The New York Knicks already look like a major problem for the entire NBA next season and beyond. They are close to competing for their first NBA Championship in more than 30 years, but close doesn't cut it.

There were two important things missing from the Knicks' roster in 2023-24: Health, because this season's team was among the most injured playoff squads in recent memory, and perimeter scoring. The former is out of their control. But the latter is very much in their control, and the offseason is the exact time to address it.

Before anyone gets too excited, we must address New York's salary cap situation. The Knicks have $122,927,937 in guaranteed salaries and $26,758,113 of team or player options, for a total of sums about $150 million. The 2024-25 cap is projected for $141 million.

Thankfully, the Knicks remain $21 million below the luxury tax, $28 million below the first apron threshold, and about $39 million below the second apron threshold. And that’s before re-signing OG Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein, neither of which is a foregone conclusion.

The aforementioned salary cap notes are important to mention because they dictate how much wiggle room the Knicks have to work with this summer. To summarize, there isn't much. Even waiving Bojan Bogdanovic ($2 million guaranteed) and Jericho Sims (team option) doesn't create nearly enough cap space to chase a star free agent. And remember, Bogdonovic’s contract is a valuable trade piece given that it expires after the 2024-25 season.

Someone like DeMar DeRozan would obviously fit with the Knicks. But he, and other potential big-name targets, will have to be added via trade given the Knicks' limited cap space. So, what’s more likely is that New York makes smaller free-agent signings.

Still, targets exist that could serve as an upgrade. Specifically, the idea of adding another backup point guard or center—given Hartenstein's foray into free agency—should be high on the Knicks’ list. A backup wing is also something worth exploring.

2024 NBA free agent Russell Westbrook celebrating with James Harden
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook is an interesting target. He can become an unrestricted free agent if he declined his $4.6 million player option with the Los Angeles Clippers. If he does so, Westbrook adds a lot of what the Knicks were missing this season.

The former MVP is a dynamic playmaker who can still score in bunches. He is far from where he was at his peak, but that’s fine. The Knicks don’t need a triple-double machine. They need scoring and playmaking, and Westbrook absolutely fills those needs. He averaged 11.1 points and 4.5 assists in 22.5 minutes per game in 2023-24, more than sufficient for a sixth or seventh man.

If Westbrook opts in or signs elsewhere, the Knicks could look to add unrestricted free agent Tyus Jones. Jones is more of a traditional point guard, so his utility would be limited in New York behind Jalen Brunson. But his skill set and expertise would be incredible, and he would make for a perfect backup if Miles McBride is moved in a major trade. Jones would be an expensive addition, though.

Alternatively, Spencer Dinwiddie or Eric Gordon could fill that void, too. Dinwiddie is set to enter unrestricted free agency, whereas Gordon has a player option for 2024-25.

Kelly Oubre

Kelly Oubre just demonstrated his value against the Knicks in the playoffs as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. And while a backup wing might not be a tremendous priority for New, there are rumblings that OG Anunoby could explore the free agent market. In other words, this signing could be as a backup, or it could be as a starter.

Oubre hounded and annoyed Brunson for much of their first-round matchup, spearheading what looked like a brilliant defensive strategy through Games 1 and 2. He is a long defender with a seven-foot-three-inch wingspan. He is an average three-point shooter but has sneaky utility on the offensive end. Oubre will enter unrestricted free agency this offseason after playing on a minimum deal in 2023-24. Oubre will probably have numerous suitors, but he would look great in blue and orange.

If Oubre is unattainable, Caleb Martin is another wing the Knicks could explore. Martin has a $7.126 million player option with the Miami Heat for 2024-25. If Martin opts out, he would probably be even more expensive than Oubre as a versatile wing who averaged 10 points and 4.4 assists in 27 minutes per game this season while connecting on 35% from beyond the arc.

Andre Drummond

Finally, the Knicks might have to explore another center if Hartenstein isn’t re-signed. Mitchell Robinson can easily slide back into the starting spot, but he has been injury-prone in his six NBA seasons.

With that in mind, New York needs a qualified backup, and Andre Drummond should be more than enough, at least for the short term. Like Robinson and Hartenstein, Drummond is a rebound machine, averaging nine boards in about 17 minutes per game with the Chicago Bulls this season. And the big, burly veteran brings a physicality to the game that few centers can replicate. Drummond made only $3.36 million in 2023-24, so he should be an affordable addition.

If Drummond signs elsewhere, Jalen Smith is also worth consideration, but he would be more expensive. The 24-year-old has a $5.4 million player option with the Indiana Pacers for 2024-25. He really developed his three-point shot this season, connecting on 42.4% of his attempts. He also averaged 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in just 17.2 minutes per game.

So, if Smith prefers a larger role given the Pacers' success with Myles Turner, he could look to join the club his current team just eliminated from the playoffs, but only if Hartenstein moves on. Otherwise, there simply isn't a need for New York in the middle.

New York has plenty of free-agent options. No combination of free agents will completely remake the team's dynamic and style, as there simply isn't enough cap space to facilitate that kind of a facelift. But that shouldn't be the goal. The Knicks are closer to true contention than anyone thought they would be at this point in time. So, minor tweaks are all they need, at least via free agency.