The New York Knicks have been one of the more disappointing teams in the 2021-22 season, and they currently are outside of the play-in picture in the Eastern Conference.
New York made the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the East last season, but the team has taken a step back for multiple reasons in the 2021-22 campaign.
First off, star forward Julius Randle has regressed as a shooter, as his field-goal percentage has dropped from 45.6 percent last season to just 41.3 percent this season. The bigger issue for Randle has been his struggles from beyond the arc. The one-time All-Star is shooting just 30.7 percent from 3-point range this season after shooting a career-high 41.1 percent in the 2020-21 campaign.
However, the Knicks’ struggles aren’t all on Randle. The team swung and missed with signing point guard Kemba Walker this past offseason, and some of its other additions in free agency haven’t fared as well either.
Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel haven’t played at the same level as last season, and swingman Evan Fournier has been a streaky scorer.
That has led to the Knicks posting the No. 24 offensive rating and No. 12 defensive rating this season. New York is going to need to make some major changes to the current roster if it wants to compete for a playoff spot in the 2022-23 season.
Here are three players the Knicks should try to move on from this coming offseason as they look to improve the roster.
1. Kemba Walker
Walker is the obvious first choice, as the Knicks took a major risk by bringing in the veteran point guard this past offseason on a two-year deal.
Walker, who had been dealing with knee issues, has struggled to stay healthy in the 2021-22 season and has been ruled out for the year with the Knicks nearly out of the playoff race.
The four-time All-Star appeared in just 37 games for the Knicks this season. He put up 11.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 40.3 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from beyond the arc.
While Walker’s homecoming was an intriguing story this past offseason, he was a defensive liability for the Knicks early on in the 2021-22 campaign and was benched by Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau. Walker eventually was forced back into the rotation while the team dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak, and although he played well, it never really translated to winning basketball for the team.
Walker then missed several games due to injury before returning to the lineup on Jan. 18. In his next 13 games, Walker averaged just 8.1 points per game while shooting 37.1 percent from the field.
The Knicks need a point guard that can not only defend, but also play consistent minutes for them next season. Thibodeau has been forced to play Burks, a natural shooting guard, at point guard this season, and it has led to middling results.
Walker will be on an expiring deal this coming offseason, so the Knicks may be able to move him in a deal with a team that is looking to dump another bad contract. As nice as it was to see Walker in New York, it simply isn’t the right fit given how he is playing at this stage of his career.
2. Alec Burks
Burks has been a solid role player for the Knicks over the past two seasons, but he hasn’t been used in the right role in the 2021-22 campaign.
Burks has been forced to play on the ball more with injuries to Walker and Derrick Rose, and it simply hasn’t put him in as good a position to succeed.
The reason that the Knicks should move on from Burks isn’t completely centered around his play, but rather the fact that the Knicks have a plethora of young guards in Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride that need to get more playing time.
With Cam Reddish also in the fold for New York, Burks could be on his way out and may be able to net the Knicks an asset in a trade. Burks would fit perfectly on a contending team, and the Knicks would be able to open up minutes for some of those young players by moving on from him.
The veteran guard is also essentially entering the final year of his contract, as the third year of his current deal has a team option. That means any team that acquires him would only have to commit to one year with him, as it could decline the option for the following season.
It’s possible the Knicks view Burks as a key role player and keep him on the roster, but he is shooting just 37.9 percent from the field this season, and New York would be better off getting a better look at some of its younger pieces.
3. Nerlens Noel
Noel is in a similar position to Burks contract wise, as the final year on his three-year deal has a team option.
While Noel was huge for the Knicks in the 2020-21 season filling in for the injured Mitchell Robinson, he has not been able to stay healthy this season.
Noel has appeared in just 25 games for the Knicks, and he is averaging 3.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. All of those numbers are down from his output during the 2020-21 season.
The Knicks have to decide whether or not they want to extend Robinson, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and moving on from Noel would make a new contract for Robinson a bit more palatable.
Noel could help a contending team that needs a defensive presence inside, but he seems to have been played out of the Knicks’ rotation, as Thibodeau has opted to utilize young big man Jericho Sims down the stretch this season.
Noel’s injury history is definitely concerning, but if the Knicks can find a taker for him this offseason, one would think that they would jump at the opportunity to move him.
New York is going to need to bring in more talent to be a perennial playoff contender, but it could also benefit by moving on from Walker, Burks and Noel in order to allow usher in a fresh influx of talent in over the next few seasons.