The New York Knicks were arguably the best story of the 2020-21 NBA season. With their team eliminated from the playoffs so early, it’s easy to forget just how magical it was for them to actually just be there in the first place.
The Knicks finished as the sixth-worst team in the entire Association a season ago, with no lottery luck to ease the pain of another bottom-feeder finish. One of the most shocking aspects of the Knicks’ turnaround is just how exactly they got there. New York has spent years striking out at signing some big fish free agents, famously spurned by Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant for the rival Brooklyn Nets a season ago. But instead of finally hitting it big, they found their footing in-house by developing their players, putting better decision-makers in charge, and signing the right coach to steer the ship.
But as great as last season was, the honeymoon period is already over for the Knicks. They played with house money this season, with fans just happy to see some postseason action again. They won just one game, but that’s one more than anyone expected before the season began.
However, with success comes heightened expectations. Julius Randle went from city-wide darling to worrisome underperformer in a matter of five games against the Atlanta Hawks. Both Randle and the Knicks are expected to only get better, but the roster as it stands doesn’t have much of a ceiling beyond another first-round exit. That’s why the Knicks’ offseason moves become vital in ensuring their middling squad takes the next step.
Signing an All-Star player who has spent his entire career doing just that should be top priority.
Knicks must go for broke on Chris Paul
Yes, Chris Paul is playing some of the best basketball of his life with the Phoenix Suns, who are a stone’s throw away from a trip to the Western Conference Finals. But I’d argue that the more success he garners with the Suns this season, especially if he wins the whole damn thing, the more likely it is that he departs for greener, money-colored pastures.
He has a massive player option for a whopping $44.2 million on the final year of his deal that he signed with the Houston Rockets. But Chris Paul is also reportedly eyeing one more huge splash while he’s still playing at an elite level, one with more guaranteed money. That’s where the Knicks can possibly swoop in.
Via Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:
“The Chris Paul player option — $44.2 million — will be interesting to watch. Execs I’ve talked to peg CP in the three-year, $60 million-ish range on a new deal. Does Paul go for the most guaranteed money? Or does he pick up the option and bet he has another All-Star season?”
While there are no guarantees that CP3 does actually opt out and leave that huge sum on the table, he’ll definitely feel out his options when the time comes, so New York must be ready to strike if he actually decides to look elsewhere. The Knicks have just eight players under contract next season, six of whom are still on their first contract with cap-friendly totals. That leaves them with a giant pile of money readily available to make a move for an All-Star. Wouldn’t it be just fitting for the Knicks to finally get the superstar signing they’ve yearned after all these years? It just took them putting the egg before the chicken to get there.
Chris Paul would be an absolute godsend for the Knicks franchise. His no-nonsense approach to the game would fit in seamlessly with what the Knicks are trying to do under Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau. With Paul running the show, the peripheral stars like Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and fellow youngsters Mitchell Robinson and Immanuel Quickley can all fall in line and thrive in their roles.
CP3 did exactly that for a similarly despondent Suns franchise that’s now knocking on the door of their first championship in franchise history. He turned a surefire lottery team in the Oklahoma City Thunder a season ago into a playoff squad that was on pace for 50 wins had the season not gotten cut short.
The Knicks need Chris Paul to work his magic on their franchise next. They’ve built the perfect foundation for him to do just that, filling the team with young, talented players who can fill roles but also step up when need be. Now they just need Leon Rose to work his magic on the NBA star he’s had a long-standing relationship with. No pressure, though.