Knicks face immense competition with rival adding a third superstar

Apr 30, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) handles the ball against Philadelphia 76ers forward Nicolas Batum (40) and center Joel Embiid (21) during the first quarter of game 5 of the first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks have been active in the market, making several key moves aimed at building a team capable of competing with the Boston Celtics. Amidst these developments, their rivals, the Philadelphia 76ers, have also been enhancing their lineup, eyeing a championship run next season.

Knicks’ Strategic Acquisitions and Extensions

The Knicks successfully acquired Mikal Bridges from the Nets and secured OG Anunoby with an extension, solidifying their wing positions with two top-tier defenders who are also capable scorers. These moves contribute to what is considered one of the most formidable rosters in the league. Additionally, New York made efforts to re-sign Isaiah Hartenstein, which would have further strengthened their team dynamics.

Formidable Foes: The 76ers’ Response

In response to New York’s strategic enhancements, the 76ers made a significant move by signing Paul George to a four-year, $212 million maximum contract.

Paul George, Knicks
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

George, alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, aims to propel Philadelphia towards championship glory, potentially setting up a formidable clash with the Knicks. Despite his age, 34, George remains a prolific scorer, coming off a season where he averaged 22.6 points per game, although his playoff performance showed some decline.

The Eastern Conference Landscape

While the Knicks and 76ers bolster their lineups, the Boston Celtics continue to lead with their elite duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. However, the Knicks’ enhanced defensive capabilities could pose a significant challenge to Boston in the postseason. The addition of Bridges, known for his durability and consistent play, adds an essential element to the Knicks, potentially giving them an edge in terms of health and endurance.

Salary Cap Considerations

The Knicks are strategically managing their finances to avoid the first salary cap apron at $178 million, aiming to utilize up to $189.5 million under the second apron. This fiscal maneuvering is crucial as they attempt to secure Hartenstein’s return. Hartenstein, who has shown great chemistry with the team, met with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the Knicks’ pursuit came to an end on Monday as he signed a three-year, $87M deal, averaging $29M per season, well about their price-range.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) is defended by New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) during the second half during game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Bidding War for Hartenstein

While Leon Rose hoped to re-sign Hartenstein, the Oklahoma City Thunder, boasting players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and several key role players, also saw him as a perfect fit. Oklahoma’s favorable salary cap situation put them in a strong position to outbid New York, adding another layer of complexity to the Knicks’ off-season pursuit of a center.

Now, the Knicks will look to the backup market to help round out their center position, with Mitchell Robinson maintaining his role as the primary starter.

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