The New York Knicks are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, who played without CJ McCollum, who was traded at the deadline, and Damian Lillard due to injury.
The Knicks have dropped to a new low on the season, failing to beat teams littered with reserved players. With a 20 point lead at one point in the game, picking up a loss is a testament to the lack of willpower and energy they’ve displayed all season long.
With Tom Thibodeau’s team dropping to just 25 wins, seven games below .500, some are beginning to wonder who must take responsibility for the team’s shortcomings. Did the front office miss significantly in the off-season, or is Thibodeau failing to get the best of his players?
Both factors hold reason, and after such a polarizing change in direction, luring big names to the big apple might be far more difficult than it was last off-season. The Knicks had leverage in 2021, targeting players like Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal, but with Julius Randle struggling after his All-Star performance in 2021 and the Knicks’ free agent acquisitions showing wild inconsistencies, they may have to hit restart once again.
Ultimately, the Knicks need a legitimate star alongside Randle to take the pressure off. If you look over at the Brooklyn Nets, they have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons — they’re still not a lock to win a championship.
If the Knicks really want a big name like Lillard, who the team could pursue once again next off-season, they will have to be content with losing one of their rising young players.
“If they’re going to be in the hunt for Lillard, they’d have to have a good lottery pick this year,’’ one NBA executive said, via Marc Berman of the New York Post. “Because they’d have to give up RJ Barrett. I don’t see how they get him otherwise.’’
Realistically, the Knicks will end up in the bottom half of teams in the 2022 NBA draft, but they could make a run at the play-in tournament. If they have a high selection that holds value, Portland, who recently sold the house at the deadline, could be willing to part ways with Lillard and his massive contract.
Lillard signed an extension in 2020, earning over $40 million per season over the next three years with a player option in 2024. Currently, Lillard is out after undergoing abdominal surgery, so it is possible he doesn’t play again this season.
Nonetheless, the Knicks have no shot at being a championship-caliber team with the current players on the roster. They made drastic mistakes in free agency, whereas they should’ve gone after players like DeMar DeRozan, who’s having one of his best years in the league.