As hard as it is to believe, a new NBA season is upon us! It feels like it was just yesterday when Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets won their first NBA championship, coasting by the Miami Heat. One team that shocked many last season was the New York Knicks. The Knicks surprised many, winning their first playoff series in 10 seasons after an excellent 47-35 campaign. There is no denying that the heart and soul of this Knicks team is Jalen Brunson. Last season was Brunson’s debut in the Big Apple, and he played excellent, putting the team on his back when it mattered most, as everyone else stalled out during the playoffs. If Julius Randle and RJ Barrett matched their regular season efficiency numbers, New York’s series against the Miami Heat could have gone differently. Despite this, there is much to look forward to. Barrett gains another year of experience, Immanuel Quickley faces the opportunity of becoming a star and Randle has a chance to show the NBA world that he is a threat in primetime games. In this week’s edition of Sargeant’s Orders, we will discuss this and preview everything New York Knicks basketball.
Unless you are coming off an NBA championship, franchises typically shake up the roster with new talent, whether through the draft or free agency, and the Knicks took no exception to this notion. New York freed up much of their cap space, declining Derrick Rose’s $15 million option and getting Josh Hart to take his $12.96 million option. Keeping Rose didn’t make sense, as Quickley was playing at an all-star level at the tail end of the year and James Dolan’s squad retained an elite defender in Miles McBride on a discount, a one-year $2 million deal.
In case you missed it, Leon Rose and Co. made a critical free agency signing, inking Donte DiVincenzo to a four-year, $47 million deal. The acquisition of DiVincenzo sets New York up for success in many ways. DiVincenzo joins Brunson and Hart as the third Villanova alumnus on this New York squad, meaning there will be chemistry from day one. While DiVincenzo isn’t a monster scorer, he is a solid bench piece who will make an immediate impact. Last season, the 26-year-old averaged just under 10 points in 26 minutes per game, on 44% from the field and nearly 40% from beyond the arc, addressing the Knicks’ needs for wing depth and shooting.
Many times last season, Barrett struggled to do anything right, missing open shots, turning the ball over and giving up easy looks in transition. Because of this, it was common to see Hart run with the first squad. Head coach Tom Thibodeau was met with immense pressure all season long to bench the former Duke star, as Barrett’s efficiency, offensive win share and Win Shares Per 48 minutes, among others, were much lower than his backup, Hart. WS/48 is an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player per 48 minutes, with the league average WS/48 at .100. All of New York’s starters had a rating above the league average except for Barrett who owned an average of .048.
There is little doubt that the Knicks will make the playoffs again, with the new expanded format taking in the top 10 teams. As it sits, they have the potential to win a championship. However, it is hard to see them surpass the Milwaukee Bucks, who acquired Damian Lillard in a blockbuster three-team trade for many first-round draft picks, Jrue Holiday and Grayson Allen. New York needs to follow the Bucks’ steps and trade for a superstar, and the perfect candidate is Joel Embiid.
The 76er’s future does not look promising, as the gap between them, the Celtics and the Bucks has widened by a large margin. James Harden requested a trade over the summer and Embiid appears to be going in the same direction.
“If every year is going to be the same thing, that doesn’t put you closer to winning a championship. That gets frustrating. But I also believe it doesn’t matter who’s on the team, I’m always going to have a chance to win.” Embiid added, “I just wanna win a championship, whatever it takes. I don’t know where that’s gonna be, whether that’s in Philly or anywhere else.”
The 76ers can’t win in the present state of the Eastern Conference, and the front office needs to take notes from the Trail Blazers. Lillard had immense value for the Blazers. They had no chance of winning a championship with only Lillard, and he recognized this, so he requested a trade. The Blazers trade sets them up for success, gaining a significant bundle of future talent. Harden has his foot out of the door, and Embiid’s value is diminishing on the 76ers as he grows frustrated with the franchise.
The Knicks own 11 first-round draft picks from 2024 to 2030. Of these picks, eight are available for trade. The New York stockpile of draft picks is valuable to the rest of the league, with seven of their picks being unprotected, therefore a higher value to the rest of the Association. If they want the best chance at winning a championship, they need to offer a handsome trade package that Philadelphia cannot refuse. New York’s draft capital is so rich that there are scenarios in which they keep Brunson, Barrett, Quickley and Randle. If they earnestly press this issue, they will be the favorites for winning the NBA Finals.
The sun shines brightly over Madison Square Garden for the first time in years. The Knicks are a young team. They are a team that will compete for a championship for years to come. There is no doubt that the acquisition of a superstar would put them over the top, and if they can acquire Embiid, the rest of the league is in hot water. For the first time in a long time, New York Basketball is back.