier told the New York Post last Friday. “It’s obviously not in my hands.”
In one way or another, the Knicks urgently need to reallocate Fournier’s financial commitment to other players. It’s crucial to retain Josh Hart, and decisions need to be made regarding Miles McBride, likely to be kept, and Jericho Sims.
Fortunately, they have most of their key starters under contract. Therefore, finding a way to offload Fournier’s contract and declining the $15.6 million club option on Derrick Rose’s contract are top priorities.
If the Knicks are serious about making a credible attempt at the championship within the coming two years, they must secure a star player to team up with Brunson. Julius Randle may have shone during the regular season, but his lackluster playoff performance suggests he doesn’t elevate his game when it matters most, implying he could potentially be traded.
Nevertheless, head coach Tom Thibodeau holds Randle in high regard, making it quite improbable that the Knicks will part ways with the power forward.