The New York Knicks were one of the best Cinderella stories in the NBA. After finishing 21-45 last year, the Knicks captured the No. 4 overall seed in the Eastern Conference. With the Most Improved Player of the Year in Julius Randle and a Coach of the Year candidate in Tom Thibodeau in the mix, the Knicks have a bright, budding future.
After losing a five-game series to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs, the team has some important decisions moving forward. That also includes the decisions of converting the Knicks into the New York Bulls. Between the free agents on the market, as well as a potential trade chip, a reunion could be on the horizon.
Trading For Jimmy Butler
Randle clearly cannot be the No. 1 option on a contending team. Randle shot less than 30% from the field and relied on the offensive skills of a 32-year old Derrick Rose. The team needs a top-15 player in this league if they have any chance of contending for a championship.
When Jimmy Butler was a member of the Bulls and Timberwolves, he was an All-Star. Now, Butler has grown into an All-Star of his own, including leading the Miami Heat to an NBA Finals in 2019. The Knicks have a similar stature as that Heat team, relying on the defense to carry the heavy load.
Butler is one of the better two-way players in the league. For a potential trade, the Knicks can offer Obi Toppin, Kevin Knox, Immanuel Quickley, Mitchell Robinson, and two first-round picks in 2021. With Butler reunited with his former head coach for the third time, maybe it would be the third time the charm for Thibs to finally get to the NBA Finals.
Re-Sign Derrick Rose
On the heels of his MVP season 10 years ago, Rose reinvented himself and was the main offensive player for the Knicks. Rose scored 26 points in Game 2 and then 30 points in Game 3 to lead the Knicks in scoring. Rose averaged 14.2 points and 4.2 assists per game.
Bringing back Rose would be critical for the Knicks’ bench. Rose could be used as a starter in some games, but if the Knicks can lure a true superstar, Rose could be regulated to the bench and compete for Sixth Man of the Year with his talent.
Rose won an MVP with Thibs back in his golden years and was paired with Butler during competitive Bulls seasons post-ACL injuries. The two were great together back then and could certainly be great today.
Re-Sign Taj Gibson
After not being sure if he would be brought back to the Knicks, Gibson played 45 games and averaged 5.4 points and 5.6 rebounds. The 35-year old made his way to the regular lineup by playing 24, 30, 26, 24, and 33 minutes in the five-game series.
Gibson knows what Thibs wants when it comes to his coaching philosophy, but more importantly, he is a seasoned veteran that just wants to win. Gibson was a great teammate back in the days of competing with the Bulls. While his numbers may not be what they were back then, he has shown that he has plenty left in the tank.
Thibs Is The Coach
What have we learned from Coach Thibodeau? He will play his starters 40 minutes if he must. He will rely on a defensive-first strategy and he can bring the best out of any player. The idea of trading for Butler to create a New York Bulls vibe would be great for marketing, but it would also be great for the overall team.
The Knicks would need to find a true point guard to allow Rose to come off the bench, but he would likely be closing out games anyways. RJ Barrett could move to shooting guard to allow Butler to play small forward. Then, you would have Randle at the power forward and either Mitchell Robinson or Nerlens Noel at the center spot.
That is a solid defensive unit and contains at least four legitimate players that can secure a bucket when it matters most. The Heat used a similar blueprint for them a year ago. After years of failing to make the NBA Finals as the members of the Bulls. Maybe these former Bulls can help the Knicks make it instead.
The Tom Thibodeau era lasted from 2010 to 2015 in Chicago. During that time, the Bulls qualified for the playoffs in each season, made the semifinals three times, and the Conference Finals once. Derrick Rose won an MVP, Joakim Noah won a Defensive Player of the Year, and Thibodeau was the Coach of the Year in 2011.
Even when Rose suffered multiple season-ending injuries, the combination of role players such as Nate Robinson, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, and Jimmy Butler found ways to will this team to the playoffs. These Knicks have a similar mold to those old Bulls teams, but they have the expertise now.
While Butler, Rose, and Gibson are in their 30s, the supporting cast would be greater than what they have had in the past. We know what these guys could do back then. Imagine with years of experience in the league what they could accomplish now.