If the Knicks want to find consistency in their offense, an upgrade to the bench unit is needed. Jazz guard Malik Beasley could fit the bill.

Between winning eight games in a row and losing five of their last six, we’ve seen both ends of the spectrum for the New York Knicks over the last calendar month. We’ve seen what made them tick positively – a three-headed offense led by Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, and RJ Barrett – but we’ve also seen the cracks in the armor, the things needed to take them to another level. One thing that has become clear: the Knicks need to make an upgrade on their bench unit, and ultimately, the backend of their rotation. 

When Tom Thibodeau decided to move to a nine-man rotation, the Knicks opted for a bench unit of Isaiah Hartenstein, Jericho Sims, Immanuel Quickley, and Miles “Deuce” McBride. Since December 1st, the best lineup involving these four is a 58-min quartet including RJ Barrett that has a 110.8 offensive and defensive rating, essentially playing even basketball. We haven’t seen much of the bench with Brunson, largely to maintain Brunson and Quickley on the floor throughout the game, while the bench plus Randle has been sporadic: 87.5 offensive rating, 96.4 defensive rating, a -8.9 net rating in 13 minutes with fellow starter Quentin Grimes, but with Hartenstein, Quickley, and McBride alongside them.

It wasn’t viewed as a unit to go out and create points, more so to provide compliments to the starting unit. Quickley and McBride aren’t wings in height but provide enough size and length to handle most guards and smaller wings. Hartenstein is more of a larger, traditional center, while Sims is smaller but more athletic, capable of handling smaller forwards and centers.  The results have been, well, less than stellar. Outside of some offensive outbursts from Quickley, the unit has struggled to supply anything offensively. McBride is too tentative offensively, Sims is largely a rim-runner, while Hartenstein is in the midst of his worst season since his rookie days, and feels more like a trade candidate than a long-term rotation piece. 

Ultimately, this offense needs a bit more juice. On nights off-nights for one of Barrett, Brunson, or Randle, the Knicks struggle offensively. Look at games like Brunson’s against Toronto or Barrett’s versus Philadelphia and you see the team in need of just one more scorer. If the Knicks view themselves as a top-six team in the Eastern Conference, they need to upgrade their bench. 

Obi Toppin gives them something

Before recommending any trade candidates for the Knicks, we have to look internally for a solution. Playing Brunson and Quickley together might help some of the issues there, but only for so much. One idea? Hope the return of Obi Toppin can assist in the team’s offensive ruts. Before his knee injury, Toppin was averaging a modest 7.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 35.1% shooting from the outside. Once healthy, moving Toppin into the rotation and rotating between Hartenstein and Sims seems like the ideal solution to add some offensive juice. 

It’s easy to see how Toppin helps the offense. He’s a better catch-and-shoot option than most other bigs on the roster (36.8% on 3.5 attempts, per NBA.com’s stats) and electric in transition (1.14 PPP, 63.2% eFG%). However, a returning Toppin could allow a slight increase in overall usage as a scoring threat off the bench, and offer another roll man and cutter on the floor. Under Thibodeau’s nine-man rotation, Barrett is the likely starter to remain with the bench. Placing Barrett on the floor with another creator in Quickley and Toppin’s offensive flexibility as a shooter/driver works much better than with double centers.

For all of the defensive concerns, Toppin would be blanketed with solid defenders in Quickley, McBride, and either Hartenstein or Sims. McBride, despite offensive struggles, has blossomed into a high-level defender, both off-ball as a screen navigator, and on-ball with point-of-attack defense as well. Immanuel Quickley is a solid off-ball defender, thanks to his length and on paper, the combination of Toppin and Sims should make sense in a hyper-switchable defense. In the past, Tom Thibodeau would use Toppin’s defense as an excuse not to play him more minutes. Not anymore… I hope.

Despite everything making sense for the Knicks and Toppin here, we’re going to have to wait for his return. According to Stefon Bondy of the New York Daily News, Toppin will have to be re-evaluated before stepping on the floor. So for now, that chess move will have to wait, but once Toppin is cleared to play, he’s an ideal candidate to help elevate New York’s offense. 

Malik Beasley would be the perfect bench upgrade for the Knicks

New York could use another wing, and one that can shoot, defend multiple positions and be a part of the team’s long-term future would be ideal. However, those are the toughest players to acquire in the league; guys like Toronto’s OG Anunoby don’t grow on trees, nor are they easy to acquire when they’re on the market. Between Barrett, Grimes, and Quickley, the Knicks have solid wing defense, but one more guy who can be thrown into that mix wouldn’t hurt.

With that in mind, if the Knicks jump into the trade market for a bench upgrade, then the player that intrigues me the most is Utah Jazz guard Malik Beasley. So far this season, Beasley is averaging 14.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and shooting a staggering 37.5% from the outside on 8.5 attempts a night. Still pretty young at 26 years old, Beasley has one more season, a team option, attached to his deal at $16.5 million. 

In a perfect world, a rotation of Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Immanuel Quickley, Malik Beasley, Obi Toppin, and Jericho Sims feels perfect. Offensive balance off the bench and in the starting lineup, several talented motion shooters from the outside, and a strong defensive base. With so much shuffling between teams like Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago, and Indiana, New York would have the strongest roster of the bunch and the inside track to making the top six. 

And looking at New York’s current rotation, another shooter would make the rotation pop. Beasley offers shooting prowess in abundance and could serve as the perfect sixth man for this team. Not only is he good as a catch-and-shoot threat (37.3% on 6.2 attempts, per NBA Stats), but he’s great as a pull-up shooter (38.5% on 2.3 attempts) and thrives on off-screen shooting (1.09 PPP, 56.4 EFG% per NBA.com’s play type data). The defense leaves a lot to be desired and he isn’t a playmaker, but in terms of an offensive threat off the bench, Beasley would be an ideal add because he isn’t locked to just catch-and-shoot, but movement shooting as well. 

One potential issue? The Knicks don’t have much value in terms of players. McBride doesn’t feel like enough, but Quickley feels like too much. New York has several players on the bench, but I doubt any of Evan Fournier, Cam Reddish, and Derrick Rose would entice Utah much. On the other hand, the Knicks have listened to deals on Quickley, so maybe the start of something is there. Still, I think the Knicks have the draft picks to get this done, but the player equation feels muddled. 

Still, in a world where the Knicks decide to make a move, Beasley is high on my list, especially if the return is more toward picks than players. 

Over the first 40 games of the season, we’ve seen everything with the New York Knicks. The early part of the season saw New York attempt to fit in several players who just didn’t fit head coach Tom Thibodeau’s scheme, then the injuries moved some players in the rotation, but as the former Bulls and Timberwolves head coach saw his back was on the wall, he adjusted. Now, as New York attempts to jump-start a new winning streak, Thibodeau is using nine players, with three isolation-heavy players carrying the offense and several versatile defenders around them.

Now, that we’ve seen the rotation work, it’s time to upgrade the bench, as that unit has played even at best, thanks to their inability to impact a game offensively outside of Immanuel Quickley. Obi Toppin should and most likely will be the first player to get a chance to change things, with his shooting and ability to thrive in transition. However, if the Knicks have to go into the trade market, another wing scorer would be great. Someone who can shoot and generate positive shots, like Malik Beasley, would be ideal.

The Knicks have plenty of time and the recent rash of injuries has changed things, but this is a team that could finish in the top six of the Eastern Conference and avoid the play-in tournament. But first, an upgrade to the bench is needed.

Related Content

»Read: Mitchell Robinson Has Been Key For Knicks Run

»Read: Miles McBride Continues to Thrive in Any Context

»Read: Obi Toppin’s Injury and its Implications