Take a look at Leon Rose’s low season work to enhance the Knicks’ roster

The heavy lifting seems to be over. The Knicks’ season looks more or less set, after Jalen Brunson’s contract and Isaiah Hartenstein — and the re-signing of Mitchell Robinson — makes them the only exception to the mid-tier $5.2 room.

The Post’s Zach Braziller offers five thoughts on president Leon Rose’s work so far:

Incremental progress made

The Knicks Are Better, But How Much Better? They meet their most pressing needs at the point of protection (Brunson), and add some flexibility in front (Hartenstein), but that won’t push them into serious controversy. If all goes well – if Brunson and franchise platform RJ Barrett step forward like stars, if Julius Randle mysteriously finds his 2020-21 form, if Hartenstein explodes with more opportunities, if The role of the people behind them excels – this is still a team that is not one of the elite in the Eastern Conference. The full-load Celtics, Heat, 76ers and Bucks are still the teams to beat in the East. The Hawks, after the Dejounte Murray deal, and the revamped Cavaliers are both better on paper. And Kevin Durant’s sweepstakes can bring others into the superior mix, such as the Raptors. Make no mistake, the Knicks will be more competitive. A place in the play-in is very real. But anything beyond the seven seed would be great for this roster as it stands.

Jalen Brunson
Jalen Brunson
NBAE via Getty Images
Isaiah Hartenstein
Isaiah Hartenstein
beautiful pictures

The Randle Conundrum

Two years after he’s one of the NBA’s best players, Randle will be asked to make big adjustments. He will play with the ball less, which can reduce his production. A player like Brunson could free Randle, but it also means a new way of playing for the battered striker, who is used to making, despite a high turnover rate. There’s also the question of distance, as Brunson, Randle and Barrett all excelled below the 3-point line, and the Mitchell Robinson’s no-shot center also clogs the paintwork.

Shooting questions

The Knicks traded their top 3-point shooter for a percentage in Alec Burks to create enough salary cap space to land Brunson, and this is the 13th-place team in the league in 3-point shooting percentages. A year ago. Brunson, a 37.3% career shooter who is able to cast an open eye on his teammates, has clearly helped. But the Knicks will need more young players Quentin Grimes and Cam Reddish, as long as Reddish stays on the team and they will have more opportunities to show off. Immanuel Quickley, who is likely to play mostly ballless next year, has seen his shooting rate drop from 38.9% to 34.6. So improvement from him is not a crazy request. It could be a necessity for the Knicks.

Brunson made the right decision

I’ve seen a lot of criticism about this move, that the Knicks are paying too much for a good player – but not a great one. Brunson, who agreed to a four-year, $104 million deal on Thursday night, doesn’t make them title contenders. That he is not the top five point guard in the league. I’m not here to disagree with any of those comments. But what he does is make this team better. He has the potential to get them into the play-in tournament. There is a view that unless the Knicks add a superstar, what else is equal? Well, unless you’ve been in a coma for years, you’ll understand the NBA is run by stars. They decide where they play, regardless of their contract status. I think Barrett could be No. 2 and Brunson could be No. 3. The way to get to No. 1 is to make yourself more attractive, by creating a culture of winning and you do that by adding players. That’s Jalen Brunson. He makes the Knicks better. Perhaps after his breakout season, in which he averaged 21.6 points in 18 games, is a sign of a young player ready to really emerge. Either way, as ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy told me, “he’s an important player in the NBA“The Knicks need as many of these people as possible.

The remaining two moves

The Knicks could use another wing after the Burks settlement, and Barrett is now eligible for a rookie max contract. That’s the activity that I can see happening to get through the season. The players in Barrett’s class – Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and Darius Garland – are said to have agreed to the rookie max extensions. The ever-improving Barrett could get a contract of up to $185 million over five years. As for the winger position, the Knicks currently have Barrett, Reddish and a little more. A veteran is needed. Injured scorer T.J. Warren, one of the top unknowns on the free agent market, who appeared in just four games last year for the Pacers due to a broken bone in his left foot, could be a worthwhile gamble.

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