After an unexpected 41-31 season that resulted in the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks figure to be a bit more aggressive this offseason than what may have been initially planned.
Tom Thibodeau’s club, led by Julius Randle, showed a ton of grit and played stout defense all season long this past year. While the offense wasn’t bad by any stretch, it was missing one big thing: a true lead point guard.
Derrick Rose was awesome off the bench and then in the starting lineup during the playoff run for the Knicks. If they bring him back in free agency (and they should) he best fits as the lead guard for the second unit, a spot he excelled in after being traded from Detroit to New York.
Leon Rose and the Knicks will have tons of options to go through as they try and target in on the future point guard in the Mecca. They can go the free agency route, the trade route, or even go for a restricted free agent.
Here are the three point guards the Knicks should target in the offseason, ranked.
3.) Chris Paul – player option to become free agent
Chris Paul has put together a masterpiece this season with the Phoenix Suns. Winners of the Western Conference, CP3 is set to play in the first NBA Finals of his storied career.
While it would seem like an easy decision for Paul to return to Phoenix after winning the West, his contract may suggest otherwise. CP3 has a $44.2 million player option that he can opt out of and become a free agent. Many believe he will do just that while he seeks a multi-year deal. Enter the Knicks.
Knicks President Leon Rose is Chris Paul’s former agent, so there’s a solid foundation in that aspect. There were plenty of CP3-to-Knicks rumors last year before he opted to go to Phoenix. Such rumors popped up again during the offseason.
The big reason Paul is No. 3 on this list and not one or two is the window of opportunity.
CP3 is still playing at a very high level, as evidenced by his play this year. However, he’s 36 years old and the Knicks have a very young roster. They shouldn’t push all their chips in to try and win a title right now. Brooklyn still has their big three, Milwaukee isn’t going anywhere anytime soon in the East. While Paul would be a great addition, it would mean adding a piece with the idea of going all-in for the short term.
He’s a great player and would be awesome for the Knicks, but it would be in a very short time window.
2.) Lonzo Ball – restricted free agent
Lonzo Ball is set to be a restricted free agent and there are questions swirling as to whether or not the New Orlean Pelicans will be receptive and willing to match a big offer sheet.
With Brandon Ingram already on a max contract and Zion Williamson heading that direction once his rookie deal is up, cap space could become an issue for New Orleans if they break the bank for Lonzo.
Ball improved his shooting from the outside in a big way last year. Playmaking has never been a question and neither has the basketball intelligence. The two question marks have always been shooting and his ability to stay healthy and stay on the floor.
At just 23 years old, Ball would likely be the best fit for this Knicks roster from an age perspective. While New York might be looking for more of a scoring point guard, Ball is starting to elevate and grow that part of his game more and more.
He’s excellent at facilitating and getting everyone involved. It would be a sight for sore eyes as the team had Elfrid Payton as the starting point guard for much of 2020-21.
The question for the Knicks is finding the right price they feel is fair for Ball and New York while being something New Orleans wouldn’t match.
1.) Damian Lillard – trade
Damian Lillard checks in on this list because of the three players mentioned here, he’s the best of both worlds.
He’s younger than Paul (Lillard is just 30 years old) and Dame is firmly in the prime of his career. And unlike Ball, there are absolutely no questions about Lillard’s shot.
The downside in a Damian Lillard-Knicks deal is that it would have to happen via trade. The Knicks can get CP3 without giving up anything on their roster if he opts out. The Knicks can sign Lonzo Ball to an offer sheet. If the Pelicans don’t match, the Knicks give up nothing to get Ball. But to get Lillard, it means putting together a big trade package.
As long as that package doesn’t include RJ Barrett, why not take the swing if you’re the Knicks? Throw in all the first-round picks you want and they’ll throw in a couple of young, promising players as well.
The window would be wide open and Lillard figures to be in his prime for the next handful of years. Lillard along with Randle and Barrett could do some damage in the East. And even if the Knicks were to make a deal for Dame, they’d have cap space left to keep adding pieces. Because of his age and how good he is, Damian Lillard is the No. 1 option for the Knicks this offseason even though it would mean parting ways with picks and players. Just not RJ Barrett.