Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Knicks were 24 games under .500 when the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season. When your record is that bad, your team usually has several significant holes to fill.
The obvious one for New York this season was outside shooting. That's why some in the organization see finding a lead guard who can knock down a shot as a priority for the offseason.
But that's not the only area that could use an upgrade.
Prior to Leon Rose taking over, other areas of need identified by New York's front office/scouts included a forward who can stretch the floor.
One person in touch with members of the organization at the time said part of the thinking for the club's offseason was centered around finding players who complement rookie RJ Barrett.
"If you want to complement Barrett, that's where I'd go," one opposing front office member said. "Adding (a guard and big man who can shoot from the perimeter), you space the floor and make things easier for him. The floor was so crowded for them this year."
It's easy to find statistics that support this front office member's points.
The 2019-20 Knicks were 27th in both two-point and three-point field goal percentage. They had the fourth-lowest assist total per 100 possessions, worst true-shooting percentage and ranked 24th in percentage of free-throws attempted per field goal. (All stats from basketball-reference.com)
The need for shooting and a big man who is a threat from the perimeter was identified before Rose took over as team president. Rose has since brought in two assistant general managers and a vice president of basketball and strategic planning, who are working diligently and obviously involved in planning ahead, so the list of priorities may have changed.
But it's logical to think that those positions will at least be areas of interest for New York in the offseason. The New York Post reported that Rose told the Knicks in March that finding a scoring guard was the top priority in the draft and a shooting guard was the second priority. An SNY source said finding a forward who can knock down a shot -- in the draft or free agency -- is one item on the Knicks' list.
New York has two first-round picks and an early second-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Depending on where the salary cap ends up and what the Knicks do with players who have options on their contracts, the club can have roughly $60 million in cap space this summer.
So Rose & Co. will have plenty of tools to improve the roster. But the order of the lottery, where the cap ends up and whether the draft happens before or after free agency all factor in to what the Knicks can do this summer.
Can New York count on improved shooting from the big men on last year's team?
Julius Randle, who I think can be an impactful player if surrounded by guards/wings who can penetrate and are threats to shoot, converted just 28 percent of his three-point attempts.
Bobby Portis, who has a team option next season that opposing teams see as unlikely to be exercised, hit 36 percent of his three-point attempts (which matches his career average).
If the Knicks decide to look for a forward via free agency who can shoot, Danilo Gallinari, Carmelo Anthony and Christian Wood are potential options.
Some members of the Knicks front office were enamored with Wood over the course of the season.
Regarding Anthony, prior to free agency last summer, the Knicks strongly considered signing the ex-Knick if they were able to land two other stars. They missed out on the stars in free agency, which took Anthony out of their plans. Rose, the current team president, was Anthony's agent. The two remain close. Worth pointing out: the Knicks being open to looking for a big who can shoot doesn't necessarily reflect a desire to move on from Randle.
Randle is under contract for next season and has $4 million guaranteed for the 2021-22 season.
But the numbers -- and eye test -- suggest that the Knicks weren't effective when Randle and Barrett shared the floor last season. The club played 1,400 minutes with lineups featuring Barrett and Randle. New York was outscored by seven points per 100 possessions in those minutes and out-assisted by 3.5 assists per 100 possessions.
It's misguided to think that the Randle-Barrett pairing is solely responsible for those numbers. For one, there were three other Knicks on the court at the time. Also, some of the Barrett-Randle minutes may have come in garbage time.
But the poor stats are certainly worth keeping in mind as the Knicks approach the offseason and the 2020-21 campaign.