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Knicks banking on continuity while monitoring ways to add star power

The New York Knicks are entering the 2023-24 NBA season with high expectations after reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals last year. The team has largely kept the same core of players, while adding some depth and experience to the roster. However, the Knicks are also keeping an eye on the possibility of landing a star player in the future, either through trade or free agency.

Knicks stick with the same starting five

The Knicks have decided to start the season with the same starting five that led them to a 37-22 record after Dec. 4 last year. The lineup consists of Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Quentin Grimes, who replaced Evan Fournier early in the season. Coach Tom Thibodeau said that he was impressed by the chemistry and performance of this group, but also noted that the situation could change depending on how the season unfolds.

“We’ll see how it unfolds,” Thibodeau said at Media Day on Monday. “The big thing when you look at last season and you look at what that (starting) group did (after Grimes went into the lineup) on Dec. 4 on – going 37-22 – you go in with the idea that’s where we’re going to start. Now of course you haven’t played any games and nothing has unfolded yet. So you base your decisions on the information you have. And that’s the information that we have and we’re going to go from there.”

Knicks banking on continuity while monitoring ways to add star power

Grimes, a 23-year-old guard who can play both ends of the floor, earned his spot in the lineup with his defense, energy and shooting. He suffered a shoulder injury in the first round against the Cleveland Cavaliers and was briefly benched for Josh Hart in the second round against the Miami Heat. However, he bounced back and finished the playoffs with averages of 10.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, while shooting 40.7% from three-point range.

Knicks add depth and experience to the bench

While the Knicks did not make any major moves in the offseason, they did sign some players who can provide depth and experience to their bench. The most notable addition was Donte DiVincenzo, a 26-year-old guard who signed a $50 million deal with the Knicks after spending four seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks. DiVincenzo averaged 10.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season, while shooting 37.9% from beyond the arc.

DiVincenzo joins a crowded backcourt that also includes Immanuel Quickley, who emerged as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in his rookie season, averaging 11.4 points and 2.1 assists per game, while shooting 38.9% from three-point range. The Knicks also have Derrick Rose, who re-signed with the team for $43 million over three years, and Alec Burks, who agreed to a $30 million deal over three years.

The Knicks also added some veteran presence to their frontcourt, signing Taj Gibson and Nerlens Noel to one-year deals worth $10 million each. Gibson and Noel were key contributors to the Knicks’ defense last season, filling in for Robinson when he was injured or in foul trouble. Gibson averaged 5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while Noel averaged 5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.

Knicks monitor potential star targets

While the Knicks are confident in their current roster, they are also aware that they might need to add a star player to compete for a championship in the near future. The Knicks have been linked to several potential targets, such as Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns and Donovan Mitchell.

Embiid, the reigning league MVP, has been identified in league circles as an ideal fit for the Knicks, who could use his dominant presence in the paint and his ability to stretch the floor. Embiid averaged 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game last season, while shooting 51.3% from the field and 37.7% from three-point range.

However, Embiid is under contract with the Philadelphia 76ers until 2027 and has expressed his loyalty to the franchise. He also warned the Sixers not to waste his prime years by having another Ben Simmons situation with James Harden, who is feuding with the front office and skipped media day.

“There should never be any lost seasons,” Embiid said on Monday. “I hope they understand that.”

Towns, another talented big man who can score inside and outside, has been rumored to be unhappy with his situation in Minnesota Timberwolves, where he has endured losing seasons and personal tragedies. Towns averaged 24.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game last season, while shooting 48.6% from the field and 38.7% from three-point range.

However, Towns is also under contract until 2024 and has not publicly requested a trade. He also has a close relationship with his teammate and friend D’Angelo Russell, who was acquired by the Timberwolves in 2020.

Mitchell, a dynamic guard who can score and create for others, has been one of the best players in the league for the past few seasons. He averaged 26.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game last season, while shooting 43.8% from the field and 38.6% from three-point range.

However, Mitchell is also under contract until 2026 and has shown his commitment to the Utah Jazz, who finished with the best record in the league last season. He also has a strong bond with his coach Quin Snyder and his teammates, especially Rudy Gobert, who is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

The Knicks have enough assets and cap space to make a trade for any of these stars if they become available, but they also have to weigh the cost and the fit of such a move. For now, they are focused on building on their success from last season and improving their chemistry and consistency.

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