Have a good summer: Knicks, Warriors, 76ers
I want to run through some thoughts about the three teams that were eliminated from the playoffs over the weekend…
I’ve been very high on Jalen Brunson pretty much from the jump, but even I was skeptical that the Knicks signing him was going to work nearly as well as it actually did. To be clear, I thought the money was mostly fine; I just didn’t think the Knicks had the infrastructure that would allow him to succeed, mostly because they didn’t have enough shooting. As it turned out, the Knicks did not have enough shooting — but it didn’t matter because Brunson just found a way to succeed anyway. That dude is a star, and he has proven in consecutive playoffs that he can find a way to score against high-level opponents, no matter what they throw at him. That contract ($51,306,667 over the next two years, followed by a sure-to-be-declined $24,960,001 player option for the 2025-26 season) might be the single best non-rookie-scale value in the league.
Julius Randle, on the other hand… oof. Before the playoffs started, I was talking with some friends about how the Cavs series was not a good matchup for Randle. And then about how a hypothetical Bucks series would not be a good matchup for Randle. And then how a Celtics series would probably not be a good matchup for Randle. And they asked, well, what is a good matchup for Randle in the playoffs? And honestly, the answer to that question is, “the bad teams.” You just don’t get to play against the bad teams in the playoffs, though, and we’ve seen against the Hawks (two years ago), Cavs, and Heat that his game and style of play do not translate as well to the postseason as you need one of your best players’ games to translate to the postseason. It’s a problem. The Knicks need to hope one of the other 29 teams was not watching the playoffs this year, and see what they can get on the market as they try to re-orient the team around Brunson.
The Knicks should obviously re-sign Josh Hart, but only if his promises to shoot the fucking ball when he is open beyond the 3-point line. The Heat straight up stopped guarding him, and combined with the fact that they didn’t respect R.J. Barrett’s shooting (more on him in a second) and didn’t have to guard either Mitchell Robinson or Isaiah Hartenstein outside of the paint, it helped torpedo New York’s offense. Also, Thibs has to be willing to not play Hart 40-plus minutes in a game. I know Quickley was out for the second half of the series, but Hart is a role player, not a star. Use him when it’s advantageous.
Predictably, Barrett’s hot stretch (he averaged 22.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in 35.1 minutes per game while shooting 49.6% from the floor and 38% from deep across the right games between Game 3 against Cleveland and Game 5 against Miami) came to a crashing halt with his 1-for-10, 5-point, 2-rebound, 1-assist stinker in Game 6. Because this is just how it goes with Barrett. He has stretches where he looks unbelievably good and stretches where he looks unbelievably bad and for the most part neither of them lasts longer than a few weeks. He seems destined to continually tantalize and continually tease while never quite putting it all together.
Thibs got out-coached. Almost everyone gets out-coached by Erik Spoelstra. It happens. But as I said the last time the Knicks were eliminated from the playoffs with their offense descending into nonsense, this team needs to force him to hire an offensive coordinator. (Really, it needs to seriously consider whether he’s the right coach for the team. But we know that’s not going to happen. Leon Rose is not firing him.)
Karl Towns is not the move. Just, no. I don’t give a shit that he’s CAA. Maybe show an interest in a single player repped by another agency?
For more on the Warriors and Sixers…