New York Knicks 2024 NBA offseason preview: Staying the course should be the focus

2023-24 season: 50-32

Highlight: The evolution of Jalen Brunson turning into a near superstar and a legitimate top-tier playoff performer, solidifying his status as the future of New York Knicks basketball.

Hurtfully. Literally. The Knicks were about as healthy as a dead person in the final stages of their season, having lost Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanović and Mitchell Robinson to injuries, while members of the remaining cast — Brunson, Josh Hart and OG Anunoby (returning for Game 7) — were playing hurt and playing heavy minutes.

Essentially, the Knicks came into the second half of the season with a real argument of being the deepest team in the Eastern Conference, but ended up running on fumes, ultimately causing their playoff demise, while having to start backup point guard Miles McBride in multiple games.

Needless to say, it’s impossible to point the finger too harshly at New York for their gas tank running empty. Instead, the main takeaway from this season is how close they are to being a major Eastern Conference powerhouse, pending the re-signing of Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein.

Furthermore, in the absence of three starters, Tom Thibodeau’s remaining troops stepped up to the plate and ultimately became better and more hardened NBA players as a direct result.

McBride will enter next season viewed as one of the better backup point guards in the league. Hart will be seen as more than a role player, but a major key to success with his versatility as a rebounder, playmaker and energy source. Hartenstein is going into this summer likely now viewed as being worthy to start full time, regardless of where he ends up.

All of this does present some challenges for the Knicks in regard to keeping the team together long term. However, given that New York has Brunson, Hart and McBride all on extremely team-friendly contracts, a pathway to keep most of this roster intact seems plausible.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 19: Josh Hart #3 of the New York Knicks walks across the court in the second quarter against the Indiana Pacers in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Second Round Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 2024 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 19: Josh Hart #3 of the New York Knicks walks across the court in the second quarter against the Indiana Pacers in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Second Round Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 2024 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Josh Hart and the Knicks had a brutal end to the season, but the future is looking up. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Is witch doctor a realistic ask? Injury prevention strategy aside, the Knicks could stand to find a new power forward, as they proved to function just fine, even deep into the playoffs, without Randle, who for years has been playing outside the flow of the offense. If they can pivot off his contract and replace him with someone who fits the structure of this roster better, that would be an attractive option.

Kansas senior Kevin McCullar Jr. could bring some immediate scoring with the secondary unit, or the Knicks could take a swing on Carlton “Bub” Carrington, a freshman guard out of Pittsburgh, in the first round. The second-round pick could be used as more of a draft-and-stash pick, with 6-foot-8 guard Justin Edwards from Kentucky or 6-8 wing Melvin Ajinça out of France being possibilities.

Draft picks: Nos. 24, 25 and 38

The Knicks will be an over-the-cap team this summer, as the cap hold of Anunoby will unquestionably keep them over that line. The 3&D forward is also expected to command a salary that will make him the highest-paid player on the team.

Assuming Anunoby is taken care of, Hartenstein is the next man up. The Knicks only have early Bird rights on him and will thus be limited in what they can offer. That said, Hartenstein’s open-market value might not deviate too much from any Knicks offer, so he could be back. It’s a big summer for the Knicks, and they’ll need to be thorough if they want much of the roster to return.

Key free agents

OG Anunoby (UFA — assuming he declines player option)

Isaiah Hartenstein (UFA)

Alec Burks (UFA)

Precious Achiuwa (RFA)

Stay healthy and get further in the playoffs. This team is built to compete now and could carve out a nice five-year window if it can keep the right players. A Finals run in the near future can’t be ruled out.

Talk about defying expectations. The Knicks showed marked improvement, driven by Brunson’s meteoric rise and the elevated play of Donte DiVincenzo and Hart. DiVincenzo and Hart took full advantage of their uptick in minutes down the stretch, becoming invaluable assets for fantasy managers. Injuries and a midseason trade opened up those minutes, but the chemistry was clear between the trio of former Villanova Wildcats.

Thibodeau’s coaching ethos of running tight rotations with heavy minutes for the starting unit tends to bode well for fantasy purposes — until players get hurt. McBride and Achiuwa had their moments as a result, and the Knicks’ underrated depth carried them and fantasy managers at various points. Hartenstein was another gem, becoming one of the best waiver pickups of the year after Robinson went down with an ankle injury in December. Hartenstein closed the year 75th in category leagues, and the Knicks should try to bring him back.

The Knicks are now faced with a pivotal decision regarding Randle. Having ascended to the second seed in the Eastern Conference and coming within a game of reaching the conference finals without him, the team’s success has raised some questions. The possibility of moving Randle is on the table. Should Randle remain a Knick, he should still be drafted in the fifth or sixth round.

Additionally, Anunoby’s likely decision to opt out of his $19 million player option adds to the intrigue of the upcoming offseason. Change is undoubtedly on the horizon, but the Knicks find themselves in the most promising position they’ve been in as a franchise in two decades.