It hadn’t been 24 hours since the Lakers were swept by the Nuggets and eliminated from the playoffs, and oddsmakers were anointing the Knicks as the favorites to land LeBron James if he decides to leave Los Angeles.
James, however, has another year guaranteed with the Lakers and isn’t believed to be going to another team or retiring.
As silly as it may sound, I wouldn’t go against the oddsmakers, so I’ll just assert this: Carmelo Anthony won’t be the star coming to help the Knicks make the next step.
But the names that could appear on the market are intriguing — Karl-Anthony Towns, former Knick Kristaps Porzingis (along with most anyone else on the Wizards as they start up with a new front office).
Last week, we detailed some of the stars — and lesser pieces — who could be available and serve as fits moving forward. The first step in that decision-making is determining what the Knicks have and who will be a part of the next phase of their roster build.
Put one name in permanent marker — Jalen Brunson — and everyone else is worthy of a debate. So let’s settle the debate. The Knicks have draft assets to deal and an assortment of players they’ll have to decide whether to grow with or move on from.
The largest chip the Knicks could be willing to throw into a deal undoubtedly is Randle. He earned third-team All-NBA honors this season, which comes after a second-team All-NBA spot in the 2020-21 season. While a postseason letdown set much of the fan base on a rampage to get him out of town, he’s one of the few players in the NBA who can put up the sort of numbers he did — 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists per game. Factor in that he’s on a reasonable contract with three years and $90.1 million remaining on his four-year extension (the final year includes a player option worth $32.4 million).
So let’s say you’re talking about using him in a deal for Towns, who will make $36 million next season before his four-year, $224 million extension kicks in.
Would the Knicks be willing to give up on an All-NBA talent with a reasonable contract, not to mention ties to the front office? It would have to be an upgrade, and there are few upgrades at his position who contribute the way Randle does.
Additionally, if the Knicks are dealing for a star at another position, there is no replacement in place for Randle who compares to him, regardless of what the Obi Toppin supporters might say. Toppin has a skill set — scoring in transition, shooting open three-pointers — but does not demand double-teams the way Randle does. And defensively, he’s a liability.
The decision: Very unlikely to be dealt.
Barrett, who will turn 23 next month, has so much going for him. He has proved to be a reliable two-way player, averaging 16 points per game in his four seasons and basically 20 per game during the last two seasons. He probably was the Knicks’ second-best player in the 2023 postseason. And yet, if you take a peek at basketball-reference’s similarity scores, the player most similar to him through four seasons is . . . Toney Douglas.
Look at Douglas’ numbers with the Knicks, and you can ease your mind that they really are very little alike (and we’re all reconsidering this formula).
The reality is that the Knicks were open to dealing him last summer in a package for Donovan Mitchell when Barrett was coming off a far better season. So is a solid postseason run enough to take him off the market now? The Knicks have players who can fill his role — Quentin Grimes, Josh Hart — and if he were moved in a deal for a more accomplished shooter on the wing, they still would have depth.
The decision: As risky as it may be to let go of a former No. 3 overall pick, figure Barrett to be available in a deal for a higher-level star.
Barrett is not the only former lottery pick who could be moved this summer. Toppin has never quite found his place in New York after being the first draft pick of the current front office. He has ties that should protect him, however, as a CAA client who spent the summer before he was drafted working out with Jalen and Rick Brunson. While he has shown he can score when given a chance — 21.8 points per game in five starts this season — he has never shown the defensive acumen that Tom Thibodeau seeks.
He’s eligible for a contract extension this summer but that would seem unlikely to come, instead allowing him another year to prove himself — wherever he is.
The decision: It would make little sense for the Knicks to extend him. Figure the team might try to find him a place where he can have more opportunities rather than playing behind Randle.
This is tough. Robinson is a solid anchor of the defense who makes up for the defensive lapses of the rest of the starters. He is one of the best offensive rebounders in the game, but his offensive skills remain raw (you can count on one hand the times he’s scored when starting beyond an arm’s reach of the rim in his career). That was evident, particularly in the postseason, as the Knicks become a four-on-five attack. He was floated in packages last summer and could be again.
The decision: With a number of teams looking for a defensive big man, the Knicks will have the chance to consider a deal for the reasonably-priced Robinson.
There’s not much to say here after Fournier said it all — accurately — on the final day of the Knicks’ season. He was a good soldier while buried at the end of the bench. But the Knicks need someone who can defend, and he just wasn’t good enough to take minutes from Grimes or Hart.
The decision: The only task is to find a taker for a contract that has one more guaranteed year left at $18.9 million.
The toughest decision? Quickley raised his game this season, finishing second in the NBA Sixth Man of the Year balloting, providing the Knicks a consistent spark off the bench. The only reason he didn’t win was that he was too good when he was plugged in as a starter in place of Brunson, Grimes or Barrett.
So why would the Knicks ever consider moving him? Reminder: The front office likes Kentucky products, even if he’s not a CAA client. The considerations are hard to ignore, though. His value has risen around the league, and that means he’s going to get paid like a starter. Some in the Knicks’ front office believe he wants to be a starter. He’s eligible for a contract extension this summer and figures to be in line for a deal worth at least $20 million per season.
The decision: Quickley’s value might never be this high again — and the cost might never be justifiable for the Knicks — so the time might be right to center a package around him.