NCAA Tournament, Knicks, Nets, Rose

10-point plan to make Knicks champs

Knicks fans feel their team is going in the right direction. That’s nice, but it does not mean the Knicks are a championship team. They are a second-tier team at best. They have a ways to go to be a championship team after flaming out against the Heat in six games. They did not play well against the Heat in all six games, even the two games they won. That itself is why they have work to do before they can get better.

Outside of Jalen Brunson, there is not much to say about the Knicks' roster. RJ Barrett has been up and down in his NBA career so far. Julius Randle is too inconsistent, and he may not have the makeup to play in New York. The role players don’t scare the other teams. The coaching leaves so much to be desired. They can’t run it back and expect this roster to be better.

James Dolan should sell the team, but that’s not happening, so the team has to navigate a way to win a championship in spite of him. Here’s a 10-point plan to make the Knicks champs:

Trade Randle:

He has trade value as Randle was just named to third team All-NBA, the second time that's happened since joining the Knicks. His main problem is efficiency and shot selection as he tough often settles for contested jumpers off the dribble. For a team that has championship aspirations, the Knicks need more out of him especially after his performances against the Hawks two years ago and the Heat this year.

He would be a great piece to trade to a team that wants to dump an underachieving player such as Deandre Ayton or Karl-Anthony Towns. Randle may not offer a great player in return, but he should net a productive player in return. Maybe playing with Brunson can get better results out of Ayton or Towns.

It’s hard for Randle to ever recover while playing in New York when fans boo him and criticize him. It’s just not working for him. He tried his best, but for his own good and the team’s own good, divorce is best for both parties.

Trade Barrett:

We saw him for four seasons. At some point, what you see is what you get. Sure, he is 22 years old, but how is he going to get better if he can’t shoot it consistently from distance? He is just too erratic as he averaged nearly 21 points per game in the Heat series, but struggled in the closeout game. Maybe he can grow up, but New York is not the place to learn and grow up on the job. It’s great that he can score, but needs to improve upon his play-making. Barrett could be a nice piece in a trade package to acquire a star player.

Trade draft picks for a star:

The Knicks have plenty of draft picks at their disposal as they have 10 first round picks between 2023-2029. It’s time to trade some of them as they can only keep them for so long. There’s a team that may have to trade a disgruntled player. Maybe the Knicks can get Devin Booker if he wants out, and there’s a chance it may happen after the Phoenix Suns flamed out against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals. They need to find a way to get a star to play with Brunson if they want to be taken seriously as an NBA title contender.

Get Dillon Brooks:

Yeah, he is a knucklehead. So what? There are going to be teams lining up to get him. He can shoot, but most importantly, he can defend. The Knicks need a player that can get physical, especially against a team like the Heat. He would fit well. Role players tend to be valuable come playoff time, and he would fit what the Knicks are looking for. Maybe being in the right culture such as the Knicks can benefit him.

Thibodeau needs to coach better:

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau got outcoached by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. There’s no doubt about it. This has to change if the Knicks are ever going to be a championship team. This means he needs to be a better defensive coach. He relied way too much on zone defense, which turned out to be a cheap gimmick as the Heat were able to shoot threes.

He is too stubborn thinking his way works. He has to learn how to adapt to the game rather than thinking his strategy will work when it doesn’t work. Also, he needs to learn how to be a better offensive coach. He was more of an iso-ball coach by relying on Brunson and Randle to shoot. The Knicks' best offensive games in the postseason where when they had 

Trade Obi Toppin:

He can be a valuable player for a contender. Toppin is a high motor forward who has the ability to stretch the floor at times. It seems Thibodeau does not trust him to do much. If he is not useful for the Knicks, they might as well get value for him.

Start Quentin Grimes:

It’s time for him to get more minutes. He has shown he can be an NBA player. He is the prototypical 3-and-D player, which is what the Knicks need on the perimeter. Grimes struggled mightily in the playoffs, but should bounce back in the 2023-24 season.

Try to acquire Mike Conley Jr:

The Knicks could use a backup point guard. As great as Brunson is, he shouldn’t be forced to play 38 to 42 minutes. He needs rest. The Knicks need a backup point guard who can provide guidance when Brunson is not out there. Conley Jr. started 66 games this season for the Jazz and Timberwolves. The one-time All-Star has been a steady player in the NBA for over a decade and would provide Brunson with veteran leadership and guidance.

Player development must be better:

The Knicks made some strides with their young players, but when you look at the job Spoelstra has done with the Heat young players and saw how they contribute to beating the Knicks, it shows the Knicks are not doing good enough. If Spoelstra coached the Knicks and Thibodeau coached the Heat, the results could have been much more different. Credit the Knicks head coach for playing young players this year based on following orders by Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose, but he has to do a better job. Toppin should be coming along, and Miles McBride should be better than he has shown. This is where coaching matters.

Winning a championship has to be the goal:

I get the sense Rose, Dolan and Thibodeau seem satisfied with just being competitive and hoping for the best. That’s a terrible way to run a team. When Pat Riley, Ernie Grunfeld and Dave Checketts formed a powerful triumvirate of making the Knicks into an NBA title contender in the 90s, it was championship or bust. That has to be the mentality. It’s been 50 years since they won a championship. It’s time to do whatever it takes to end the drought. It has to be a passion and obsession.

You can read Leslie's Jersey Sporting News columns on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.

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