As the Knicks continue to take steps forward, roster depth and belief in their players will be important pieces of the puzzle.

We’re finally here, folks: the start of the annually anticipated Free Agency season, keeping the NBA very relevant and top-of-mind beyond the calendar months of when games are played. Heated debates, opinions on how to upgrade rosters, and the occasional blockbuster acquisitions that shift the balance of power in the Association, among other things, always keep the discussions in the summer alive and interesting, to say the least.

Tonight at 6:00 pm EST, Free Agency officially begins for all, including the Knicks, who have already been linked to a plethora of names hitting the market. The discourse this time of year surrounding the ‘Bockers is different from year to year and usually is a polarizing topic, especially if you are in the weeds of Knicks Twitter.

The last few days have seen a particular spike in trade bonanza conversation, as Adrian Wojnarowski made sparks fly by mentioning the Knicks in conjunction with James Harden’s apparent trade request.

Whether you think the organization needs to make minor roster tweaks, drastic overhauls, or somewhere in between, one thing the Knicks should focus on heavily is fortifying and making sure to get smart with their depth, so they can match up better with teams like the Heat, Celtics, and Bucks.

Trusting Your Guys

A good portion of the Knicks improving on last season is not only bringing in more talent to beef up the roster but actually trusting the guys beyond Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle. This responsibility falls solely on Tom Thibodeau, who is an overall good coach and a culture changer no doubt, but has not come close to mastering lineups and using his resources effectively.

Other teams give rookies, undrafted players, and non-household names ample burn in big playoff games, and said players subsequently thrive in clutch spots, as we saw time and time again from both the Nuggets and Heat. Guys like Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Bruce Brown, etc. were empowered by their respective coaching staffs and played pivotal roles in getting to and during the Finals.

Meanwhile, in New York, we have a very skilled and high-upside former eighth overall pick in Obi Toppin who cannot get the appropriate playing time and we’ve seen frustrations boil over recently between him and Thibs in an alleged heated exchange. In a small sample size, Toppin has averaged 20.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 15 games as a starter in his career, per Stat Muse. The ability to be productive is there, but what is the point of talented depth if it is just going to wallow away on the bench?

Properly utilizing the current depth on the roster and whoever they bring in is something to keep an eye out for this upcoming season and is quite frankly a big concern. Unless Leon Rose and co. move mountains and bring in another superstar to go along with JB, this will be paramount to the success of the Knicks and the chemistry in the locker room.

Deep Versus Top-Heavy Teams

Currently, the Knicks have one star on their roster: Jalen Brunson. In recent years, teams in the Finals either have multiple bonafide stars, or one star combined with tremendous depth and a well-rounded roster. Unfortunately, the Knicks are unlikely to land another star this offseason, but certainly will be adding pieces to the roster.

This past postseason, we saw teams with depth overtake teams with multiple stars in both conferences. We saw the Heat with Jimmy Butler take down the two-headed monster of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in an upset, as well as Nikola Jokic’s Nuggets take down the star-studded Suns with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker followed by the dismantling of a LeBron James-Anthony Davis-led Lakers team.

This obviously can change year to year, as matchups change, injuries occur, etc. but keeping current with what works in the NBA is essential and copying roster construction of teams that have had recent postseason success is something the Knicks need to strongly lean into. Assuming the Knicks are a one-star plus depth type of team, there is no reason why with good coaching and adequate talent, they can’t end up in the Eastern Conference Finals next season.

Who to Target?

Rumors have been swirling around about who the Knicks may land in free agency or be in the market to deal for as we approach the official beginning of the offseason madness. These are four guys that could really help bolster the roster and won’t likely break the bank.

Backcourt

Former Warrior Donte DiVincenzo is a name that’s been out there and a lot of it has to do with the Villanova connection to Brunson and Josh Hart. DiVincenzo is a solid depth piece, shooting 39.7% from three last year with very good athleticism and tenacity. The 26-year-old isn’t the most exciting addition and isn’t going to wow anyone, but predetermined chemistry with Brunson and the hopefully re-signed Hart could help DDV adapt more seamlessly to the New York scene. We know Thibs loves his vets, so I anticipate he would likely see important minutes immediately.

Another name that has been gaining some momentum in the Big Apple in recent days is Seth Curry. The veteran isn’t great defensively and is on the older side at 33 when the season starts, but is a career 43.5% three-point shooter (46.8% in the Playoffs) who has worked wherever he goes. The thought of having Curry come off the bench as an instant offensive jolt is something that is very exciting and could be a nice veteran acquisition to make up for the potential loss of Immanuel Quickley on the court and Derrick Rose off the court.

Frontcourt

With Mitchell Robinson often injured and Isaiah Hartenstein often an unproductive offensive player, bringing in another center who will likely see minutes could be important. New York native Mo Bamba was just waived by the Lakers and to me, still has upside at only 25 years old. Bamba has the ability to shoot from the outside, something Knicks bigs aren’t great at on the whole. I know the health of Bamba is a question mark, but if he doesn’t return to LA, this could be a cheap, under-the-radar acquisition who could play more than you would think.

Last, but certainly not least is Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma is often clowned for his outfits and a bit of immaturity that marked the beginning of his career but is an excellent backend starter/first guy off the bench with size and shooting ability. With Kristaps Porzingis off the market, it could be a needle mover to acquire Kuz, who quietly averaged 21.2 points per game as a member of the lowly Wizards. Kuzma is an improved defender who under the tutelage of Thibs, will likely get even better.

Adding Kuz to the fold would mean four former 20-point-per-game scorers on the roster, an offensive attack we haven’t seen in quite a while for the Knicks.

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