Making fun of the Knicks has become a hobby for sports analysts. Offering suggestions about what the franchise should do to finally get back into championship-contending form is also popular.
It seems that Charles Barkley might have the key to success for the Knicks, or at least that’s how it seemed when he spoke about the Knicks during a video news conference this week.
When asked how he would attack the Knicks’ team progression in the offseason, he jokingly replied, “How long do you think the video call is?”
Obviously, the Turner Sports analyst wasn’t serious and was making a point that it would take a lot for the Knicks to fix their team and return to a competitive state that they were briefly in two seasons ago.
During this Zoom call on Wednesday to promote the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament, Barkley was brutally honest regarding the Knicks and their roster at this point.
“They’re not close — they’re not close at all. They probably only got about two to three guys who are actually NBA starters, so the No. 1 thing they got to do is get some talent,” Barkley said regarding the Knicks roster. “They got a bunch of JAGs, as I call them. Just A Guy. Their players are not better than guys on Atlanta, on Orlando,” he continued.
He’s not wrong. The Knicks have come a long way since hiring Tom Thibodeau, making the playoffs in their first year under him before losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs in 2021. But in just one year, they reverted back to the Knicks that struggled to win games and get consistent production from their best player, Julius Randle.
Randle averaged 20.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from the field this past season. This is a drop from his previous season, where he averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game and shot 46 percent from the field. Though this doesn’t seem a major drop-off, Randle not only became less aggressive and shot worse from the field, but he was visibly frustrated on the court to the point that he would antagonize Knicks fans as well. He also failed to make the All-Star team this year, and all of these issues with Randle led the Knicks to move their favor to a former first-round pick in 2019, RJ Barrett, who has shown significant improvement himself.
Barrett, unlike Randle was the Knicks’ favorite and could be seen receiving chants from Madison Square Garden fans throughout the season calling for him over Randle.
It wasn’t for nothing. Barrett averaged 20 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, with a field goal average of 41 percent. This is something Knicks fans praised, because through Barrett’s three seasons in the NBA, he has consistently improved his scoring output and has shown much more confidence each year as well. A bright spot for the Knicks, Barrett was once seen as the consolation prize for whoever missed out on Zion Williamson and Ja Morant in the 2019 draft. But Barrett is proving to everyone in the league that he is no slouch, and he has the potential to be a perennial All-Star.
Given the roster makeup the Knicks have right now, they can look to get rid of a few expiring contracts on their team. Players such as Kemba Walker, Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel, and Alec Burks are all expiring players, and they can be moved so the Knicks can retain some assets.
They also have the 11th overall pick in the draft, and with the draft approaching shortly, they will be in a prime position to either draft a young stud to complement Barrett and Randle, or possibly package Randle or someone else with that pick for a star.
Whichever way the Knicks decide to go in this offseason, their No. 1 priority should be looking to upgrade the roster with more playmakers and guys who can hit shots to complement the win play of Barrett and the low post game of Randle.
According to Barkley, that should be their main plan of attack in the offseason, but only time will tell if they decide to take the Hall of Famer’s advice.