With a slew of players entering free agency this offseason, there are a few wings the Knicks should look at to bolster their roster.
Regardless of the results this season, the New York Knicks took action by experimenting with their wings the previous summer. Seeing Reggie Bullock walk, the Knicks decided to throw a large contract at Evan Fournier to be their starting shooting guard, re-signed Alec Burks to a multi-year deal, and selected Quentin Grimes in the 2021 NBA Draft, who became a rotation regular by midseason.
The results of the Knicks’ new wing rotation weren’t all great, though. Fournier had his lowest-scoring season since 2015, and Burks was oddly taken away from the bench wing role he thrived in the year prior and slotted as the starting point guard. The team traded for Cam Reddish to help out, but head coach Tom Thibodeau already had a set rotation and was headstrong on leaving Reddish on the bench until a space opened up. When Reddish finally got his chance, it was only a matter of weeks before a shoulder injury ended his season. At least RJ Barrett had his best season to date, right?
With the 2022 NBA Draft and offseason now looming, the Knicks’ wing rotation could look entirely different come the first game of the new season. It’s wholly possible that Burks, Reddish, or Grimes are included in potential trade packages, and Thibodeau may decide Fournier’s fit in the rotation should change to better fit the team’s needs. There are a plethora of wings hitting unrestricted free agency this offseason, plenty of whom may be able to provide some consistency around the arc that the Knicks were hoping for last season.
Here’s a thread of some Quentin Grimes clips to remind everyone he should never be a DNP again pic.twitter.com/8NadCNMHRu
— Dean (@deanjoannou) December 12, 2021
Victor Oladipo, Miami Heat
After fighting off injuries for most of the past three seasons, Oladipo finally got on track at the end of last season and in Miami’s playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Playing in eight regular-season games, Oladipo averaged 12.4 points and 3.5 assists per game on 48% shooting from the field. He showed good durability during that time, playing over 20 minutes per game. In the playoffs, Oladipo went on to further be an asset to the team and put the injury bug behind him. On the Heat’s 15-game run through the conference finals, he scored 10.6 points per game and logged over 30 minutes in four games.
While betting on Oladipo would surely be a risk, it’s one that comes with a high reward. The two-time All-Star just might return to form with a full offseason to rest, now, and also dabbled in some point guard play in Miami. Maybe he could fill in there before Thibs decides to go with Alec Burks again.
Gary Harris, Orlando Magic
Harris’ case is an interesting one, as he was a fulcrum of the Denver Nuggets’ starting lineup just a couple of years ago. A few seasons after being awarded a large contract that paid him over $20 million per season, the team shipped him off to Orlando to free up space. Still only 27 years old, Harris has been playing for low expectations the last couple of seasons and will likely be looking for a change of scenery. He doesn’t offer much defensively but could be a high-volume shooter off the bench for the Knicks.
A career 36% three-point shooter, Harris has made a living behind the arc and would best fit somewhere that hones in on his shooting as his main attraction. Outside of Quickley and Grimes, the Knicks were unable to employ any exclusive shooters off the bench last season. A bargain on someone like Harris who would come relatively cheap could be a decent move for them.
UNDERRATED HIGHLIGHTS: Gary Harris
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) March 25, 2021
Malik Monk, Los Angeles Lakers
Monk’s case as a Knick has been traced back to last offseason when he was a free agent, but it stands to say he’s definitely a wing the team should have their eyes on. Going to the Lakers last year on a one-year deal with championship hopes, the team very much so underperformed and Monk is likely to explore his options this offseason. He did put up a career year in Los Angeles, though, averaging 13.8 points per game with shooting splits of 47/39/80. He’s the type of scorer that could really give the Knicks’ offense that extra firepower they need to enter above-average league scoring numbers.
Bruce Brown, Brooklyn Nets
Brown emerged as an integral player on the Nets in a rotation that featured Kevin Durant (sometimes), Kyrie Irving (sometimes), and James Harden (well, for the first half of the season). A do-it-all player that can fill multiple positions, Brown’s main attraction is his defense. Regardless of his height at 6’4”, Brown showed last season that he’s capable of guarding players from the wing into the paint, and can handle switches against bigger forwards with relative ease. He’s also competent—and efficient—on the offensive end, having averaged nine points per game last season on 51% from the field and 40.4% from three.
It’s tough to imagine a world in which the Knicks would want Brown since they already possess one of the league’s best defenses, but the offseason could change several things. If Mitchell Robinson leaves, Brown would be a nice defender to add to the rotation (albeit the team would still need a defensive-minded center). There’s also the possibility that any of the young defense-first wings like Grimes could be moved in a trade. Brown would come at a heftier price than other options, but things could play out this offseason in such a way that the Knicks try their best to acquire him.
Bruce Brown starts off the night on a 9-0 run!
— NBA (@NBA) April 20, 2022
T.J. Warren, Indiana Pacers
Similar to Oladipo, Warren is an injury gamble this offseason. The now 28-year-old forward made noise around the league in 2019 when he scored 19.8 points per game on shooting splits of 54/40/82 in his first season with the Pacers. Unfortunately, a stress fracture in his left foot kept him sidelined for all but four games of the 2020–21 season and kept him out all of this last season. After extensive rehab and a long offseason to recover, he’s expected to be one of the warmer names to hit free agency this summer.
It’s safe to say teams would want to use Warren off the bench this coming season to limit his minutes, which would make him a fine fit for the Knicks’ reserve unit. Warren thrives in the midrange, having shot 55.7% on his two-pointers in 2019, and would be a welcome scoring alternative when players like Quickley or Grimes aren’t seeing their threes fall. Warren can get to the rim to score, or attract the attention of defenses inside the paint to give those shooters more space to make their shots. The market for him is murky, as his playing status and return to form are unknown, but Warren is definitely a name the Knicks should have written down on their free agency tracker.
The Knicks don’t have much in terms of salary to dole out, but any number of trades or deals made this offseason can change that. Or, the team’s front office could decide they’re comfortable with the wing rotation as is and leave everything up to fate next season. Either way, with the NBA Draft less than a week away, the offseason is just around the corner with worlds of possibilities ahead.