The Donovan Mitchell competition ended last week. The Knicks, favorites throughout, fell through because Danny Ainge accepted an offer from the Cavaliers.
There will be another time for an in-depth analysis of Leon Rose’s offseason. A summer that has kept the Knicks in their confusing zone between rebuilding and winning now. The short version is that Rose used her lottery pick to clean up her past free agency mistakes and turn them into Jalen Brunson.
He then failed in the Mitchell negotiations, exposing the flaws in the larger asset accumulation plan for a successful trade.
What were these flaws?
Either the surplus of prospects and choices have been overvalued by the Knicks. Or, Rose and William Wesley aren’t the master negotiators/relationship gurus they’ve been sold on.
At least not when their negotiations involve Ainge. As an NBA source said of Rose signing Brunson, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett for a total of $320 million over the past two summers, “That’s a lot of money for the tournament play. -in.”
But again, we can break down their process some other time. Maybe Rose will finally answer this calendar year’s questions.
In the meantime, the outcome of Mitchell’s negotiations provided a clearer picture of the Knicks’ roster heading into training camp. Of course, potential trades are always looming. Russell Westbrook remains on the block. Cam Reddish wants to leave the Knicks for a bigger role. (“It’s clear that Cam doesn’t belong there,” a source close to the 23-year-old told the Daily News).
But the rotation will certainly not be revised to the level of a Mitchell trade. This allows us to take a clean look at the sequel. Four of the five starting points are essentially locked.
Projected Beginners: Jalen Brunson, Evan Fournier
Backups: Derrick Rose, Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride.
Breakdown: Brunson was handed a nine-figure contract to become the top point guard and playmaker. Providing clarity to a notoriously evolving position for the Knicks.
Fournier is the Knicks’ best shooter but may not be the best next to Brunson given their defensive shortcomings. Tom Thibodeau may look elsewhere for a starter, with Grimes as the main candidate.
Rose, 33, returns after missing most of last season due to ankle surgery. If Rose is healthy, there will be no minutes for McBride.
Projected Beginners: RJ Barrett, Julius Randle
Backups: Obi Toppin, Cam Reddish, Feron Hunt
Distribution: Barrett and Randle will consume the majority of minutes in these positions. And even when they’re on the bench, Thibodeau will sometimes use a three-guard formation to bolster the offense. In other words, don’t wait more minutes for Toppin or Reddish.
That’s anyone’s guess since the fan base is all behind Toppin, regularly chanting his name at MSG last season as Randle imploded. Reddish, a 2023 free agent, has no clear path to playing time after being acquired for a first-round pick last season.
For Thibodeau, the rules of this strategy are simple: if the Knicks win, criticism and angry reactions are silenced. Like there are two seasons. If they lose, he and Randle become the targets. Just like last season.
Projected Starter: Mitchell Robinson
Backups: Isaiah Hartenstein, Jericho Sims
Breakdown: Handing Robinson $60 million was a big gamble for the Knicks given injury and fitness issues, but it was nice to see the player rewarded after four seasons on a low-paying contract.
The 24-year-old is now the center of the present and the future, with hopes he can finally crack 30 minutes a game.
Hartenstein provides another element as a playmaker and jump shooter, which leaves Sims. An elite but undersized athlete with no great opportunity barring injuries and fouls