Examining 4 Knicks on rookie contracts: What does their playoff performance say about the future?
The postseason was a learning experience for the young Knicks. The team won 47 games in the regular season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before losing in six games to the Miami Heat. Despite the disappointing ending, there’s still room to grow.
All nine players in the rotation are under 30 and six are 25 or younger. The Knicks had three players in their rotation on rookie scale deals. So it would make sense that there is some room for improvement with such a young team.
Here’s a look at how all of the Knicks’ young players still on their first NBA contracts performed in the postseason and what that means for the future.
This list does not include RJ Barrett, who is in the last of his rookie deal (but signed a rookie contract extension of four years that can be worth up to $120 million) or Mitchell Robinson, who re-signed as a free agent this summer.
Of all the Knicks’ young players on this list, Grimes has the most clearly defined role. He’s a 3-and-D specialist. The only problem was that he was missing the “3” part of his game during the postseason, as he shot just 24.3 percent on 37 attempts.
The struggles were clear as Grimes seemed in a perpetual rush every time he caught the ball.
Still, Grimes just turned 23 and it was his first time competing in an NBA playoffs atmosphere. He was a quality defender, guarding the likes of Donovan Mitchell and Jimmy Butler through two playoff series.
Grimes has flashed more ability at times of less importance. In the last nine games of the regular season, Grimes averaged 21.9 points on 54.3 percent shooting. In that time, Grimes was a prolific shooter, launching 10 threes a game and shooting 47.8 percent.
It would be great to see the Grimes of the regular season that attacked hard closeouts with straight line drives and dump off passes. The Knicks need to find a better way to find him open on the perimeter to keep the defense honest.
If there were a list of players who lost the most money in the 2023 playoffs, Quickley would be ranked pretty high. Quickley was awesome during the regular season, finishing second in NBA Sixth Man of the Year voting and proved to be an elite backup and solid situational starter.
Up for a contract extension this summer, contract figures such as $100 million over four years were thrown about during the season.
Over eight games, the guard averaged 9.0 points and shot 34.8 percent from the field. Quickley sprained his ankle in Game 3 and missed the last three games.
His playoff performance doesn’t take away from a great regular season, but it does make you question whether he can step up for the team and add another scorer internally to loosen up the pressure on Jalen Brunson.
Toppin had some good moments for the Knicks in the postseason. He filled in for an injured Julius Randle in Game 5 of the first round and scored 12 points. He followed that up with 18 points as a starter in the series-opening loss against Miami.
Toppin’s never going to receive primetime minutes as long as Randle is on the roster, and New York continues to play traditional lineups with a paint-bound center.
If you think Quickley’s contract extension talks will be complicated, get prepared for Toppin. The forward has flashed significant athleticism and moments of quality offensive plays. What’s the cost of a power forward who doesn’t shoot the three-ball or defend well enough?
It will be interesting to see what happens and what price the Knicks can settle on - either this summer or next - if Toppin becomes a restricted free agent in 2024.
McBride only played 20 minutes during the playoffs, scoring 3 points. Even when Quickley went down with his injury, McBride barely played as Brunson sat for just 6 minutes and 11 seconds total in the final three games.
McBride has a club option for the 2023-24 season that the Knicks are likely to pick up. It would be interesting to see him get some time off the bench next year, but with Josh Hart the only free agent in the rotation, it’s hard to envision McBride receiving significant playing time.
McBride’s shown a real knack for being disruptive as a defender despite being just 6-foot-2. He has struggled with the three-point shot (28.2 percent on 202 attempts) the last two seasons but hasn’t really had a consistent role with the team.