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How do the Knicks take the next step?

The Knicks have been a great story this year. Jalen Brunson has transformed this team and Josh Hart has been a revelation since he joined, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Randle looks much more comfortable and deserved his All Star selection (so did Brunson but I don't want to devalue his contributions either) and is dialed in. IQ has been incredible and has more than earned a good sized extension coming his way. RJ has been inconsistent but has still shown flashes of the quality that gives Knicks fans hope and in true RJ fashion has been looking better in the late part of the season. Grimes is still a solid 3 and D wing (although I would like him to do more offensively) who has been guarding some of the NBA's best players. Mitch has been having a solid season (despite the social media outbursts) and Hartenstein has been great the last couple of months. The Knicks still have Deuce and Sims who have continued to grow. Sadly, while Obi has done all the right things, there's no way to justify giving him the starting role and he's likely on his way out. But he has still been fun to watch and will hopefully get the chance he deserves on his next team.

The Knicks have a lot of picks but it's hard to see a player that takes them to the level of contending for a championship. I was a big fan of bringing Mikal Bridges to the team but given his incredible play since joining the Nets and they were unlikely to do business with the Knicks anyways. So where does that leave them? Zach LaVine is a great player but he has an questionable injury history and isn't great on the defensive end and seems to have plateaued. Bradley Beal has a terrible contract, also has a questionable injury history, as does KAT (actually an even worse contract, 60 million is brutal). I'm a huge fan of Jimmy Butler but his age doesn't fit with the timeline and again, the injury history is concerning. Brandon Ingram could be interesting but he overlaps a lot with Randle and it's hard to see the fit.

It would be great to get a star like Joel Embiid and if a LOT happens (Sixers flame out in the playoffs, Harden leaves in the offseason) but there doesn't seem to be a true star that would actually leave their team. The Knicks also run the risk of getting into same problem as the deals for Donovan Mitchell, in that if the Knicks had to trade for a star then they'd have to give up all of the promising young role players that have made the Knicks so great and would be left with no depth.

So where do the Knicks go from here? I'd argue that one path is to continue to develop their 3 most promising young players: RJ, IQ and Grimes. IQ has already taken a big jump and Grimes shows flashes of some great play on offense and has made some highlight worthy plays as well. RJ has had an up and down season but has really been coming on lately. If any one (or more) of them take another jump then the Knicks could be close to being contenders. They'd still have tons of draft picks and all 3 of those players would be even more valuable in a trade for a star who really could make them contenders.

That being said, I think there are some moves that could make the Knicks better and add either solid contributors or players who may fit better on the Knicks. My trades going forward will focus on those types of players or trades that open up cap space so that the Knicks can pay players like IQ, Hart and Grimes while still working towards getting a star.