'They're not close at all'

‘They’re not close at all’

Leon Rose’s task for this offseason is basic yet challenging: Upgrade the talent level on the roster.

That was Charles Barkley’s take as the draft and free agency near, giving the Knicks a chance to improve their team.

“They’re not close — they’re not close at all. They probably only got about two-to-three guys who are actually NBA starters, so the No. 1 thing they got to do is get some talent,” the Turner Sports analyst said over Zoom on Wednesday, as he promoted the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament. “They got a bunch of JAGs, as I call them. Just A Guy. Their players are not better than guys on Atlanta, on Orlando.”

After a surprisingly successful first season under Tom Thibodeau in which the Knicks finished fourth in the Eastern Conference, they struggled this past season. They came in 11th in the conference, six games out of the play-in tournament. Julius Randle, the league’s Most Improved Player in 2020-21, took a major step back, while RJ Barrett continued to emerge as a franchise linchpin, averaging 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting 34.2 percent from 3-point range.

Charles Barkley
USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks have the 11th pick in the upcoming draft and enter free agency without any cap space. They can clear some by moving veterans Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose, all of whom have expiring contracts.

They are expected to make a run at unrestricted free agent Jalen Brunson of the Mavericks — the Knicks are hiring his father, Rick, to join Thibodeau’s staff — and look into a trade for All-Star Donovan Mitchell of Westchester County, though neither of those moves are necessarily likely.

“They have a lack of talent right now,” Barkley said. “It’s really unfortunate because we need the Knicks to be competitive and right now they’re not competitive.”

Barkley did make a joke at the Knicks’ expense, as he is known to do. When asked how he would address the offseason, Barkley smiled.

“How long do you think the video call is?” he joked.

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