Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives ahead of Indiana Pacers...

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives ahead of Indiana Pacers guard Ben Sheppard (26) in the 2nd quarter in game 7 of an NBA playoff Eastern Conference Semi-final round, Sunday May 19, 2024, in Manhattan at Madison Square Garden. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Moments after the season ended a week ago, Tom Thibodeau was asked about the next steps the Knicks need to take to push them past the second round of the playoffs. It’s the same place where the crash has come for two straight seasons.

“It’s hard to say right now because it’s raw and you haven’t had a chance to dig into everything,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll get a chance to do that. We have draft picks, there’s free agency.

“But also to dig into our team and lock into how we can get better and take the next step. So there’s the internal development, then there’s the draft. And you can always add talent there. Then free agency and trades. So we’ll dig in deep. But usually what we do is take a couple weeks to recharge and then do the deep dive and figure the plan out.”

The Knicks have a couple of weeks — maybe a couple of months — but those decisions have to be made this summer. In particular will be whether to run it back with the majority of the roster and simply hoping for health to make the difference.

Last season Julius Randle was playing hobbled on an ankle that required surgery at the end of the playoffs. This season nearly the entire rotation was ravaged by injuries.

So there is reason to believe that if only Randle and OG Anunoby had been healthy, the Knicks would have beaten Indiana. If Jalen Brunson hadn’t fractured his left hand in Game 7, maybe they could have beaten the Boston Celtics. Just keep adding surgically repaired pieces — Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic — until you are convinced that the Knicks have the depth, talent and toughness to contend with any team.

Unless you don’t believe, and in that case, the decision really needs to happen this summer before the Knicks are limited by contracts that could restrict the ability to make a deal.

Randle and Brunson are eligible for contract extensions this summer. Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein are unrestricted free agents who will command pricey contracts to keep them in place.

The Knicks have managed the cap well under the leadership of team president Leon Rose, along with senior vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and vice president of basketball and strategic planning Brock Aller. But with Anunoby expected to command a deal in the range of $35 million per season, the stars will have to fall in line. Does Brunson accept the four-year, $156.5 million extension that sources have said he is open to considering this summer? Do the Knicks follow that with an extension for Randle that could go to four years and $181 million?

The contract considerations this summer:



OG Anunoby: He has a $19.9 million player option that he certainly will opt out of shortly. Despite rumors popping up this past week that other teams believe they can outbid the Knicks for his services, the Knicks knew what they were getting into when they traded for him.

While the team flourished with him in the lineup, he might be No. 3 on their star ranking. Still, the cost of doing business will be that he’s the highest-paid (at least until extensions kick in for Brunson and Randle). Family ties — agency and actual — would hint that both sides know the math and will make it work.

Isaiah Hartenstein: With Robinson’s injury history — and his offensive abilities — the Knicks need Hartenstein back, and both sides seem intent on a deal. But the Knicks can offer him only up to four years and $72.5 million, so could some other team pluck him away? While they don’t have a history of overpaying, the Oklahoma City Thunder would be a perfect fit and have $33 million in cap space.

Alec Burks: They tried. It didn’t work until the roster was barren late in the postseason, but the match wasn’t what it was when he was with the team three years ago. He wanted to be a scorer with free agency approaching and the Knicks wanted someone to organize the second unit in the brief minutes Brunson was on the bench. He left CAA for Klutch and figures to find a new home.

Precious Achiuwa: A restricted free agent, he showed enough that someone might offer the versatile big man a reasonable deal — and it would be surprising if the Knicks matched it with their cap constraints, approaching the luxury tax and first apron.



Before this went viral this past week, word from both sides is that there is a belief that Brunson will be open to signing an extension this summer worth $156.5 million over four years rather than waiting until next summer, when the number jumps to five years and $270 million. But those hints came before Brunson finished fifth in the MVP balloting and carried the team on his shoulders in the postseason.

Still, it’s worth considering that the difference is not as black and white as the price difference. Besides locking into security this summer, with a player option in the extension, he would be able to reach the veteran level with the ensuing extension — a bigger deal while still in his prime (also with the new TV deal in place by the NBA, although with cap smoothing, it won’t represent a massive jump).

Randle is a different issue. The four-year, $181 million extension he can sign this summer would make him the highest-paid player on the team and likely satisfy him — and if Brunson gets his extension, Randle likely will be looking for his in August when he’s eligible. Then the Knicks will have to decide whether they want to commit that cash and how it will affect possible player movement in the future.



Brunson oddly was left off the All-NBA first-team selection despite finishing fifth in MVP balloting. Voters pushed him into the top five of the MVP but still jumped Jayson Tatum over him in the All-NBA decision.

He was left off one All-NBA ballot completely by Greek media member Tolis Kotzias — maybe not the oddest choice of the votes from Kotzias, who left Luka Doncic completely off his MVP ballot.



Jalen Brunson: A+

Deserved his All-Star spot last year. But did anyone outside of the Brunson family expect this?

Julius Randle: A-

Another All-Star season, but ending halfway through.

Josh Hart: A

Energy source for the team.

Donte DiVincenzo: A-

Emerged as a starter with two-way talent, but next step is avoiding the inconsistent stretches.

OG Anunoby: A-

With him the Knicks were spectacular, but he was sidelined for 31 of 63 games.

Isaiah Hartenstein: B+

Took over as the starter, held up defensively and lifted the offense.

Deuce McBride: B+

From out of the rotation to key contributor, McBride was a revelation. Needs only to develop point guard leadership skills to add to defense and shooting.

Mitchell Robinson: B

Started the season as by far the best offensive rebounder in the NBA and defended at an elite level. But injuries again derailed his season.

Precious Achiuwa: C

Up-and-down performance. Came up big in spots, including in the postseason.

Bojan Bogdanovic: C-

Inconsistent stretches. Showed the ability to do what he was brought here for — score off the bench.

Alec Burks: D

Just never got on track for the role he was brought in for and struggled even with his scoring until his late postseason run.

Jericho Sims: C-

Took a step backward. Never laid claim to rotation minutes as his offense stagnated and his defense against bigger bodies regressed.


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