Not many within NBA circles would consider the New York Knicks a title contender as presently constituted. After making it to the Second round of the NBA playoffs and overachieving in many minds there are still some notable holes on this team that limit them from being considered as an elite team. One of the major components, if not the most important one is the absence of a top-tier superstar. A consistent trend throughout NBA history is the need for a superstar to be truly considered a title contender.
There has really only been one team this Century to win a title without a true superstar and that is the 2004 Detroit Pistons (they had a plethora of 2nd tier stars instead). Will the Knicks continue down a path of building an all-around solid roster with maybe not the highest ceiling, or will they plunge for the next big fish? This leads us to the Joel Embiid question and what his addition would add to this team. Next, I will break down 3 key pieces on whether Joel Embiid could be the Superstar to bring a title to New York for the first time in over 50 years.
When it comes to superstar players there is so much evaluation that needs to take place when considering making a franchise-altering trade. I believe the Knicks would make this trade with the idea that Embiid is the major superstar piece they’ve been yearning for, and in that case, I think there would be almost nothing and no one off limits. If the Knicks were to break apart this young core and use a majority of their draft capital, is this the deal to do so?
A potential trade centered around R.J. Barrett, Quentin Grimes/Immanuel Quickley, and a plethora of picks is probably what the foundation of the deal would look like. This will be at the top of the Knicks' list of factors when deciding to make a major push for the reigning MVP. Keeping enough to still have a competent rotation around Embiid will be vital for the Knicks to fully reach their potential with Embiid. Leon Rose and company will have to make some tough decisions when it comes to this young core if this opportunity arises.
Joel Embiid is one of the more complicated superstars in the NBA, due to his injury history and playoff blunders. What can not be questioned when discussing the former 3rd overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, is his production when healthy and the impact he has on both sides of the ball. Embiid is undoubtedly a top 2 center in the league and has really developed in so many ways since his entrance into the league.
Embiid is coming off an MVP season for the Sixers where he averaged 33/10/4 and was offensively as dominant as any center we have seen since Shaq in the early 2000s. This isn’t even to mention his defensive impact as he is a 3x all-defensive player and is an elite rim protector. He will turn 30 next season and bigger bodies like his tend to break down earlier so there is a legitimate question to be asked about the window of prime Embiid the Knicks would be getting.
As there are injury issues, there are also concerns regarding his lack of playoff success, as he does not have a conference finals appearance yet. For a Superstar of his stature, it does raise questions if he can keep his body healthy enough, and be efficient enough throughout a sustained playoff run. These are all questions the Knicks will need to ask themselves before seriously pursuing the Big Man in Philadelphia.
Another aspect of this Embiid discussion is how he would fit the remaining Knicks team that would be left around him. Hypothetically let's posit a scenario where Barrett, Quickley, and Mitchell Robinson are the core pieces going back to Philadelphia in this trade, which leaves the majority of the rotation still intact. Robinson would make sense to go back to Philadelphia in a trade as he would not have a role here if Embiid were to be the starting Center. A starting lineup that could consist of Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes, Josh Hart, and Jalen Brunson alongside Embiid would leave the Knicks with a potent starting lineup.
The fit of a Brunson and Embiid pairing is intriguing in many ways, both having the ability to dominate long offensive stretches in games, while Embiid could make up for Brunson’s defensive liabilities. Grimes is the absolute perfect two-guard to have in an Embiid-led starting lineup, he is a growing 3 and D role player that could fill many roles this team would need from him. Josh Hart is another player who I believe fits fairly well in this lineup, the major issue is Julius Randle and how he would fit next to Embiid.
Since becoming an All-NBA player Julius Randle has a different playstyle and one that I don’t exactly see how it would fit next to Joel Embiid and Jalen Brunson. Randle is a ball-dominant Power Forward who likes to work heavily in the midrange and at times can stagnate the offense. The problem is this is how both Brunson and Embiid like to operate as well and to be frank they are both better and more efficient in their playstyle. If Embiid is going to be a Knick at some point with Julius Randle still on this team, he will either need to drastically change his role and accept it, or the team will need to move on.
My Best Guess
Joel Embiid becomes a Knick sooner rather than later. An organization that has been starving for massive names like this finally gets its wish. I believe this regime would view Embiid as the Superstar they are willing to go all in on and get them immediately into that Championship Contending mindset. While they missed out on Donovan Mitchell last offseason, adding Embiid would be an even bigger move and entrance for them into an immediate Championship window.
The ties to CAA only add more intrigue to this whole discussion regarding the Knicks' interest in Embiid, and I believe this will be the player they finally pull the trigger on and bring to the Big Apple. Bringing Embiid to New York would change the entire landscape in the Eastern Conference and would propel the Knicks to somewhere they haven’t been this Century.