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5 players unlikely to return with the New York Knicks ahead of the 2021-22 NBA Season

New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson
New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson
ANALYST

The New York Knicks returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 this year. But they couldn't put up much of a fight against the Atlanta Hawks in their first-round series. The Knicks performed well above expectations during the regular season campaign. They showed several signs of weakness in the postseason that will need to be addressed if they are to build on their success.

Looking at their current roster, they have a wealth of defensive assets but struggled on offense all year. That will be the first area the New York Knicks front office will be looking to address. They also have to consider the futures of players whose contracts are nearing culmination.

In this article, we will consider five players who could leave the Knicks in the offseason, either through free agency or in a trade.

Who will the New York Knicks look to move on in the offseason?

With their rejuvenation, the New York Knicks will be eager to build on this season's unexpected improvements and create a winning culture once again in the franchise. They are one of, if not the best-known, NBA sides across the world and have the added glamor that many teams cannot boast when trying to make trades for players.

Returning to the playoffs has put the New York Knicks back in contention and could make them a desirable landing spot for the league's superstars. In order to create that room, the Knicks organization will need to move on several players, five of which we have listed below.

#1 Elfrid Payton

New York Knicks point guard Elfrid Payton
New York Knicks point guard Elfrid Payton

Elfrid Payton is probably the most widely-agreed upon member of the New York Knicks who will leave this summer. The 27-year-old was a favorite of Thibodeau's, starting 63 games at point guard. But with him on the court, the Knicks were 9.9 points per 100 possessions worse off.

Payton will be a free agent in the offseason and it is unlikely the New York Knicks will be wanting to retain his services. They already have a ready-made replacement in Immanuel Quickley, who outperformed his draft selection this season. On top of the rookie, they have veteran guard Derrick Rose, who was electric off the bench in the playoffs and played a much more important role than Payton did.

Payton averaged just 10.1 points, 3.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds during the campaign and shot at 43% from the field and 28% from downtown.

#2 Mitchell Robinson

New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson
New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson

Despite being in the NBA for three years, Mitchell Robinson is yet to complete a full season. Therefore, his time with the New York Knicks may come to an end. The seven-foot center featured in just 31 games for the franchise during the 2020-21 campaign and missed their playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.

Although he's the most dominant big man the New York Knicks currently have on their roster, he's not doing the side any favors by being sidelined. Furthermore, at just 23, he could definitely be used in a trade deal to acquire a more consistent center, along with the Knicks' draft picks.

#3 Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel has been the New York Knicks
Nerlens Noel has been the New York Knicks' backup center all year

The New York Knicks could see a major overhaul of their options at center should they also part ways with Nerlens Noel. He averaged a career-high 2.2 blocks per game and grabbed 6.4 rebounds across the 64 games he played. However, Noel too has a history of injuries and provides little offensively.

Noel will also hit the market this summer and could be used along with Robinson for the New York Knicks to attract a top-tier center. The likes of Myles Turner have been linked with the franchise and would be a considerable upgrade from what they already have on both ends of the floor.

#4 Taj Gibson

Taj Gibson played a big role in the New York Knicks
Taj Gibson played a big role in the New York Knicks' playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks

Taj Gibson is another member of the New York Knicks frontcourt that could leave in the offseason. He is approaching free agency and turns 36 at the end of June. Undoubtedly, his best years are behind him and the Knicks may fill their third center spot with a more youthful option. However, the franchise may also choose to roll with Gibson over Noel, were they to choose one or the other as a backup to their starting center.

Gibson was arguably one of the New York Knicks' standout performers in the playoffs. He brings veteran experience and tenacity to the paint. Gibson would also likely be a lot cheaper than Noel.

The main problem for Gibson remaining in the franchise is whether they bring in a standout big man, therefore avoiding the injury prone Robinson and Noel. That would make his role redundant and could see him lose even more minutes. Therefore, he may be happy to part ways with the side.

#5 Frank Ntilikina

Ntilikina rarely featured this season for the New York Knicks
Ntilikina rarely featured this season for the New York Knicks

Among the New York Knicks' array of point guard options this season was Frank Ntilikina. This was the Belgian's fourth year with the franchise, though his minutes were cut in half as he fell down Thibodeau's pecking order in the backcourt. The 22-year-old played in just 33 games and averaged less than ten minutes in each game.

There are other teams around the league, however, who could be looking at Ntilikina as he becomes a restricted free agent in the summer. In particular, what he can offer on defense. Teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers would be a perfect fit for Ntilikina and a chance for the New York Knicks youngster to make a fresh start in the league.

These sides already have an abundance of scoring options, therefore he could provide his new team with defensive solidity, such as that shown by Matisse Thybulle this year with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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