Leon Rose and the Knicks have decisions to make this offseason. It starts with pick No. 11 in the draft, but it’s going to be a busy offseason on almost every team-building front — coaching carousel, draft, free agency, and trades.
Gut feeling says Johnnie Bryant stays. This isn’t any insider information or even “reading the tea leaves” on the current reporting. But my gut tells me Johnnie Bryant would be nuts to take the Jazz job.
Yes, his strong relationship with Donovan Mitchell cultivated during Bryant’s time as an assistant with the Jazz is well-documented. For that reason alone, decision-makers in Utah will take a long, hard look at Bryant. Pleasing Mitchell is going to top the list of offseason priorities in Salt Lake City.
However, Bryant doesn’t need to jump at the first job he’s offered. There are so many variables and moving parts in that organization. There is no guarantee that hiring Bryant will be enough to keep Mitchell satisfied. There are changes coming in Utah and Bryant could be left holding the bag — and in this case “the bag” is a rebuilding team, not a monster contract.
The alternative for Bryant? Stay on as Tom Thibodeau’s lead assistant in New York. If the Knicks underachieve again next year, the up-and-coming assistant is the likely in-season replacement for Thibs. On the flip side, if the Knicks perform well, Bryant will be one of the top candidates during the next coaching cycle.
Julius Randle trade happens on draft night. The Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers, and Portland Trail Blazers are all potential trade partners on draft night. That’s not to say Randle is destined to go to any of those three places, but expect to see some movement on that night.
The Knicks love to make moves on draft night, jockeying for positioning the last two years under Leon Rose. This would be a major splash and it could be best for all parties involved after Randle’s head-scratching regression. To be clear, Randle is still a valuable player and potential All-Star, but he looks like someone who wants out of New York, even if he says the opposite publicly.
Trading up for Jaden Ivey is a worthwhile gamble. The Randle to Sacramento fit feels a bit clunky, but the Knicks still might be able to make a trade up to pick No. 4. If they can, they should. Jaden Ivey can be the real deal and he presents as an ideal fit with Immanuel Quickley.
IQ deserves a chance to start after the way he finished last season. In his last 24 games, Quickley averaged 16.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists on 45/39/85 shooting splits. Not to mention, the long guard is a plus-defender.
In short, IQ is ready to lead while Ivey grows into his role as a lead guard. If everything goes right, the Knicks won’t need a point guard of the future. They will have two starting lead guards who can play off one another.
Building from within should be the goal. If there is one conclusion to draw from this season, it’s that the superteam model is falling out of fashion. The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers failed spectacularly after following this model. The two teams in the NBA Finals? Both homegrown teams built upon shrewd drafting and development.
Next season’s goal should be about empowering RJ Barrett, Quickley, Obi Toppin, and this year’s lotto pick (and to a lesser extent Quentin Grimes, Jericho Sims, and Deuce McBride). Thibs didn’t recognize this early enough last year.
Even if the Knicks want to go after stars in free agency or via trades, they need a strong foundation. An emerging young core is the best way to create a sustainable winner.