by Tate Hutchinson
Approaching the Knicks’ two-game set against the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden, the team is 16-11 and sitting as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Coming off a tough stretch of 8 road contests in 9 games, the Knicks are left with many injury concerns despite a solid overall record.
Starting center Mitchell Robinson, crucial to the Knicks’ starting lineup as a star defensive player, suffered an ankle injury December 8 in a game against the Boston Celtics. Though listed questionable in the following games, it was announced he would undergo ankle surgery that would likely keep him out for the remainder of the 2023-24 NBA season. Backup center Jericho Sims suffered an ankle injury Wednesday that would keep him out for 7-10 days. With crucial games upcoming including a Christmas Day game at MSG, the Knicks may need to look for options to support sole rostered center Isaiah Hartenstein.
In the wake of these absences, the rest of the roster is playing up to the high expectations set by their 2023 playoff run. Star guard Jalen Brunson is putting up another All-Star caliber season as he leads the Knicks in scoring at 25.6 PPG, a career best. If he maintained his 25+ PPG and 5+ APG averages, Brunson would be the first Knick to reach these stats since 1962. Although PF Julius Randle’s scoring efficiency has taken a dip, he remains a key part of the starting lineup, scoring 22.7 points alongside 9.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. And fifth-year wing RJ Barrett is maintaining his role as the third scoring option, putting up 18.5 points per contest. Off the bench, Immanuel Quickley and newly acquired Donte DiVincenzo have been spark plugs offensively and defensively with crucial perimeter play.
However, the Knicks sit in a precarious place in the volatile Eastern Conference landscape. With tough games against the Bucks and Magic in the next week, a skid could send the Knicks to the cusp of the playoff bubble. The Knicks have applied for a Disabled Player Exception worth $7.8 million in cap hit, in hopes of acquiring a big man in the wake of Robinson’s injury. And with the upcoming trade deadline in early February, now is the time for Team President Leon Rose to make a move to cash in on New York’s draft assets and push the team into title contention.
According to a new report by The Athletic and Stadium’s Shams Charania, the Knicks “are monitoring the marketplace, they want to see if there’s a star player that’s available.” With teams such as the Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, and Portland Trail Blazers failing to meet expectations early on this season, they may find a trade match to send their stars to the Big Apple. Chicago’s Zach LaVine or DeMar DeRozan are expected to be available in trade talks, providing elite scoring talent on the wing. Otherwise, big men with large contracts in Pascal Siakam, Lauri Markkanen, and Jerami Grant may be ideal options to fill the gaps in the Knicks’ frontcourt. And with contenders in Boston, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia once again threatening the Knicks’ chances at a finals run, New York must seek options to defend their elite forwards and centers come playoff time.
And remember to vote for your New York Knicks for the 2024 NBA All-Star Game in Indianapolis: vote.nba.com